Employment lawyer, Philip Landau of Landau Law explains what the new ruling means.
If you are working for an employer without a fixed or regular place of work, you could be entitled to more pay or a reduction in hours after a European Court of Justice ruling yesterday.
Under present UK government guidelines, time spent travelling at work does count towards your working hours. However “normal travel to and from work” and “travelling outside normal working hours” does not.
The new ruling means that time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office should be regarded as working time. This is mainly going to affect companies who employ staff whose primary duties are to carry out customer or client visits such as care workers, gas fitters, plumbers and sales representatives.
Why has the judgement been made?
The ECJ said its judgement was about protecting the "health and safety" of workers as set out in the EU’s working time directive. As mobile workers are at the employer’s disposal for the time of the journeys, it was considered that they consequently cannot use that time freely to pursue their own interests.
What is the effect of the new ruling?
- Employees may be entitled to a higher level of remuneration, especially where they are paid on an hourly basis, and not annually. This will increase employers general costs.
- As many employers do not count travel time outside normal working hours as “working time”, they may now have to make changes, for example, by organising work schedules to ensure workers' first and last appointments are close to their homes. For future hires, employers may be persuaded to take on staff who work closer to where most early or last appointments are likely to be located.
- Employers may also need to adjust the working hours of staff to make sure it complies with the maximum 48 hour working week that is imposed on UK workers. This is a legal requirement in most industry sectors unless an employee has opted out (usually such opt out would be in the contract of employment). If there is no opt out or employees don’t agree to one, they could quickly exceed the number of hours that they are legally allowed to work, and companies would be at risk of claims. Employers may have to hire more staff to equalise workload in order to stay within the law.
- Employers may need to revisit when rest breaks are provided to their staff. Under present rules, there should be a minimum 20 minute rest break every 6 hours.
As with many new rulings of this nature, employers will need to get to grips with what it means to their business and face requests from staff to accommodate the changes. Eventually, an employment tribunal may end up ruling on how it is expected to work in practice, or address some of the finer details of the new rules that have not been able to be resolved in the workplace.