When does travel become working time?

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The problem

One of your employees comes to you and suggests that they are being underpaid.  They tell you they do not think they are being paid for the time it takes them to travel from their home to visit clients out on the road.  They ask you whether or not this should be classified as working time and therefore should be payable.

The practice

In the European case of Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras the advocate general stated that there are three aspects of working time; 1) being at the workplace, 2) being at the disposal of the employer and 3) being engaged in work duties.  In this case the advocate general considered whether the time spent travelling from home to the first customer and then back home after the last customer would be counted as working time.  It was found that it would be classified as working time because travelling was an integral part of the job and routes and destinations were determined by the employer who could at any time modify the instruction.  In this case the advocate general saw no distinction between travel between jobs (which was agreed to be working time) and travelling to and from the last job.

The practice

In light of this case it is likely that the European Court of Justice will uphold the advocate general’s opinion thereby extending the scope of work what is regarded as working time.  Thus employees who do not have assigned or fixed places of work but who travel for work may have an entitlement to increased salary or overtime payments (depending on how their contractual duties are structured and/or how they are paid) and/or different rights in respect of rest breaks etc.

For further information, help or advice please contact Tim Davies on 0191 211 7927 or [email protected].