When is Travel Time classed as Working Time?

In a recent case, the European Court of Justice held that any travelling time spent by workers, who do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, and set off from home to their first appointment and back home again after the last appointment, constitutes “working time” for the purpose of the EU Working Time Directive.

The claimants, technicians, brought a complaint through their union. The claimants installed and maintained security equipment at homes and business premises in Spain. When Tyco, the employer, closed its regional offices, all its employees were attached to a central office in Madrid and given responsibility for a particular geographical area.

Prior to this change of location, the claimants working time started when they arrived at their regional office to collect a vehicle to travel to the customer and finished when they arrived back in the evening after their last customer visit to drop off the vehicle.

Following the closure of the regional offices, the claimants were provided with their own company vehicle and required to travel at least once a week to Madrid to collect equipment, parts and materials. No time spent travelling between home and customers was counted as “working time”.

The ECJ concluded that the nature of the time spent travelling to and from customers had not changed, only the start and finish location and so it remained as “working time”.

What does this mean for your business?

Firstly, it’s an issue of working time. Employers will need to bear this case in mind when calculating an employee’s working hours for the purposes of the average 48 hour week and consider whether employees should be asked to sign an opt-out.

Secondly, the court held that employers were free to determine remuneration for time spent travelling between home and customers. Subject to the question of the national minimum wage, the issue of pay for travelling time will be a matter for the contract of employment.

If you employ mobile workers with no fixed workplace, you should seek advice and if necessary get your contracts updated to match your business needs.

For advice and support for your business on any employee issues, contact Michelle Chamberlain at Thursfields on 01905 677041 or email: mchamberlain@thursfields.co.uk

(Federacion de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL)

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