The European Court has recently handed down a judgment which could greatly affect the workers who do not operate from a fixed place of work. The judgment means that employees such as care workers, mobile contractors and those working as sales representatives could be affected.

Before the ruling, workers who had to travel from home to get to their first appointment of the day were not considered to be working until they reached the location of the appointment. Their working time also stopped when they completed their last appointment of the day, and not when they arrived home. As travel time was not previously taken into account when determining the number of hours a person had worked, an employee’s working week could be extended by hours as a result of the ruling.

The issue arises from the EU Working Time Directive. The aim of the Directive is to protect the health and safety of workers within the EU and therefore applies to all employees in the UK. Under the Directive, employees should not work on average more than 48 hours per week, including any overtime. Workers in the UK do have the ability to opt out of the provisions if they so wish. The Directive also requires that employees must have 11 hours’ rest between shifts.

The ruling means that employers must now include the travel time to first, last and between appointments – not just the time an employee is actually working. This could mean that businesses have to look carefully at their employees’ working hours, which could now be at a level in breach of the Directive. Employers will also have to consider whether their workers are having the required rest period between shifts.

Although the ruling did not consider the implications on wages directly, it has been suggested that employers may be challenged in the Courts in circumstances where increased working hours could result in workers’ wages dropping below the national minimum wage. However, it is not yet known what the Court’s reaction will be, as the domestic rules on the national minimum wage are different to the Working Time Directive.

Are you affected by the new regulations?

At The Legal Team, we have dedicated employment law specialists that can give you the guidance you need – whether you are an employer concerned about the action you might need to take following the ruling, or an employee that wants to find out what this means for you personally. Call 0800 999 8662 from landlines or 0330 999 0032 from mobiles.