What is working time?

It sounds like a simple question doesn’t it?  However, the Regulations governing this question are complex, and have given rise to a considerable amount of litigation.  The latest litigation concerns travel time to first and from last customers of the day and for those who do not have a fixed or habitual place of work. This case has arisen as the European Directive which was implemented in Great Britain by the Working Time Regulations 1998 does not define whether travel to and from a place of work or between places of work should be considered as “working time”.

Why is working time so important?

Working time can affect entitlement to maximum hours of work, rest breaks, rest periods and paid holiday as well as pay itself.

Facts of the latest European Court of Justice Case - Federacion de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL and another

The case involved around 75 technicians who used a company vehicle to travel from their homes to the places where they carried out installation or maintenance. The distances from their homes to their assignments would vary and were sometimes more than 100km. They received details of their assignments for the following day from companies via an application on a mobile phone which shows them the task list for the day. The first and last journey were not counted as working time and they sought to challenge this and seek clarification on the meaning of working time.

What was the decision?

Travelling time at the start and end of each day for these workers should be counted as working time.

This is because working time is defined as time spent:

  • working
  • at the employer’s disposal; and
  • carrying out their activity or duties in accordance with national laws and/or practice.

Travel was found to be an integral part of being a worker without a fixed or habitual place of work. The first and last journeys of the day to customers were regarded as working time.  The worker’s journeys were a necessary means of providing their technical services to customers and that they had to be regarded as carrying out their activity or duties during that time. It was considered that the workers were not free to use their time as they pleased on these journeys and so were at the employer’s disposal. The employer could change the order of customers or cancel appointments at any time. If that happened, the workers would be required to react to those instructions during those journeys.   

So what does this mean in practice?

If you have peripatetic workers that travel from their home and have no normal place of work, then you should now consider whether you need to count their first and last journeys of the day as working time.  If this does count as working time then this could impact on their maximum hours of work, rest breaks, rest periods and paid holiday.

How much a worker is paid may also be an inevitable increase in costs for the employer as a result of this decision and may make a company think twice if considering a move from office-based businesses to more mobile ones.