The European Union’s Court of Justice has once again moved the goalposts for businesses by ruling that time spent travelling to and from appointments by workers with no fixed place of work counts towards working hours. The ruling has been slammed as “stifling enterprise.”
The court was ruling on the case of Spanish firm Tyco, who install and maintaining anti-theft security systems. Tyco’s maintenance workers now have company cars and travel directly to their first appointment from home, sometimes taking as long as three hours to reach their first location.
Until now, Tyco recorded their working day as starting upon arrival at their first appointment until they leave their last. The court ruled that henceforth it, and every other company in the EU must record the working day as commencing when the worker leaves home, and ends when they arrive back at the end of the day.
“The EU Court considers workers in such a situation to be carrying out their activity or duties over the whole duration of those journeys,” it has said in a statement, adding that it “takes the view that the workers are at the employer’s disposal for the time of the journeys,” and that it “considers the workers to be working during the journeys.”
The BBC’s legal correspondent Clive Coleman warned the ruling could have a “huge effect” on businesses, adding “Employers may have to organise work schedules to ensure workers’ first and last appointments are close to their homes”
Chris Tutton, from the solicitors Irwin Mitchell, said: “Thousands of employers may now potentially be in breach of working time regulation rules in the UK.”
Ukip’s spokeswoman on small business, Margot Parker, has gone further, calling on the ECJ to stop interfering in British small business and to leave law-making to the British Parliament.
The East Midlands MEP said: “Anything the EU does that adds more red tape to small business simply just holds them back. It stifles innovation and entrepreneurship and they should just simply stay out of legislation for small business.
“It should be a British Parliament accountable to the British people making our laws, and interpreted by a British Supreme Court. While we are members of the EU, the ECJ is the final arbiter of our laws, and this is harmful to our lives and working culture.
“I hope that small businesses will see that more and more churning regulations and red tape coming from the EU is not helpful to them and a vote to leave the EU will give them the freedom to do business anywhere they want.”