European Court of Justice rules workers should be paid for travelling between jobs

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Health workers, GMB, Precarity

European Court of JusticeUnions have welcomed the European Court of Justice ruling that workers should be paid while travelling between jobs.

The ruling affects workers with no ‘fixed or habitual’ place of work, including home care workers and domestic engineers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Many bosses are already fair-minded about travel time for journeys to customers. But this sensible ruling will prevent unscrupulous employers opening up a loophole to force some staff to work upwards of 60 hours a week.”

The ruling requires a worker’s travel time between home and their first and last customer appointments in a working day to be considered in relation to the 48 hour maximum working week (under the Working Time Directive).

The matter was referred to the European Court of Justice by the Spanish National High court. The specific case regards a Spanish security installation firm, Tyco, which was not counting the journeys its workers made from their homes to customers’ premises – journeys that were taking up to as much as 15 hours a week.

The ruling does not affect people’s daily commute to their normal place of work.

GMB Europe officer Kathleen Walker Shaw said: “We welcome the judgment that the journeys made by workers without fixed or habitual place of work between their homes and the first and last customer of the day constitute working time.

“We have many members who work for British Gas, the AA and home care workers who start and finish their work at home, who will feel reassured that the court has so clearly recognised that travelling from home to your first client, patient or customer and home from the last one at the end of your shift is rightly counted as working time. This time should now be paid for.

“The court also recognises that many workers are having to face constant changes in their work practices and environment, and the reality that an increasing number of workers begin and finish their work transits at their home is due to a decision by a company to close their offices or restructure work practices – it is not a choice or desire of the worker themselves, and workers should not be penalised because of this, or carry the burden of the employers’ choice.

“The European Court importantly reminds us that the Working Time Directive is vital health and safety protection for millions and millions of workers across the UK. It is not “red tape” as the CBI assert. It was brought in to combat the dangers of excessive hours to workers and the public.

“It is not only workers without fixed and habitual places of work who will benefit from this judgment  but all workers in Britain and the EU. They need to ask themselves – are we prepared to see David Cameron and his Conservative government rob us of these vital protections as he has given notice to the TUC this week he is hell-bent on doing? This judgment is only safe as long as David Cameron is stopped.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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