European Court rules that travelling to work ‘is work’

Workers’ time spent travelling to and from their first and last appointments should be regarded as working time, the European Court of Justice has ruled.Previously, many employers have not considered this time as work.

The new ruling means that firms employing sales reps, care workers and gas fitters may have breached EU working time regulations.

Some experts have warned that the ruling could have a ‘huge effect’ on businesses. The health and safety of workers as set out in the European Union’s working time directive is the court’s primary concern.

The directive protects workers from employer exploitation, laying down regulations regarding matters such as how long employees can work, the number of breaks they have and how much holiday they are entitled to.

The court rulicommutingng outlined: ‘Requiring workers to bear the burden of their employer’s choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.’

However, the judgement has been criticised by some business leaders. Allie Renison, head of EU and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, said: ‘This ruling will surprise and concern many UK businesses, and indeed public sectors employers, who had been following the law to the letter.

‘The notion that the period mobile workers spend travelling between home and their first client in the morning must count as working time goes above and beyond the protections intended by the law’.

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