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A recent case has looked at the extent to which workers could argue that their first and final trips of the working day, to and from their place of work, could be considered 'working time' for the purposes of the EU Working Time Directive.
We previously reported on this case when the Advocate General ('AG') issued an opinion to say that, for workers without a fixed base who were providing services directly to customers, travel between their home and the first and last customer qualifies as 'working time' under the EU Working Time Directive.
The case - Federacion de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL and Another (C-226/14) - has now been heard by the European Court of Justice ('ECJ'), which has confirmed that opinion. This could have a significant impact on the way that a UK business views working time for those employees who have no fixed place of work.
Tyco workers in Spain installed and repaired security equipment at various customers' premises. Following a restructure, Tyco decided to shut local officers in favour of the organisation being run from a central location. This meant that each worker had to travel from home to the first customer of the date and then after they had finished with the last customer, travel back home.
The distance between the customer premises and their home could vary and be more than 100 kilometres. Tyco remotely controlled the itinerary of the trips, determining which customers would be serviced each day.
The ECJ agreed with the AG that the conditions of 'working time' had been satisfied.
Working time under the Regulations is classed as 'any period during which the worker is at work, at the employer's disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice' and the ECJ were satisfied that the travel time in question fit into this definition.
In addition, the ECJ concluded that the wokers were at the 'full disposal' of their employer because they were required to be physically present at the place decided by Tyco and be available to Tyco immediately.
The workers had some freedom as to the itinerary and the route that they took to visit customers, but this had existed before the offices were abolished. The ECJ noted that during travelling time the workers were still at the disposal of their employer, as the customers could change at any time.
ECJ responded to Tyco's concern that the workers would be able to pursue their own interests - such as running errands on the way to and from their customers - by stating it was up to the employer to ensure there were the required monitoring procedures in place.
The best practice suggestions given in our previous article regarding the AG's opinion will now apply.
It is important to remember that the decision does not relate to 'normal' workers that have a fixed working base, ie travelling to and from their workplace will not become 'working time'. This case is therefore of importance to those employers of mobile workers, such as plumbers, electricians, technicians, nurses and carers.