The Working Time Directive governs EU countries and sets a variety of limits in relation to how long an employee can be working for. Non statutory guidance by the UK Government indicates that for workers who travel as a part of their job, time spent travelling will be considered to be ‘working time’. However, any time spent on normal travel to work will not be. So, therefore, what about those mobile workers who have to travel to and from their customer’s at the beginning and end of the day? Will that period of travelling be considered ‘working time’? The decision made by the European Court of Justice in the recent case of Federcarion de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL was yes, it will be.
Tyco is a security installation and maintenance company that employs technicians from all over Spain. Although the technicians are appointed to the central office in Madrid they have no need to visit it on a daily basis. They receive a list of their jobs for the day electronically and then travel to the relevant places in their company vehicle. This means that day-to-day technicians will sometimes travel over 200km in order to reach their clients and return home at the beginning and end of the day. These journeys were considered to be a ‘rest period’ by Tyco.
When technicians complained about this to the Spanish court they referred the question to the ECJ for clarification. The Advocate General’s opinion was that these periods of travel were definitely ‘working time’ as they complied with all of the requirements under Article 2 of the Directive – that in order for time to be ‘working time’ the worker must be working at their employer’s disposal carrying out activities or duties that are in line with the relevant national laws/practice. As the technicians at Tyco are required to travel in order to carry out the activities and duties of their job and Tyco are the ones to organise and authorise any client visits, they can be said to be at work at their employer’s disposal during these periods of travel. However, one issue remains, what if workers choose to tend to personal business whilst making these journeys? Again, the ECJ followed the opinion of the Advocate General who held that all journeys of this nature must be periodically monitored in order to ensure that they are not being abused by workers.
In an age in which businesses are becoming increasingly mobile, and where workers have no fixed place of work, the outcome of this case will no doubt be of great value to some.
Rachel O’Connell, Solicitor & Director – Just Employment Ltd