In September the European Court of Justice has decided that time spent traveling now counts as working time. This specifically relates to employees who have no fixed place of work such as tradesman and salesmen for example.
The ruling states “If a worker who no longer has a fixed place of work is carrying out his duties during his journey to or from a customer, that worker must also be regarded as working during that journey”
What is the impact of this ruling?
This ruling could have a large impact on employers for two reasons, wage costs and also the working time directive.
Working time directive
The working time directive states that employees should not work more than 48 hours per week. If employees are currently working 48 hours per week or are close to this limit and their travel time is now included in this calculation, they could be exceeding the 48 hour working week rule.
In order to get round this employers can ask employees to voluntarily opt-out of the 48 hour per week limit. However if the employee refuses to sign this agreement they cannot be dismissed or subject to any unfair treatment as a result. This will be seen as either unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal.
Equally if you employee young workers (below 18) they are not permitted to opt out of the working time directive.
At the moment no one ones whether this will have an impact on minimum wage rulings.
If the employee is now deemed to be working longer hours then this may mean that they are earning below minimum wage.
The minimum wage legislation in the UK states that employees should receive minimum wage for all the hours they work. However the law currently states that travel time to and from work or to a customer’s place of work does now count in the calculation.
This now contradicts the new ruling and there is pressure from trade unions that employees should get paid for this traveling time. As such we expect that the national minimum wage legislation will likely be updated in the future.
Additionally make sure you check your employee’s contracts for overtime. This is because it may state that if the employee works more than X hours per week they are entitled to overtime pay. As traveling at the start and the end of the day now counts as working this could cause your wage bill to go up as you will be paying overtime to your employees.
Who is exempt from this ruling?
Workers who travel to a fixed place of work are exempt from the ruling. This means that to avoid this new ruling you could ask your employees to first travel to a fixed place of work (ie the office) to collect a van or paperwork for the day.
Equally if you are self-employed this ruling does not affect you.