Employee travel time is to be classed as working time

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The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recently ruled that where a worker has no fixed place of work and their role involves them travelling to their first appointment and back from their last appointment directly to and from home, this time will count as “working time” under the Working Time Regulations, rather than “rest time”.

The case involved a group of technicians in Spain (Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL and another) who travelled to customer premises to install and maintain security equipment from their home. Each technician was assigned to an office in Madrid but had territories throughout Spain. They had company vehicles to travel to and from home and to wherever they were working. Their employer did not consider that the first journey of the day from their home to their first appointment or the last journey home from their last appointment to home as working time. The technicians brought a claim against their employer for breaching the working time rules by failing to include these two journeys as part of the working day. The Spanish court stayed proceedings and asked the ECJ to consider whether this time constituted “working time” or a “rest period”. The Advocate General stated that the workers were directly under the control of their employer during that time and the employer was at liberty to change their route if necessary and it was therefore “working time”.

Although the Advocate General’s opinion is not binding, it is often followed by the ECJ in its final judgement which is expected towards the end of this year. Any decision by the ECJ will be binding on the UK Courts.

Employers who have staff who have travelling staff such as maintenance engineers and sales professionals who travel to customer premises are advised to review their working practices and employment contracts to fully understand the hours “worked”. It may be necessary to ask employees to sign an opt-out agreement if travel time takes them over the 48 hours limit.

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