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Updates from Europe: Digesting the Latest ECJ Working Time Ruling

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What the European Working Time Directive really means for both employers and employees

The European Working Time Directive (WTD) was recently questioned in a case between reputable security business Tyco and a group of technicians employed by the business. These technicians were required to install and maintain equipment at varying premises, depending on customer location. Tyco argued that the time spent traveling to such appointments (distances of approximately 62 mi., in some cases) did not count as official working hours, with the working day only starting once technicians had arrived at the first customer appointment. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) rejected this, stating that when employees do not have a set place of work, travel time amounts to working time. The court ruling went on to state that such travel time started from the moment an employee left home to travel to the first place of work and only ended once home from the last place of work each day.

This ruling will undoubtedly affect the elevator industry in Europe, causing necessary reviews and, in some cases, leading to costly disputes between employers and employees.

As the elevator industry is comprised of many field engineers and sales forces undertaking similar work to that of the technicians at Tyco, it is important that everyone understands the consequences of this ruling. It will have different implications for both employers and employees throughout Europe, and both sides need to understand the ruling and act accordingly. 

Advice for Employers 

Travel time to and from appointments for mobile workers with no set place of work will now count toward the 48-hr. workweek. This will alter previous arrangements with work hours and rest breaks, and, in some cases, may require employers to increase wages to avoid breaching existing legislation regarding the national minimum wage and national living wage. 

Employers should consider the following actions to minimize the implications to business: 

  • Suggest workers report to your company premises (where possible) to collect company cars and their task lists before going to work appointments so that they have a central base from which they work. 
  • Review working hours and consider whether, with the inclusion of travel time, employees’ average working hours exceed 48 in any week. If so, you will need to obtain employees’ written agreement to opt-out of the maximum 48-hr. workweek.
  • Factor in travel time and identify whether any additional rest breaks need to be given to workers without a set place of work.
  • Ensure that an accurate log of appointments is completed by all workers who do not have a set place of work on a weekly basis to avoid workers completing personal errands on their way to and from appointments to extend their “working time.” 
  • Consider amending your contract terms to confirm that overtime will not be paid. 

Advice for Employees 

Employees should speak to their employers immediately to find out if they are affected by the ECJ ruling. The Tyco case highlights the opportunities for employees to benefit from the WTD. In principle, workers are entitled to a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24 and paid annual leave of at least four weeks per year.[1] Employees should review this entire document and ensure their employers are complying with its stipulations.

This ruling will undoubtedly affect the elevator industry in Europe, causing necessary reviews and, in some cases, leading to costly disputes between employers and employees. Both sides need to consider what the ruling could mean for them in 2016. 

For further information and advice, visit the European Commission’s website.[1]

References

[1] European Commission. “ Working Conditions – Working Time Directive” (ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=706&langId=en&intPageId=205)

[2] Out-Law.com. “Travel Time Ruling Will Not Automatically Entitle UK Mobile Workers to Extra Pay, Says Expert” (www.out-law.com/en/articles/2015/september/travel-time-ruling-will-not-automatically-entitle-uk-mobile-workers-to-extra-pay-says-expert).

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