November 17, 2015

The European Court of Justice confirms: travel time can count as working time

Working time

We have previously provided an update on this issue; please click here to read it. Now, the European Court of Justice has confirmed that, in certain circumstances, employers must pay employees for this travel time. In Tyco Integrated Security SL & Ors. travel to and from the first and last site of a client or customer counts as working time where the employee has no fixed place of work.

Reminder of the facts

The case involved technicians employed by a Spanish company to install security equipment. They were given jobs each day which required travel to different client sites. They were paid from the time they arrived at the first site, and their pay ceased when they left the last client site. Tyco did not count the time as working time, instead it regarded it as travel time to and from work.

The decision

The ECJ has confirmed its earlier opinion that this travel time amounts to working time because:

  • travelling was a “necessary means of providing their services” to the customer and was therefore an “integral part” of their job
  • they were travelling to customers specified by their employer. They were “at their employer’s disposal” during this travel time, as the journey and distances were at the request of their employer to provide services for its benefit, and
  • for workers not based at a fixed site, travel is an integral part of their work.

What should you do?

There are likely to be legal challenges in the UK to similar contracts. If employees generally have a set place of work and travel only occasionally to clients at the beginning of the day, practically you may decide that little needs to be done. But, if employees travel to clients’ sites from home on a regular basis – for example in the construction industry, or home carers, HR polices may need to be reviewed.

On a practical level, consider reviewing your contracts, handbooks and policies to identify mechanisms to cover payment for travel time. There will be some businesses where it is a grey area whether this case will apply and so you should take advice. Also you should factor in the cost and expense of a potential claim in determining what course of action to take. Implementing a monitoring system in your policy may also help you ensure employees are not abusing the time spent travelling to and from their first and last appointment in order to be paid more.

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