Thursday, 10 September 2015

Travelling to work 'is work', European court rules

BBC News

Time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office should be regarded as working time, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

This time has not previously been considered work by many employers.

It means firms including those employing care workers, gas fitters and sales reps may be in breach of EU working time regulations.

BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said it could have a "huge effect".

"Thousands of employers could now find themselves in breach of working time regulations," he added.

'Falling below minimum wage'

Chris Tutton, from the solicitors Irwin Mitchell, agreed the ruling would be "very significant" and could have an impact on pay.

"People may now be working an additional 10 hours a week once you take into account their travel time, and that may mean employers are falling below the national minimum wage level when you look at the hourly rate that staff are paid," he said.

The court says its judgment is about protecting the "health and safety" of workers as set out in the European Union's working time directive.

The directive is designed to protect workers from exploitation by employers, and it lays down regulations on matters such as how long employees work, how many breaks they have, and how much holiday they are entitled to.

'Bear the burden'

One of its main goals is to ensure that no employee in the EU is obliged to work more than an average of 48 hours a week.

The ruling came about because of an ongoing legal case in Spain involving a company called Tyco, which installs security systems.

The company shut its regional offices down in 2011, resulting in employees travelling varying distances before arriving at their first appointment.

The court ruling said: "The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.

"Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer's choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period."

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