Stuck in Traffic? Start the Clock – By HPC’s Ruth McCann

How many times do your colleagues/employees complain that they have been stuck in traffic on their way into and from work? In fact for some such workers, the journey time can feel like it is longer than the time they spend doing their actual job.

Whereas in the past the time employees spent commuting wasn’t a concern for companies, the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the case of ‘Federacion de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v Tyco’ has changed this.  The ECJ has ruled that the traveling to and from work is to be counted as working time, and therefore  should be paid.

The reporting on the case would indicate that both the unions and companies see this case as having significant impact of how companies operate in the UK, and could result in higher wage bills, however it should be noted that the facts around the case are very specific.  The case involved mobile workers that had no fix workplace and would receive an instructions informing where they should go each day via a mobile phone.  This could involve travelling some distances between each job and the Company only paid them once they were on site.  The report from the ruling stated that because workers were not able to use this time freely i.e. the time they were travelling to and from customers sites, and the employees are still at their employer’s disposal for the time of the journeys they should receive rest time/compensation.  It also is important to note that the judgement had been decided on the basis the ECJ believed that it was due to the Health and Safety of the workers and the Working Time Directive (WTD) and not necessarily around payment for time.

Therefore if the ruling is applied in the UK through the employment tribunal systems, it may only affect mobile workers that have no fix place of work i.e. Plumbers, Decorators, Care Workers and Sales Representatives.  So if you employ mobile workers you need to consider the following:

  • You may want to more closely monitor your workers during their traveling times, in order to work out the actual travel times to the first and from the final jobs of their working day, as well as using this to work out your employees working hours per week and whether they need to be reduced in order to comply with the WTD.


  • You may want to work out whether it is more cost effect for the employee to report into a main workbase before going out on jobs


  • Encourage staff to opt out of the working time directive in case the travel time results in them working over 48 hours per week on average – although if they refuse, they cannot suffer any detriment otherwise it is a breach of statutory right and it could result in an ET claim. The worker can also opt back in at any time.


  • Check that your workers are getting at least a 11 hour rest break within a 24 hour period


  • Ensure that employees are receiving the right pay for the amount of work they are completing, this can be done through keeping good records.


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