When does travelling become work?

A European court says the time employees – who do not have a fixed workplace – spend travelling to and from their first and last appointments should be considered working time – and employees should be paid for that time.

It comes after workers from the Spanish firm Tyco Integrated Security brought their company before a court in Spain to argue the point.

The court heard that staff at the business were provided with a company vehicle and a work schedule and travelled to different customers’ premises every day. Their employer argued the periods in which they went from their homes to their first job, and from their last job back to their homes, did not amount to working time. The Spanish courts referred the issue to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and, following a hearing, the Court gave a preliminary ruling in favour of the workers.

They found that the criteria should be whether, at a particular time, the employees were:

  • at the workplace
  • at the disposal of the employer
  • carrying out activities or duties of their job

Lara Murray, an employment law specialist at Palmers, said: “With more time being counted as work, that’s more time for which employees are entitled to be paid. Furthermore, there is also a risk that some workers might be in breach of the 48-hour limit on the working week. This is an issue that I have spoken about on BBC Radio Essex and it is something that will affect businesses that use mobile workers such as carers, technicians, and sales people.

“If you would like more information about how you or your employees could be affected by this new ruling, or you have questions about any other employment law issue, please contact us.”