Travelling to work is work, court rules

The European Court of Justice has ruled that employees who do not have a fixed place of work and who travel each day between their home and customers’ premises are considered to be working while making those journeys under the European Working Time Directive.

The adjudication comes in a case brought by Spanish workers at Tyco, the security systems company due to open headquarters in Cork.

Following the closure of Tyco’s regional offices in Spain in 2011, all employees there became attached to the central office in Madrid.

Technicians employed to install and maintain security equipment in homes and businesses were assigned geographical areas and each had the use of a company vehicle to travel between their homes and various places of work and to return home at the end of the day.

Sometimes the distances between the workers’ homes and the places where they were to carry out work took up to three hours to drive.

Tyco counted the time spent travelling between home and the premises of the first and last customers designated by it, not as working time, but as a rest period.

It calculated daily working hours by counting the time elapsing between when its employees arrived at the premises of the first customer and when they left the premises of the last.

With the matter currently the subject of judicial proceedings, the National High Court in Spain asked the European Court of Justice whether the time spent by the workers travelling must be regarded as working time within the meaning of the directive.

Tyco and the Spanish and British Governments expressed concern to the court that such workers would conduct personal business at the beginning and end of the day. However, the court said it was for the employer to put in place the necessary monitoring procedures to avoid any potential abuse.

It said: “In circumstances such as those at issue... in which workers do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent by those workers travelling each day between their homes and the premises of the first and last customers designated by their employer constitutes ‘working time’ within the meaning of that provision.”


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