Mobile worker's commuting constitutes working time, the European Court rules
On 10 September 2015 the Court of Justice of the European Union (Court), issued a judgement in the case C-266/14 (Tyco), which in essence says, that the journeys made by workers without fixed or habitual place of work between their homes and the first and last customer of the day constitute working time.
Facts of the case
According to the yesterday´s press release, the Court strives to protect the "health and safety" of workers as set out in the European Union's Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC). The Working Time Directive defines working time as any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activity or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice. Any period which is not working time is regarded as a rest period.
In the case reviewed by the Court, the technicians employed by Tyco install and maintain security equipment in homes and other premises located within the geographical area, so they have no fixed place of work. Tyco counts the time spent travelling between home and customers (i.e. the daily journeys between the homes of the workers and the premises of the first and last customers designated by Tyco) not as working time, but as a rest period. This, according to the Court, may not be in accordance with the Working Time Directive, as the Court considers the workers to be at the employer’s disposal for the time of such journeys.
Not only in Slovenia, but in many European jurisdictions the working time clock starts running when the workers get to work, that is, to the first customer, if they don't have a fixed place of work. The presented Court’s ruling may have a big impact not only on employers now having to organise work schedules to ensure workers' first and last appointments are close to their homes, but shall also raise cost and raise additional risks for employers. In essence - the employers will now have to pay more working hours for the same effective work performed by the commuting employees.
Additional cost for employers may also arise in countries, in which the employees are entitled to commuting allowance. Some countries (e.g. Slovenia) distinguish between commuting allowance (coming to work and returning from work) and travel allowance (travelling during working time). Since the travel allowance is usually higher than commuting allowance, the Court's ruling may additionally increase the employer's costs related to mobile workers.
Furthermore, since the commuting will now constitute a part of working time, any injuries or accidents occurred during that time may now qualify as work-related accidents.
The employers may hence be advised to (i) review the existing employment agreements with the employees, especially with regard to the provisions on effective working time and travel time, (ii) accordingly organise work schedules of the relevant employees, (iii) envisage the impact of the eventual additional costs on the overall workforce-related cost.