The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that, for workers with no fixed or habitual place of work, time spent travelling between their homes and the premises of the first and last customers designated by their employer constitutes “working time” within the meaning of the EU Working Time Directive.
The case was a reference from Spain and involved security systems technicians who were assigned to the central office of the employer, but who had responsibility for a particular province or area. As there were no longer regional offices, the employees used company vehicles to travel to and from their homes to the customer’s premises.
The ECJ considered that to fall within the definition of “working time” a worker must be carrying out his activities or duties, must be at the employer’s disposal and must be working during the period in question. In this case, the requirement to go to the customer’s premises designated by the employer was a necessary means of providing the worker’s technical services and therefore the employee was carrying out his activities or duties. In addition, the employer determined the list and order of the customers to be followed and so the workers were not able to use their time freely and pursue their own interests and were therefore at their employer’s disposal. Further, for workers with no fixed place of work, travelling is an integral part of their business, and so the place of work could not be reduced to the physical areas of their work such as the customer’s premises.
In reaching the conclusion the ECJ rejected an argument put forward by the UK Government that such a decision would lead to an inevitable increase in costs, holding that the employer remains free to determine the remuneration for the time spent travelling between home and customers. This means employers who have mobile workers with no fixed or habitual place of work should check whether the time spent travelling at the beginning and end of the day amounts to working time. If so, they will need to check that the employees are having sufficient rest periods and not breaching the maximum weekly working hours. They will also need to consider whether they can or wish to make any changes to remuneration structures or working practices to prevent increases in costs.