The European Court of Justice has passed down a ruling regarding travel time and breaks which could affect care sector employers.
The ECJ has decided that the time worker’s spend travelling to work and back again counts as working time for the purposes of calculating rest period entitlement.
Tyco, a Spanish company installing and maintaining antitheft security systems on private, industrial and commercial buildings, had regional offices so its regional employees can pick up their list of client visits for the day and leave their company vehicle there at the end of the working day. In 2011 Tyco closed all their regional offices and operated from their main and only office in Madrid. Since then the employees were not assigned to a fixed place of work, as they each had to cover a set geographical area, which sometimes was one or more provinces. Mobile devices were provided, so the employees could communicate remotely with the office. On the evening before their working day, they received their task list identifying the various addresses they needed to visit the following day and the times of the client appointments. They used an application on their mobile device to record and then send the details to the company of the work they had carried out and any incidents which had occurred. This allowed the workers to set off from their homes to the first client’s premises every morning and then return home, without the need for a regional office. The company classed the working day to extend from the time the employee arrived at the first address, to the time at which they left the last address. Before the regional offices were permanently closed, the working day began when the employees arrived at the office to pick up their list of addresses and ended when they returned to leave the car. This meant that when the offices still functioned, the journey to the first and from the last visit of the day were included as working time.
The ECJ held that travelling at the start and end of the day constitutes working. The nature of the journeys had not changed, just the departure point had. The Court saw that the employees were still at the employer’s disposal during the journeys. At the time of the hearing, as well as before the regional offices were shut, the employer could contact the workers during their travel time and inform them of changes, cancellations and new appointments, meaning that the employees acted on the instructions of the employer. Tyco expressed their concern that employees might take advantage and abuse these journeys, however in the judge’s view, it was the employer’s responsibility to put in the necessary measures to make sure this is not the case. The court ruling said that the employees should not bear the burden of starting and ending at their homes, as it was the employer’s decision to abolish the regional offices and not the wish of the employees themselves.