Is an employer obliged to pay for travel time?
Yes, says a recent European case involving peripatetic workers (Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras).
This is a Spanish case which was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The case was about a worker who did not have a permanent place of work, but was essentially a peripatetic worker who was required to travel every day from home to the premises of a different customer and to return home from the premises of another customer. Essentially the case had to determine whether the travel time was ‘working time’ or a ‘rest period’. It was held that it was in fact ‘working time’. It went on and stated that to amount to ‘working time’ three factors needed to be present:
1. The worker needed to be at the workplace. In this case, involving peripatetic workers, because travelling is an integral part of the job, such that the workplace cannot only be considered as performing work at clients’ premises, this first requirement was met.
2. The worker needed to be at the disposal of the employer. This aspect was also met.
3. Engaged in work duties. Again this was met because for peripatetic workers, travelling is an integral part of their work.
Whilst this case was determined by the Advocate General (who makes a recommendation to the ECJ to consider), the ECJ (where the case will be eventually decided later this year) usually follow the Advocate’s recommendation. A further update will follow once the ECJ have made their decision. For now, employers with peripatetic workers (such as care workers visiting patients at home) should consider this case carefully to ascertain whether their workers are being paid in accordance with the Advocate’s recommendation. If they are not, then employer should be aware that later in the year, they may be legally obliged to ensure compliance.