A worker who leaves home at 8.00 to get to his office at 9.00 will spend an average of 10 hours a week travelling or 480 hours a year travelling to and from work. No one pays the worker for that time and as commuters well know it costs the worker many thousands of pounds in fares.

Now assume that you are a service engineer and that you hardly ever travel to the office. Instead you take the company van home each night and are given a list of jobs to be undertaken the following day at the premises of various different customers. Your first job is 9.00 at a customer’s office an hour away from where you live. So, like the commuter you leave home at 8.00 and arrive at the customer’s premises at 9.00.

Should the service engineer be paid for his or her one hour commute and be entitled to reclaim the cost of the petrol so his journey to work costs him nothing? 

Apparently so says the European Court of Justice in Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones obreras (CC.OO.) v Tyco Integrated Security SL, Tyco Integrated Fire & Security Corporation Servicios SA [Case C 266/14].

The time spent travelling to his first job (and travelling from his last job home) counts as “working time” within the meaning of the EU Working Time Directive (No.2003/88). Not only will the worker be paid for travelling time but the time spent travelling to and from the first and last jobs will also impact on the daily rest periods.

The cost implications for affected employers are potentially catastrophic. A worker on minimum wage who spends 2 hours a day travelling to and from his first and last jobs stands to gain a windfall of over £3,000 per year before tax. 

Employers will now be looking at ways of limiting the impact of this ruling. Maybe they should insist such workers collect their vans from the office every morning and return them every night.