Travel time classed as ‘working time’ for field-based workers
The Advocate General (AG) for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has given an opinion that the time spent by field-based workers travelling to and from their first and last appointments of the day should be considered as ‘working time’.
The case relates to a Spanish firm that employs around 75 people to maintain and install security equipment across the country. The workers are assigned to a central office in Madrid, but each covers their own geographical area. Each person drives a company car to and from all their appointments, including the first and last of the day, and sometimes travels over 100km in a day.
The workers are challenging the company’s current policy of classifying the working day as starting when they arrive at the first customer’s premises and ending when they depart from their last customer of the day to go home. In the workers’ view, this approach is contrary to the EU Working Time Directive. However, the Spanish court dealing with the case was unable to decide on the matter and requested clarification on the meaning of ‘working time’ from the ECJ.
In giving his opinion, the AG had to consider whether this travel time should be defined as ‘working time’ or ‘rest’ within the meaning of Article 2(1) of the Working Time Directive, as there is no intermediate category between the two. To do this, the AG referred to the three criteria set out within the Directive:
- Space – in the AG’s opinion, the nature of a field-based role means that travelling to and from different places is essential to the job and therefore plays an integral part in the employee’s ability to carry out their duties.
- Authority – the AG was firmly of the opinion that the Spanish workers are at their employer’s disposal whilst travelling, as the company has told them where to go and on arrival, they carry out services for their employer’s benefit.
- Professional – this criterion hinges on whether or not an employee is actually carrying out the activity or duties required of them. In the AG’s view, it’s highly unlikely that the Spanish workers will be using their travel time at the beginning and the end of each day to transact personal business. And whilst the employer may be concerned that this is the case, this isn’t enough to warrant the travel time to not be deemed as ‘working time,’ and it is the company’s responsibility to monitor their employees’ behaviour.
The AG’s opinion isn’t binding and won’t necessarily be reflected in the ECJ’s judgement. However, given that the court usually follows the AG’s lead, this case could have serious implications for other companies employing field-based workers who stop and start the ‘working time’ clock when their staff arrive at their first appointment and depart from their last one. The court will be giving its judgement later this year, so we’ll keep you informed.
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