Workers with no fixed place of work likely to be entitled to pay for travelling to and from home

Travelling time to and from work should be paid for some workers, rules the Advocate General in a Spanish case that, if ratified by the European Court of Justice, will have a significant impact on employers who have staff without a fixed place of work.

This Spanish case concerned 2 alarm engineers who each had a particular region and travelled from their homes to their first appointment and from their last appointment back home. They were notionally assigned to an office in Madrid, but rarely if ever went there. Because of the size of Spain their initial and last journeys could sometimes be long – 50 miles or more. Once a week the engineers would visit a regional parts store to pick up spares and equipment. The Company regarded their ‘start time’ as the time they logged onto their system (via their smartphones) that they had arrived at the first customer’s premises, and their ‘end time’ as the time recorded that the final job was complete. Journeys in between customers counted as working time, but not the journey to the first customer or from the last one to their homes. In the past the company had regional offices at which the employees would drop their vans before going home, and the time taken to reach the office at the end of the day was counted as working time. Those offices were closed some time ago.

In the judgement the Advocate General defined ‘peripatetic workers’ as being ‘workers who are not assigned a fixed or habitual place of work’ and added that ‘such workers are therefore required to work at different premises every day.’ It was concluded that the workers were at the employer’s disposal from the moment they left home – they were sent their task list overnight. It was also relevant, said the Advocate General, that previously they would have been paid until they dropped off their van at base. Since the new ‘base’ was their homes, there was no logical reason why they should not be paid for the homeward journey, and if home was their base and they were at their employer’s disposal, the outward journey would covered too by the same logic.

Does this mean that all home-based workers home to work and back again journeys might now be regarded as working time? No – the ruling, if ratified by the ECJ, would only apply to employees who work at different premises.

Who is this likely to impact? Mobile engineers, domiciliary care workers, mobile hairdressers, field sales staff etc.

What action is necessary now? Review working practices for your staff to identify who might be affected, but make no changes now – the ECJ ruling is key – expect this later this year.

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