When an employee leaves home in the morning and travels back in the evening, we’d all be forgiven for saying this shouldn’t be classified as part of the working day and employees shouldn’t be paid for it. But is that correct?

In Federación de Servicios Privados del Sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL and anoremployees had no office base and travelled directly from home to customers. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) held that where an employee doesn’t have a fixed/habitual place of work, then time spent travelling between their homes and the first and last customers will count as ‘working time’. The ECJ said that:

  • during this time employees were carrying out their activities or duties. The nature of the work (travelling) didn’t change; it was just the journey which varied. Therefore they were working on that journey;
  • although the employees could decide the route, they nevertheless had to make the journey from A to B. The employees could not use the time for their own interests and were therefore at their “employer’s disposal”.

One can see that this would apply to engineers who leave home to go to customers and come back without going to an office. However, it’s possible this will also apply to some workers in the care sector who are home- based and travel directly to clients.

This may have significant implications for such organisations. How does this affect the number of hours worked, could there be a breach of the Working Time Regulations? What is the financial implication of this additional time? Additionally, for employers who fear this additional time may be abused, it’s worth considering any measures which can be put in place to monitor potential abuse. Some employers may even consider whether, on balance, it would be better to have a fixed place of work from which an employee starts their day.

There’s a lot to consider but fortunately this is a European decision only, so UK employers may wish to wait and see what happens with cases here, before implementing any changes.