European Court of Justice ruling on working time

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Photo Credit Peter Fuchs shutterstock
The two towers of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

IN a very interesting decision handed down by the European Court of Justice on September 9, time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office should be regarded as working time by employers.

The ruling came about as a result of an ongoing legal case in Spain involving Tyco, which installs security systems. The company shut its regional offices down in 2011, resulting in employees travelling varying distances before arriving at their first appointment.

The court ruling said: ‘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.

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‘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.’

The ruling means that many firms across Europe including those employing care workers, gas fitters and sales representatives may now be in breach of EU working time regulations.

The court said its judgement was about protecting the ‘health and safety’ of workers as set out in the European Union’s working time directive which lays down regulations on matters such as how long employees work, how many breaks they have, and how much holiday they are entitled to.

One of its future goals is to ensure that no employee in the EU is obliged to work more than an average of 48 hours a week.

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