In another blow to David Cameron’s Conservative UK government and a boon to Eurosceptics, the European Court of Justice ruled against the UK on Thursday, saying that companies did indeed have to pay workers for travel time to their work destinations.
From now on, time spent by professionals, craftsmen, caregivers and others driving to their first customer of the day counts in the legally defined “working week”, Based on a ruling by the ECJ. Analysts suggest this new rule will increase costs for a wide variety of businesses.
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The workers travel time ruling is a notable tightening of European labor rules, and could result in firms all across the EU hiring more workers to comply with the new interpretation of the labor rules. Business lobbying groups point out the the ruling could result in firms paying higher salaries to avoid breaking minimum wage laws, and also having to give employees more breaks.
Details on EU workers travel time case
The ECJ judges, based in Luxembourg, ruled on a case brought by employees at Tyco, a Spanish company that installs burglar alarms.
Workers who actually installed the alarms were required to drive for up to three hours to the client location, but the firm counted their working day as from when they arrived at the first client to the moment they left the last one.
Thursday’s ruling said that was wrong, and that traveling time does count as “work” for employees like tradesmen and others who do not have a fixed work location.
Arguments from UK government lawyers that calling traveling time work could be taken advantage of by dishonest employees did not convince the court, with the ruling suggesting that firms have always been responsible for monitoring their employees’ time.
Furthermore, the ruling noted the judgement that travel time is work “cannot be called into question by the argument of the United Kingdom Government that it would lead to an inevitable increase in costs, in particular, for Tyco.”
Statements from interested parties
Anthea McIntyre, a Conservative Member of Parliament in the UK, said: “This could add significantly to the costs of businesses and interfere with long-established business practices. It could hit smaller firms particularly and that would be bad for growth and bad for jobs.”
A spokesperson for the UK Business Department noted: “We are carefully considering the implications of this judgement”.