In a decision that could have substantial implications, the European Court of Justice (the “ECJ”) has ruled that for mobile workers (those who have no fixed place of work) the time spent travelling between their home and first and last places of work counts as “working time”.
This case involved technicians employed by Tyco in Spain to install and maintain security equipment at customer premises.
Prior to 2011, Tyco had regional offices and the technicians would attend those offices at the start of each working day and then travel from those offices for their first customer appointment and back to the offices after the last customer appointment.
The time spent travelling from the office to the first appointment of the day and back to the office at the end of the day was considered working time. Travel from the employee’s home to the office and back again was however not considered to be working time.
In 2011, Tyco closed its regional offices and assigned all employees to its Head Office in Madrid. The technicians were not required to attend the Head Office, but would leave home and travel directly to the allocated customer premises. At the end of the day they would travel back from the customer’s premises to home. Tyco did not treat any of this travel time as working time, despite some journeys taking over three hours.
The ECJ held that this travel time to and from customers was working time and should be treated as such. It deemed that the technicians were working, at Tyco’s disposal and carrying out their activities or duties during the time spent travelling, thus satisfying the three key elements of “working time” for the purposes of the Working Time Directive.
This decision is relevant for employers of mobile or peripatetic workers and applies automatically in the UK.
It essentially means that, for mobile workers, travel time to and from the first and last appointments of the day must be taken into account when calculating the worker’s weekly working hours.
Employers may now need to apply adjustments to workers’ roles, to ensure that such workers are not, as a result, working regularly over the 48 hour weekly limit. Checks to ensure compliance with the other daily and weekly rest periods prescribed under the Working Time Regulations will also need to be carried out.
Whilst there is no entitlement to be paid for time spent travelling between home and the first and last appointments of the day, this case could also have implications depending on how workers are paid.
The full effects of the ruling are not yet clear, but one thing is certain, that the time spent travelling to and from work will in many cases take on greater significance.