The European Court of Justice has made a ruling that states that time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed place of work counts as ‘working time’.
It means companies who employ workers such as care workers, gas fitters and sales reps – may be in breach of EU working time regulations.
Under present UK government guidelines, time spent travelling at work does count towards your working hours. However “normal travel to and from work” and “travelling outside normal working hours” does not
The ECJ said its judgement was about protecting the “health and safety” of workers as set out in the EU’s working time directive. As mobile workers are at the employer’s disposal for the time of the journeys, it was considered that they consequently cannot use that time freely to pursue their own interests.
The effect of this may mean that employers
- may now have to make changes for such employees, for example, by organising work schedules to ensure workers’ first and last appointments are close to their homes. For future hires, employers may be persuaded to take on staff who work closer to where most early or last appointments are likely to be located.
- Employers may also need to adjust the working hours of staff to make sure it complies with the maximum 48 hour working week that is imposed on UK workers. This is a legal requirement in most industry sectors unless an employee has opted out (usually such opt out would be in the contract of employment). If there is no opt out or employees don’t agree to one, they could quickly exceed the number of hours that they are legally allowed to work, and companies would be at risk of claims.
What this means for businesses may have to wait for the outcome of an employment tribunal, however it is something companies will need to consider.
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