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Is travel time working time?

View profile for Luke Coleborn
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In a preliminary ruling, the European Court of Justice has held that time spent travelling between home and work is, in certain circumstances, to be regarded as ‘working time’ for the purpose of European – and by extension, UK law.

A request to clarify the Directive 2003/88/EC’s meaning of ‘working time’ was made during the course of Spanish proceedings in Federación de Servicios Privados del Sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL and another [2015] EUECJ C-266/14.  In that case, Tyco, a security installation company, refused to accept that workers’ time spent journeying from home to the first customer of the day, and back from the last, should count as working time.  It should be noted that Tyco had abolished its regional offices, but prior to the decision to take that step, the workers were required to travel to the office to pick up the company car to travel to the first customer, returning from the last.

The ruling therefore relates only to workers, such as those working for Tyco, who have no fixed or habitual place of work – that is to say those whose office is the road.  Those working under the more usual practice of travelling to an office and either working there, or from there travelling to customers, are not caught by the ruling; their time spent travelling to the office will not count as working time (although their time spent travelling to customers, if applicable, will).

Concern that workers could abuse the system by using travel time to conduct their own personal business was quelled by the ECJ.  However employers will now be burdened with the responsibility of monitoring working time to ensure both that workers do not carry out personal errands during working time, and that workers do not inadvertently exceed the maximum hours per week (48 hours) by virtue of time spent travelling – provided of course that those workers have not opted out of their protection under the Working Time Regulations.  

For more information, please call the Dutton Gregory employment team on 023 8022 1344 / 01962 844333 / 01202 466669 or email l.coleborn@duttongregory.co.uk