News - European Union

European Union - July 2015

Could ‘working time’ now include travel to and from work?

In what could be a landmark decision, Advocate General Bot has said that, under the European Working Time Directive, a group of Spanish workers were ‘working’ when they travelled from home to their first customer assignment of the day and back home again at the end of the day.  Although the Advocate General’s opinions are not binding on the European Court of Justice (ECJ), they are usually followed. 

The case, which involves a group of peripatetic workers with no fixed workplace, was referred to the ECJ by the Spanish courts to determine whether time spent travelling was ‘working time’ or a ‘rest period’ under the European Working Time Directive.  The workers are technicians who install and maintain security systems.  Following the closure of their local offices, they have no fixed place of work, but they use a company car to travel to their work assignments and return home again.  They are directed each day to their client assignments via their work mobile telephone, and as the locations of their assignments differ on a daily basis, they cannot elect to live near the customers/place of work.

The Advocate General decided that the travel time was ‘working time’ because:

  • it was an inherent part of the performance of the technicians’ duties;
  • it  was a necessary period of time for them to reach the customers;
  • they remained subject to their employer’s authority during their travel time as their employer might cancel or change the appointment or ask them to ‘call on an additional customer on their journey home at the end of the day’.

As such, the Advocate General said it was irrelevant that the start and end point were the technicians’ home addresses.

Whilst the decision clarifies the definition of ‘working time’ for mobile workers, it is not helpful for employers of workers who travel as part of their job, eg. travelling sales representatives, IT technicians or 24 hour plumbers.  If the ECJ follows the Advocate General’s opinion, it will impact on permitted working hours and mandatory daily, weekly and annual rest periods, and may also impact on salary and holiday pay.  We await the ECJ’s final decision for confirmation of the position.

Resources

OPINION OF ADVOCATE GENERAL BOT: Case C‑266/14 Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO.) v Tyco Integrated Security SL, Tyco Integrated Fire & Security Corporation Servicios SA: 

Further information

For further information or to discuss any of the issues raised, please contact Emma Clark or David Widdowson on +44 20 3051 5711 at Abbiss Cadres LLP – www.abbisscadres.com

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