A recent European Court decision, which made national news recently, means that the time of mobile workers getting to and from their first and last appointment now counts as 'working time'.

For manufacturers, this may therefore affect any home-based sales staff, and other agents in the field who fall within the 'worker' definition for working time protection.

The thrust of the media reports was that employers would have to watch that such extra time does not tip them over the maximum 48-hour average working week.  If it does then employers will need to try to secure individual opt-outs. The suggestion was that employees would be looking to negotiate a salary increase to agree an opt-out. That may or may not be the case, depending on the employee's negotiating position.

However employers may well now need to ensure they are paying at least the national minimum wage, and from next April the higher national living wage, for such extra hours of traveling time.

Various ways of limiting impact have been suggested, such as trying to ensure that the first and last visits of the day are close to the employee's home.  That said, many employees will manage their own itinerates, which will then make this more difficult to control.

The starting point is undoubtedly an urgent audit, to check which staff may be affected, and then how best to manage this new right.  Staff themselves are quite likely, because of the national coverage, to be very much aware of this change. Therefore employers need to make sure they are on the front foot, in terms of having a plan ready to address this, rather than being caught unawares.