Can travelling to work count as EU working time?

Normally, travelling to and from work does not count as ‘work time’ for the purposes of the EU Working Time Directive. You travel to work and back in your own time not your employer’s.

But in a recent case, according to the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), if you have no fixed place of work, even the travelling from home to work can count as work time, as can returning home in the evening.

The case arose in Spain and concerned employees who installed security alarm systems. They had no fixed place of work but travelled in a company supplied van to different sites every day on the instructions of the employer. The employer recognised the travel time between jobs as work time but not the travel time to the first job of the day or the return home from the last one.

The employees took the issue to the Spanish court and from there to the ECJ.

The Advocate General (who advises the ECJ and is usually followed) has come out on the employees’ side. He said that because there was no fixed place of work, the travel time to the first job is an integral part of their duties. It was carried out under employer instructions and rules and in an employer provided vehicle. The vehicle itself therefore became in effect the place of work.

Although the ECJ’s judgement is not yet delivered it usually follows the Advocate General. Therefore companies with employees of this type in the EU may wish to check they are applying the work time calculation correctly.