The European Court of Justice in its recent decision of Federacion de Servicios Privados del Sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL C-266/14 has confirmed that time spent travelling to and from work, in the case of mobile workers, should be counted as working time.

This decision relates specifically to employees that have no fixed place of work at the start and end of each day, for example construction workers that travel from site to site or door-to-door sales staff.

Note: Working time is defined in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (“the 1997 Act”) and the Working Time Directives as any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties.

Details of the case

  • This case involved a number of workers employed as technicians responsible for installing and maintaining security systems at customers’ premises.
  • The technicians were required to report each morning to the local branch offices where they would collect their van and job list. 
  • The employer (“Tyco”) later closed its local branch offices and the technicians were assigned to a central office in Madrid. 
  • The technicians were not required to report to the central office each morning and evening and instead travelled from their homes directly to the customer’s premises. 
  • Tyco said the technicians working time began when they arrived at their first assignment and ended when they left the customer’s premises that evening.

Decision

  • The ECJ held that where employees “do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent by those workers travelling each day between their homes and the premises of the first and last customers designated by their employer constitutes working time within the meaning of the directive.”
  • The Court also considers that such mobile workers are carrying out the activity or duties over the whole duration of those journeys and therefore are working during the journeys. 

What does this mean for employers?

This decision may place additional obligations on many employers as it means that the travel time of employees with no fixed place of work (or mobile workers) should be taken into account when calculating their working hours for the purposes of the 1997 Act. By failing to include these journeys in the employees working time, the ECJ has stated that this would jeopardise the objective of protecting the health and safety of workers. Employers of mobile workers should also consider whether it is necessary to provide for additional rest breaks due to the longer working day.  

Employers are also required under the 1997 Act to maintain certain records demonstrating that the provisions of the 1997 Act are being complied with. It is important that a mobile employee is required to keep a clear record of when he/ she started and finished work each day to enable compliance with the Act. It would be advisable for employers to have a policy in place dealing with mobile workers.