Working time for mobile workers

07 October 2015

A recent case from the Court of Justice of the European Union, has wide-ranging effects for businesses which employ sale staff, engineers or other staff members who travel between customers.

Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco

A recent case from the Court of Justice of the European Union, has wide-ranging effects for businesses which employ sale staff, engineers or other staff members who travel between customers. 

This is an important case for businesses in the construction, care, security and catering sectors. It also affects businesses that employ sales staff, engineers, or others who travel between customers.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has decided that mobile workers’ first and last journeys of the day will now count as working time. Workers (which covers employees) who don’t have a fixed office or base are 'working', for the purposes of the Working Time Directive, when they drive from home to their first appointment of the day and from their last appointment home. The Court decided that these are not 'rest periods', as the employer in this case had claimed. It’s working time.

What does this mean for you?

First, you need to make sure that your workers aren’t 'working' too much and exceeding limits set by the Working Time Regulations. Remember all workers are entitled to a 20-minute rest break every 6 hours, and to 11 hours uninterrupted rest every 24 hours. You now need to include their travelling time as part of 'working time', meaning that the workers might be entitled to rest breaks – or, at least, different patterns of breaks – that they weren't previously entitled to.

Second, there are implications for the maximum 48-hour working week. If the worker spends one hour travelling to their first site, and one hour returning home at the end of the day, this adds ten hours to their working week. If that pushes them over 48 hours (normally averaged over 17 weeks), you're probably breaking the law unless they've signed a document opting out of their legal rights.

Third, there may be ramifications for pay. Contrary to what's been reported in the national press, these hours won't count for calculating whether someone is receiving the national minimum wage. So on the example above, just because an employee is working an extra 10 hours week, you don't need to worry about their average hourly rate being pushed below the minimum wage. It won't be.

But there may be other important points on pay. If they are paid by the hour, and your contracts don't define what is meant by 'working time' (ie they don't exclude this travel time), there is a risk that they will be able to bring a claim for unpaid salary at their normal hourly rate. Such claims can be backdated for up to two years in an employment tribunal, and up to six years in the small claims court.

You may need to think about introducing contractual changes, altering shift patterns and factoring in additional rest breaks. It's worth talking to us to discuss the impact on your business, and how you'll need to adapt.


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