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Is time spent travelling between home and a temporary workplace working time?

Napthens - April 25th 2018

In another case surrounding working time, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Court has recently considered whether the time spent by a police inspector, who was based at a particular police station, travelling to and from temporary workplaces for specific assignments was working time.

What Is Working Time?

Under the Working Time Directive 2003, implemented by the Working Time Regulations 1998, any time in which a worker spends working, carrying out their duties or is at their employers disposal is deemed to be working time.

Whilst the legislation is unclear as to whether time spent travelling to and from a place of work or between places of work should be classed as working time. The non-statutory guidance provided by Gov.UK states that time spent travelling for workers who are required to travel as part of their job should be classed as working time. However, normal travel to and from work and travel outside of working hours should not be classed as working time.

The Case

Mr Thue is a chief inspector and is employed to work a Gaular police station (Norway). Between 2005 and 2014 he was a member of a special response unit which carried out armed response and escorted government ministers who were visiting the district.

In March 2014, he lodged a claim in which he claimed that his working hours had been incorrectly calculated on three occasions. On each of the three occasions he was required to travel to different districts for work. The Court therefore had to consider whether time spent travelling to a workplace which wasn’t his fixed or habitual workplace was working time.

It was held that the time spent travelling outside of his working hours to and from a location other than his fixed or habitual workplace, was working time given that he was required to do so by his employer and he couldn’t turn the request down.

Finally, the Court highlighted that any journey to or from a place other than the worker’s normal place of work shall be deemed to have begun, and its return to have ended, either at the worker’s home, or his normal workplace, whichever is more reasonable in the circumstances.

What Is Best Practice?

Best practice will ultimately depend upon the nature of work that is being carried out by the worker. Where they often travel for work and have no set workplace, such as travelling sales reps, then it is obvious that travel time is working time. However, where a worker has a set workplace and is very rarely required to travel to another place of work, would the travel time be defined as working time? Ultimately, it comes down to whether the worker is allowed to turn down the request to travel and the extent in which it limits their ability to freely pursue their own interests, where it is outside of normal working hours.

However, the Court has suggested in their ruling, which isn’t strictly binding, that as a general rule travel time should be treated as working time.

If you need any assistance in determining whether any travel time is working time, then please don’t hesitate to contact a member of the team.