Should travel time be paid ?


The law on what counts as working time for mobile workers was at the centre of a new employment law case in Spain.

A group of Spanish drivers who drove to customers throughout Spain installing security systems complained that their employer was breaching the law by not treating their first and last journeys of the day as working time as the company had done.

The company policy changed following a restructuring in which the workers were reassigned to Madrid but had previously had their working day as starting when they reported to their particular provincial office at the start and end of each day to pick up their company car.

The employer disagreed and argued that the first journey of the day (from home to the first assignment) or the last journey of the day (from the last assignment home) were not working time but rest time and therefore unpaid.

The workers brought a case against their employer in the Spanish courts via their union who were not certain what the correct legal position was and decided to refer the question to the European Court of Justice.

The Advocate General’s opinion was that that the workers were correct and that the first and last journeys of the day should be classified as working time because during such time the workers were at the workplace, at the employer’s disposal and were carrying out their activity or duties.

Although this decision is not binding on the European Court of Justice or UK employers at now, as most opinions are usually followed by the European Court of Justice, it may become good law, in which case, both employee’s and employer’s will then need to take note of this potential new right to claim for travel time and consider the implications of this opinion in the workplace, particularly where mobile or peripatetic working is commonplace.

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