EU ruling could have significant implications for UK businesses

The EU’s top court has just ruled that the time employees spent travelling to their first and last appointment of the day should be classed as work and so should be paid.

The decision could have dramatic implications for millions of individuals, including care workers and sales reps, who do not have a fixed office.

Following the ruling, more businesses may find themselves in breach of the EU’s working time rules and could come under pressure to arrange work schedules so that members of staff are closer to home at the beginning and end of the day.

The court’s consideration of the issue arose from an ongoing legal case between employees and bosses at a Spanish security company.

The firm, Tyco, took the decision to close its regional offices four years ago which effectively meant that the workforce were travelling for up to three hours to get to their first job.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice said: “The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.

Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer’s choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.”

The fact that the EU has clarified that travel time in these circumstances is part of the working day has implications for both the maximum number of hours someone is legally allowed to work and minimum wage laws.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has been quick to seek assurances from the Government that the ruling will not apply to the standard commute to an office.

Employers in doubt about their position as a result of the case should seek advice.