Could travel to work now count as time at work?

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Interesting news from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last week when the court ruled that for some workers, the time spent travelling to and from work constitutes ‘working time’.  Think you or your staff might be affected?  Read more here;

Who does this affect?

This ruling will affect peripatetic workers – these are workers who have no fixed workplace.  A classic example of this in the UK could be home care-workers, gas fitters and some sales reps.   This ruling will not apply to people who simply commute to work.

What exactly was the ruling?

You might remember the Working Time Directive from the European Court of Justice, which was initially implemented into UK Law in 1998 (there was a lot in the press about how long the working week should be, especially in the case of trainee doctors).  This Directive is aimed at protecting people’s health and safety while they are at work.  It looks at working hours, breaks, holidays and numerous other elements of working life.

A group of technicians at a Spanish firm (Tyco) used this Working Time Directive to take action against their employer who was not paying them for the time it took them to get to the first appointment of the day (nor for the time it took to get home at the end of the day).  The ECJ ruled that as Article 2 of the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) defines ‘working time’ as any period during which the worker is working, is at the employer’s disposal and is carrying out his activity or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice, then this means that travel to the first and last appointment of the day is part of that ‘working time’.

What does this mean in practice?

There are three key considerations for employers as a result of this ruling;

  1. Definition of working time for employees. Employers now need to include travel to the first appointment, and travel home from the final appointment as part of the working hours for these peripatetic employees who move from place to place across the working day.
  2. Impact on minimum wage legislation. Where working hours have increased as a result of this legislation employers may need to ensure that salary does not fall below national minimum wage standards as set out in UK law.
  3. Impact on working hour limits/breaks. Where working hours have increased as a result of this change employers will need to ensure that they are providing employees with adequate breaks (in line with their hours). Employees who are working more than six hours, for example, are entitled to a paid 20 minute break.


No doubt there will be more testing of this ruling and the legislation over the coming months and years, however if you feel you might be affected by this change – either as an employer or as an employee, it could be useful to understand your rights better.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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