The Europeans courts have recently confirmed that the time spent by workers who have no fixed place of work when travelling to and from their first and last assignment of the day, is working time.
The obvious and wide-ranging implication of this decision is that workers are now entitled to be paid for that travel time. It is expected that this will have a significant impact on the current trend for companies wanting to move from office-based businesses to more mobile ones.
The case in question concerned a company in Spain called Tyco who employ around 75 security system technicians. The technicians are assigned to different provinces across Spain. Up to 2011, the company had provincial offices across the country to which the technicians reported at the start and end of each day. The company then closed these offices and assigned all the technicians to their central office in Madrid.
In doing so, the technicians then began driving, in their company vehicles, from their homes at the start of the day straight to the place at which their first installation/maintenance job was to be carried out, and then returned home from the last job of the day, without reporting to a fixed office. The travel to and from home at the start and end of the day was not counted by the company as working time. The workers complained to the Spanish courts and the issue was referred to the European courts.
A decision was found in favour of the workers on the basis that it was found the workers were “at their employer’s disposal” during this journey time. It was relevant that the company was able to change the order of assignments, cancel appointments at any time, or require the workers to call on additional customers on their journey home. If that happened, the workers were required to react to those instructions during those journeys. It was found the workers were not able to use their time freely or pursue their own interests during the travelling time.
Decisions of the European courts bind the UK courts as part of our membership of the EU and so, if the same challenge is brought in the UK courts, our courts will be bound to follow the European decision.
Businesses should now to consider their pay arrangements to staff who do not report to a fixed place of work, and also ensure they are complying with the Working Time Regulations in terms of rules on maximum working hours and providing appropriate rest breaks.
If this change to working practices affects your business please don’t hesitate to call one of our employment law experts at MKB. We are able to advise you on the impact on the remuneration of staff and also your compliance with the Working Time Regulations, which will not have to be read in line with this European decision.
The full text of the case of Federacion de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL and another (c-266/14) can be found here http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/EUECJ/2015/C26614.html