A new ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union could mean a fairer deal for mobile workers.
In Federacion de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones obreras v Tyco, the court ruled that the time mobile workers spent travelling between home and their first and last assignments of the day was considered working time.
The new ruling applies to all workers who are not assigned to a fixed or habitual place of work, and has been praised by trades unions for ensuring that this time spent travelling will now count towards ‘working time’ and as such should be factored in when considering, among other things, rest periods and weekly working time.
Deputy General Secretary of the CWU, Andy Kerr, said at the time of the ruling: “Currently the UK government guidelines are that time spent travelling at work does count towards the target – but travel to and for work does not. The ruling changes this as thousands of employers could be in breach of the working time regulation rules.
“As a consequence the legislation could affect thousands of our BT engineers and many other workers in telecoms and financial services that have no fixed place of work.”
The CWU said it was intending to obtain legal advice on the issues, before entering into consultation with employers in cases where it believes members could be affected.
Kathleen Walker Shaw, European Officer for GMB, said: “GMB has many members who work for British Gas, the AA and home care workers who start and finish their work at home, who will feel reassured that the court has so clearly recognised that travelling from home to your first client, patient or customer, and home from that last one at the end of your shift is rightly counted as working time.”
The GMB said that the ruling recognised that workers should not be penalised for the choices of their employers.
“The court also recognises that many workers are having to face constant changes in their work practices and environment, and the reality that an increasing number of workers begin and finish their work transits at their home is due to a decision by a company to close their offices or restructure work practices,” Ms Walker Shaw said.
“It is not a choice or desire of the worker themselves, and workers should not be penalised because of this, or carry the burden of the employers’ choice.”
General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady said: “Many bosses are already fair-minded about travel time for journeys to customers. But this sensible ruling will prevent any unscrupulous employers opening up a loophole to force some staff to work upwards of 60 hours a week.”
The ruling ensures that this travelling time will count towards the 48-hour week, under the Working Time Directive and that this time is factored in respect of, amongst other things, rest breaks and rest periods.
The change will not affect people’s daily commute to their normal place of work.