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New EU Court ruling: travelling is within working hours

Published 21 September 2015 by

If you work flexibly and travel to various appointments as part of your job, then a new ruling by the European Court of Justice could have an impact on the way you work. Under the law, the time spent travelling to and from the first and last appointment of your day, should be regarded as working time.

This means that companies who employ electricians, care workers, gas fitters and sales reps (as well as some other positions) could be in breach of EU working time regulations.

Why has this happened?

The court has said that the judgement is in place to protect the “health and safety” of workers and relates to the Working Time Directive. The directive aims to protect workers from exploitation at the hands of their employers and details how long employees should work, how many breaks they should have, as well as their holiday entitlement.

A key goal of the directive is to ensure that no employee working within the EU is obliged to work more than an average of 48 hours a week. The ruling was a product of an ongoing legal case in Spain involving Tyco, a company that installs security systems. The company shut their regional offices in 2011, leaving their employees to travel varying distances before arriving at their first appointment of the day.

Who will be affected?

Anyone that could be considered a “mobile worker” and doesn’t work from a fixed address could be affected by this. Those of you that travel a lot as part of your job but have a permanent base are unlikely to fall under this category, even though you could argue that the amount of time spent out of the office means that you’re rarely ever at your work base.

If you work from a permanent office, you unfortunately won’t be affected by this ruling, no matter how lengthy your commute is.

What happens if I’m affected?

If you think you could be affected by this, you’re not alone – it is expected that as many as 975,000 people in the UK work this way. Some are thought to be travelling as much as 10 hours a week outside of their working hours.

The ruling could potentially see wages rise, as companies could be forced to pay higher salaries to avoid breaking minimum wage laws, and even give more breaks to their employees. If wages do increase, the cost of some services could go up to subsidise this.

Employers could start to focus more on where they send their staff after this ruling, making sure that the first and last appointments of the day are closer to home, so that they don’t cut into the working day.