Businesses could face additional costs from EU work ruling

In a landmark ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has said that time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers who do not have a fixed work office, should be regarded as working time and that wages should be paid in relation to this.

It comes after workers from the Spanish security firm Tyco brought their company before a court in their home country arguing that they should be paid for their travel time to and from work, because they did not have a fixed place of work.

The court heard that staff at the business were provided with a company vehicle and a work schedule, and travelled to different customers’ premises every day, sometimes taking up to three hours to arrive.

Their employer argued that for working time purposes, the time they spent going from their homes to their first job, and from their last job back to their homes, was not working time.
The Spanish courts referred the issue to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), and following a hearing the CJEU has given a preliminary ruling.

They have found that time spent travelling to the first job, and to their homes from the last job, was working time for the purposes of the working time rules.

They said that the test should be whether, at a particular time, the employees were:

  • at the workplace
  • at the disposal of the employer
  • carrying out activities or duties of their job

The court said its judgement was about protecting the “health and safety” of workers as set out in the European Union’s working time directive.

The directive is designed to protect workers from exploitation by employers, and it lays down regulations on matters such as how long employees work, how many breaks they have, and how much holiday entitlement they have.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants In England and Wales (ICAEW) has recommended that employers should check whether mobile employees, who have no fixed place of work, who travel from home to their first job of the day, and back home after their last job of the day, are working during such travel time for the purposes of the working time rules.

Link: Official Court Ruling