The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that travel time for some workers at the beginning and end of their day can count as actual working time – and so should be paid at their normal rates of pay.
The Spanish case (Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL, Tyco Integrated Fire & Security Corporation Servicios SA Case C 266/14 ECJ) brought against the company Tyco will probably only apply to a relatively small number of employees – not to the majority of employees who commute to offices.
In the Tyco case the employer had closed a significant number of regional branches in order to save costs. This meant that employees frequently had to travel significant distances to get to their first appointment of the day, and from their last appointment of the day to their homes. The employees worked as installation engineers for the security company. They successfully argued that time spent travelling at the beginning and end of the day should be paid – simply because it was a significant amount of time and was integral to what they did – time they could have ordinarily been working – and so earning. Not being paid for this time meant they lost paid time.
The implications of this case are significant for employers with large mobile workforces. It is important to note this ruling does not apply to the majority of workers who commute into an office or workplace every day.
However, it does apply to companies with large mobile workforces, who spend the majority of their time travelling from one appointment to another, for example utility companies with fitting and maintenance engineers, and also care-workers; those employees who effectively do not have a fixed workplace or workplaces.
In order to avoid potentially significant increases in hourly pay and possible overtime employers should seek to organise time and work schedules so that mobile workers start their first appointment of the day close to their homes and likewise for their last appointments. Many larger organisations already do this to increase efficiency and reduce fuel and travel costs in their businesses.
The other point to remember is that some employers may have already agreed to opt-out of the Working Time Directive, either individually or collectively with employees. The major issue with this is that employees can still at any time elect to opt back into the Working Time Directive – this has always been a limitation on the right to opt-out in the first place.