The ECJ has confirmed, in a European working time case, that time spent travelling to and from home by workers with no fixed place of work is working time for the purposes of the Working Time Directive (the Directive).
This decision has been well publicised in the media and many employers will be asking what effect this will have on their business in practice. The most important point to understand is that this decision only affects how working time is measured for the purposes of the rights UK employees have under the Working Time Regulations. The most important rights to consider in this regard are the rights not to work an average of more than 48 hours per week in the absence of a personal opt-out and the right to an uninterrupted daily rest break of 11 hours.
For employees with no fixed place of work, travelling between home and the first/last job of the day will now be working time. Therefore, if this means that a particular employee’s normal working week would go over 48 hours (on average), it will be necessary either to get the employee’s agreement to sign an opt-out or to reduce the employee’s overall weekly working time.
In the case of daily rest breaks, there should now normally be a period of 11 hours between the employee arriving home from work on one day and leaving home to start work the next day, although there are some limited circumstances in which the employer can insist on a shorter daily rest break and provide compensatory rest at a different time.
It is equally important, however, to understand the limits of this ruling. In particular, the ruling does not of itself entitle UK employees to any payment for time travelling to and from their first and last jobs of the day. In this regard, it is important to understand that the National Minimum Wage Regulations use different definitions of working time and that this judgment does not affect the validity of these definitions.
It is also important to understand that in the case of employees who have a fixed place of work, or a base/depot that they normally report to first, before going out to their first job, travelling to and from that base/depot is still unlikely to be classed as working time.
Read our news story on this topic here.