Mobile workers and working time calculation

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GL Writes: As an employer with both office based and mobile workers I am confused about in what circumstances travelling time is included in the working time calculation. Please can you advise? The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recently issued a ruling regarding time that mobile workers spend travelling, and whether this is classed as working time. The effect of this is that working hours need to be analysed and adjusted where necessary to ensure that workers are getting the legal minimum periods of rest required under Europe’s Working Time Directive, writes Peter Done, managing director of Peninsula. The ECJ has declared that where workers do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent travelling each day from their home to their first appointment, and then from last appointment back home is working time within the meaning of the Working Time Directive. This clearly does not affect all staff – only the ones who are mobile in that they do not need come to the ‘office’ to pick up their instructions. Instead, their appointments are conveyed to their mobile phone etc. This could be those involved in domiciliary care, roving salesmen, or gas fitters, for example. Travel time for someone who works day in and day out in the office is not affected by this ruling. This is important because the law states that adult workers must get 11 hours’ rest in a 24 hour period. There are also other rules on breaks during the day, and weekly rest periods too. Current normal practice for these workers would mean that the working day starts when the first appointment starts, and ends when the last appointment is finished. For example, a worker leaves their last appointment at 5pm and reaches home at 8pm. The next day, they need to leave home at 5.30am to get to their first appointment at 8am. Their rest period is considered to have lasted 15 hours (5pm to 8am the next day). However, the new judgment would appear to say that this particular circumstance brings about a rest period of 9.5 hours (8pm to 5.30am) and therefore breaches working time legislation. There must now be, according to this ruling, a clear 11 hours between arriving home and setting out again. Because this is an ECJ ruling, its application to UK private sector employers can be complicated and employers are advised to take specific advice on their situation before making any changes to their practices.  

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