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Commute could soon count as working time for mobile workers

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The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has given his opinion on what constitutes 'working time' for mobile workers under the Working Time Directive. According to him, if workers travel from home to a variety of different locations to carry out their duties, the time spent travelling to the first and from the last assignments of the day should count as working time.

Case: Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco Integrated Security SL and another (C-266/14)

Tyco Integrated Security SL and Tyco Integrated Fire & Security Corporation Servicos SA are two Spanish companies that install and maintain security systems, each employing 75 workers across Spain. In 2011 the companies introduced a new work-allocation system: workers receive details of the day's assignments through a mobile-phone app, before travelling directly from home in a company vehicle to their first assignment and then directly back home after their last assignment. The companies regarded the commute between home and the assignments as 'rest time', for which the workers weren't paid.

Through their union, the technicians filed a complaint against the companies with the Spanish court, arguing their employers were breaching the working-time rules by not including the first and last journeys in the working day.

The Spanish court referred the case to the ECJ. The Directive states that working time is generally defined as time when a worker is at the workplace, carrying out their activity or duties, and at the disposal of their employer. The issue was whether the workers were at the disposal of their employer on their journey to and from work. If they were they should be paid for the time spent travelling to and from their first and last assignment.

The Advocate General took the view that, as the work is mobile, travelling to the assignment is an integral and unavoidable part of the workers' duties, therefore constituting 'work'. Whether or not the workers were at the disposal of their employer on their journey to and from work was less clear-cut. However the Advocate General's opinion was that, as the journeys still took place under the authority of the employer, the employer could ask the workers to add, cancel or change the order of assignments whilst they were driving.

What this means for you

The opinion of the Advocate General doesn't have to be followed by the ECJ, though usually it is. It will not affect employers until the ECJ makes its judgment.

We will keep you updated with any changes in this field.