ECJ WORKING TIME DECISION WARNING TO EMPLOYERS.
A RECENT European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision, which ruled that a Spanish security alarm company breached working time regulations, could have a big impact on Scottish businesses.
The ECJ ruled employees without a fixed office who have to travel to and from home to visit clients should view this travel time as 'working time'.
The Court found staff at the Spanish firm Tyco had to travel in some instances three hours each way from first to last meetings, which the firm did not recognise as being part of their working day.
Tyco had closed its regional offices in 2011, meaning employees were travelling varying distances before their first appointments and from their last appointments.
The court ruled this was in breach of Spanish Working Time Regulations.
The ruling states: "The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.
"Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer's choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period."
Donald MacKinnon, director of legal services at Law At Work, said the ruling could affect a "surprisingly wide number of businesses", which could face being in breach of the UK Working Time Regulations and having to restructure staff working practices.
He said: "The ruling by the ECJ states that, where workers have no fixed place of work (or are home-based), the time spent travelling to the first appointment in a working day and the time spent travelling home after the last appointment should be classed as 'working time'.
"Time spent during the day travelling between customer sites would also continue to be classified as 'working time'. Employers have a variety of responsibilities to staff under the Working Time Regulations (WTR).
"The provisions that are most relevant to this ruling include: their obligation to ensure employees do not work more than an average 48 hours a week, and that there should be a break of at least 11 hours between the end of one working day and the start of the next.
"Depending on the distances that an organisation's staff member have to travel from their 'home' to their first appointment, the length of the working day could be increased considerably."
MacKinnon said employees likely to be affected by the ruling include care sector staff who visit a number of clients throughout the day, travelling salespeople and area managers who travel between sites.
The ECJ said its judgement was about protecting the "health and safety" of workers as set out in the European Union's Working Time Directive, which is designed to protect workers from exploitation. |
Care sector staff are amongst the most likely to be affected by the new ruling