ECJ Gives Rules on Travelling Time as Working Time

In the case of Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL and anor, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that in the case of ‘peripatetic workers’ (i.e. travelling workers, who are required to work at different locations each day), travelling time is to be regarded as ‘working time’ for the purposes of the Working Time Directive.

Tyco employs approximately 75 workers in Spain. Workers have responsibility for different geographical areas but are all assigned to a central office in Madrid. The workers have access to company vehicles which they use day-to-day to travel from their home address to locations where they carry out installation and maintenance of security equipment for businesses and private individuals. The workers then return home in the same vehicle at the end of the working day. The distance travelled by the workers fluctuates but at times can be over 100km a day.

It was Tyco’s policy not to count the journey from the workers’ homes to the first customer of the day or to count the journey from the last customer back home as ‘working time’. The workers looked to challenge this policy and argued it was contrary to the EU Working Time Directive. The Spanish courts then referred the matter to the ECJ for clarification.

Earlier this year the Advocate General concluded that such time could amount to ‘working time’. The Advocate General noted that such workers were at their employer’s disposal during ‘travelling time’ as they were travelling to customers determined by the employer to provide services for their benefit. The ECJ, as is usual, followed the Attorney General’s opinion on the issues and ruled in favour of the peripatetic workers at Tyco.

Tyco had argued that the workers’ travelling time should be classed as a “rest period” because they were not carrying out installations or maintenance during those periods. Tyco had also claimed that because the technicians had the independence to make decisions as to their itinerary and the routes to take during their travelling time, these factors put them outside the boundaries of the Directive. The ECJ rejected both arguments and concluded that the workers were at the “disposal” of Tyco and thus their travelling time was covered by the Working Time Directive.

Employers in the UK who are affected by the ruling will now need to consider the impact of this decision on issues such as staff pay, rest breaks and potential breaches of the Working Time Regulations.