Court rules on travel time for mobile workers

Posted on: September 14th, 2015

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has now held that the time spent by mobile workers travelling between their homes and the premises of their first and last customers is ‘working time’. 

The case involved technicians who installed and maintained security equipment at customers’ premises in Spain. Tyco calculated working time from the time the technician arrived at the first premises to when the technician left the last premises. Their first journey of the day from home and their last journey of the day back home were treated as a “rest period”.

‘Working time’ covers any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out their activity or duties. The ECJ made three key points:

  1. If a worker with no fixed place of work is carrying out their duties during a journey to or from a customer, the worker must be regarded as working during that journey. i.e. the travel was integral to these workers’ days.
  2. During this travel time the workers were at their employer’s disposal as they were unable to use the time freely or pursue their own interests during the travelling time.
  3. The workers were carrying out their activity or duties when travelling because the travel was needed in order to provide technical services to customers of the employer; i.e. they couldn’t do the work without the travel.

What is the impact of the decision and will it affect pay?

Whilst this case only affects public bodies at the moment, it is extremely likely it will apply to all companies, either because the courts decide the Working Time Regulations can be read in this way or the Government changes the legislation.

It is very likely that the case will be followed in its entirety and so the main effects are likely to be as follows:

  • It affects workers who are not assigned to a fixed or habitual place of work (e.g. health care workers and travelling salesmen).
  • Travelling time at the beginning and end of the day must now  be taken into account when determining the following:
    – Accrual of statutory holiday
    – Entitlement to rest breaks and rest periods; and
    – Whether a worker has exceeded the maximum working week of 48 hours (if they have not validly opted out).

Importantly for employers, at the moment it looks as if it will not affect how the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or salary for employees is calculated due to the definition of “working time” under the NMW legislation.

What should an employer do?

Following this case we recommend you consider the following steps:

  • Arrange appointments to minimise the impact of the case. For example, schedule the first and last appointment of a working day close to a worker’s home
  • Establish monitoring procedures to ensure workers do not abuse the change by claiming travelling time which included conducting their personal business
    Require employees to take the most direct route possible for all journeys to limit the travelling time. For example, specify that particular routes or roads must be taken or avoided
  • Consider arrangements to cover extra rest breaks or rest periods.

If this decision will affect your organisation or you wish to discuss your situation and further steps, please contact the Employment Team on 023 9236 6049.