Written by: Keith Tully
Reviewed: Thursday 10th September, 2015
Time spent travelling to and from the first and last appointments of a given day should be legally counted as work for mobile employees, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.
In what could represent a very significant judgement for certain types of companies operating in the UK and across the European Union (EU), the ECJ has effectively determined that travel time is work time for employees without a single designated workplace.
Experts have warned that employers of care workers, sales reps and gas fitters, among others, could easily find themselves in breach of EU working time regulations unless they make changes to the way they operate.
It is thought that issues around pay might also arise as a result of the ruling, with thousands of workers in the UK alone potentially becoming able to demand extra pay for the same number of hours as they currently work on a weekly basis.
“This ruling could have significant implications for companies that employ mobile workers who spend a lot of their time travelling to different appointments,” said Glenn Hayes from the solicitors firm Irwin Mitchell.
“It is not just relevant to maintenance technicians, it could apply to salespeople, care workers who visit those that they look after in their homes or even employees who travel regularly overseas through work,” he said.
The ECJ’s explanation of its decision on the subject points to the EU’s working time directive, which requires it to protect the health and safety of employees working across the continent.
“The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves,” statements on the matter from the ECJ said.
“Requiring them [employees] to bear the burden of their employer's choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.”
Many companies around the UK don’t currently regard travel outside working hours by their employees to be official working time and may soon be required to make significant changes to the way they operate as a result.