October 2, 2015

The ECJ’s latest working time ruling and the role of telematics

Travel to and from appointments included as work

A new ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has concluded that, for workers with no permanent office, travel to and from their first and last appointments is classified as work.

Until now, those employing mobile workers, such as sales forces, service engineers or care workers, were not required to count such travelling time as work.

However, the ECJ ruling stated that those without a fixed or habitual office – so-called peripatetic workers – should count the time they spend travelling between their homes and the premises of their first and last jobs as part of their hours for the day.

Commuting to and from work has never been regarded as working time for non-peripatetic employees and the ECJ ruling does not change that.

What does this relate to?

The ruling relates to the working time directive which gives workers the right to a minimum of 28-days of paid holidays each year, a 20-minute rest break after six hours work, and rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours.

It also restricts excessive night work, provides for 24 hours off after seven days of work, and gives a right to work no more than 48 hours per week over a working cycle.

In the UK, employers have the option of opting out of the directive, but the TUC estimates that as many as 975,000 people in the UK could fall under the remit of the judgement.

GMB, the union for British Gas, the AA, meter readers and home care workers, has welcomed the ruling.

How did the ruling come about?

The ruling occurred because of an ongoing legal case in Spain involving a company called Tyco, which installs security systems. The company shut its regional offices down in 2011, resulting in employees travelling varying distances before arriving at their first appointment.

The court ruling said: “The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.

“Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer’s choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.”

Organisations which use large numbers of mobile engineers such as British Gas, the AA and the RAC, are said to be assessing the implications of the judgement.

The UK Government has argued that including travel time in working time could lead to higher costs for businesses, and has said that its business department will now have to carefully consider the judgment’s implications.

Need for accurate monitoring

The new ruling reinforces a number of key working practices, including the need for employees to keep accurate records of the amount of time worked per job, journey times to and from appointments and mileages travelled.

Many companies already have systems in place to record such features, while others are still trying to get to grips with the necessary requirements.

One answer could be the use of in-vehicle telematics.

Telematics can be used to gather data related to fuel usage and consumption, actual idling events, on-site arrival times, time on location, daily activity reporting; it can also help build up a profile in terms of vehicle usage to help with predictive servicing.

If desired, data can also be collected to identify harsh braking and acceleration, speeding and erratic cornering – all information that is useful in evaluating driver behaviour on an ongoing basis.

But importantly a client can choose what data they want to collect, it can start simple and get more complicated later if required.

New ruling moves telematics debate on

It could be argued that the new working time development actually moves the debate about telematics further forward.

For some time, there has been a general reluctance to embrace telematics as a means of providing much-needed business information upon which effective decisions can be taken.

Instead, there has been a suspicion of the concept; a mistrust of what many see as an unwelcome intrusion – ‘the spy in the cab’.

However, with regard to this new ruling, telematics could have a role as a supporter of worker rights – an ‘enabler’ rather than a weapon of suspicion – as it provides unequivocal evidence of the hours worked, the timings and the location.

As such it delivers the necessary information upon which mobile workers can provide irrefutable confirmation of their actual hours worked, in line with the new EU working time ruling.

And as such, it makes the argument for more widespread use of in-vehicle telematics a little more compelling.