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Warning over ‘travel to work time’ legal ruling

An employment law expert has advised employers to review their employment policies following a major European legal ruling.

The ruling has confirmed that travel time to an employee’s first assignment, and the journey back from his last assignment, for those employee’s with no fixed place of work, will be considered as working time.

Kimberley Barrett-St.Vall, partner in the Employment team at Napthens solicitors, warns employers affected by the ruling should consider further appropriate rest breaks and employment policies as a result.

The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, involves a case involving Spanish installers of security systems who were provided with details of their daily assignments through an application on their mobile phone.

The employer had calculated working time as beginning when the staff members arrived at their first appointment, and ending when their last appointment finished. The workers sought to challenge this, with the Spanish national courts referring the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to seek clarification on what should be classed as ‘working time.’

The ECJ has now ruled on the case, deciding that time spent by so-called ‘transient workers’ in commuting to their first job from home, and their last job back to home, should indeed be classed as working time.

Kimberley Barrett-St.Vall added: “This ruling does not mean employers must now pay workers the national minimum wage for the time spent travelling to their first assignment/appointment, and from their last assignment home – subject of course to the wording in any employment contracts.

“However, there are a number of points for employers to be aware of. They should check their contracts of employment to check if the right to be paid for travel does arise, for example it may state that all hours of work should be paid.

“Working time regulations provide for the minimum rest breaks, so in light of the decision employers will need to ensure that workers are obtaining the appropriate rest breaks.

“Finally, it may be worth employers checking their travel to work policy which should address the employer’s stance on what happens if a journey to work becomes significantly longer due to bad traffic, for instance, and ensure staff are aware they should use the most direct routes available.”

Employment & HR - Senior Associate Solicitor - Kimberley Barratt St-Vall