A recent European case has raised an interesting point about the interaction between travel time and “working time” for the purposes of the Working Time Directive. The resulting opinion of the Advocate General is that the time an employee spends travelling to a customer from home and back to their home from their last customer may count as “working time”. However, this only applies to Employees whose work principally involves visiting customers or users at their premises (such as care workers, sales people, service technicians).
The case (Federacion de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras) involves security technicians who travel to various premises to install and maintain security systems for two companies in Spain. The technicians’ employers refused to include the time spent by the employees travelling from their home to their first customer of the day, and from their final customer of the day back to their homes, as “working time”. It was agreed that time spent travelling between customers’ premises amounted to “working time”.
The Spanish National Court requested an opinion from the Advocate General on the point.
According to the Advocate General there are three aspects to “working time”:
1 being at the work place;
2 being at the disposal of the employer; and
3 being engaged in work duties.
The Advocate General considered that all of these aspects were fulfilled when a worker travelled from home to their first customer and from their last customer back to their home.
Further, the Advocate General saw no distinction between travel between jobs or customers (which was agreed to be working time), and to and from the first and last jobs (which was not). Since working time and rest time are mutually exclusive concepts, rest time must not involve obligations vis a vis the employer and accordingly travel time had to be working time.
This decision is not binding on the ECJ (although decisions of the Advocate General are usually followed) but it does give a good indication of how this issue is likely to be viewed.
Considerations for Employers
If your employees travel to and from customers’ houses from home, you should consider:
- Whether you are still paying at least the minimum wage to employees when the additional working time is taken into consideration (and budget for additional costs if not);
- Whether your employees are receiving adequate breaks when the additional working time is taken into consideration;
- Whether your employees are working more than the 48 hour weekly limit imposed by the Working Time Regulations when the additional working time is taken into consideration (or have opted out);
- Whether your employees are taking the quickest routes between customer premises and whether any steps can be taken to minimise travel time (such as the use of route planning software).
If you have any queries or concerns about any of the matters raised above please feel free to contact a member of the employment team.