Workers including care staff, sales reps and tradespeople should have the time they spend travelling to and from their first and last jobs of the day classed as work, the European Court of Justice has ruled.
Stemming from a case involving a Spanish firm whose staff had to travel for up to three hours a day outside of their formal working time, the case could have huge implications for businesses in the UK.
Under the European Working Time Directive, staff cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours a week and have a right to a 20-minute break after six hours of work.
The court’s ruling means that the initial and last journey is now classed as work and counts towards these limits.
Employment lawyers said the decision did not apply to office staff travelling to work, but the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called for the Government to clarify the situation to ensure it did not affect “ordinary commutes”.
Experts also said workers in Britain could now bring a claim that they are not being paid enough under the National Minimum Wage Act, when the travel time now classed as work is taken into consideration.
The European court case involved two related firms, Tyco Integrated Security and Tyco Integrated Fire and Security Corporation Services, which install and maintain security systems across Spain. In 2011, they closed their offices in the provinces, meaning workers used a company vehicle to travel from their home to the various jobs instead.
“Not taking those journeys into account would enable Tyco to claim that only the time spent carrying out the activity of installing and maintaining the security systems falls within the concept of working time, which would distort that concept and jeopardise the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers,” the European Court of Justice said in a statement.
Glenn Hayes, an employment specialist at law firm Irwin Mitchell, told The Independent that the ruling was “quite significant”.
“In theory, the Government’s National Minimum Wage Act is incompatible with European law and therefore it needs to change the definition of working time or an individual could bring a claim through the tribunals,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “We are carefully considering the implications of the judgment.”Reuse content