Working time directive

Working time directive

Business leaders have responded angrily to a ruling from Europe’s highest court. The rule states, workers without fixed offices have travel pay entitlements. Regarding travel to and from first and last work of the day.

The case was brought by workers at a Spanish security business, unsuccessful with their employer. They argue time spent driving to the first and from the last job of the day counts as work. They argued the EU’s working time directive, which limits employees to a 48-hour working week, supports their case.

The rule in their favour came from a court in Luxembourg. They say workers with no fixed office have entitlement to claim trips at either end of the working day. Overall, likely to have the largest effect upon companies whose staff spend the majority of their working day at clients’ premises. These include decorators, plumbers, gas fitters, home care workers and electricians.

The British government had argued this would raise the costs of doing business but the court threw out its objection. Britain uses an opt-out from the working time directive already. It is allowing workers to choose whether they want to be governed by its restrictions. In reality, most British employees automatically opt out when signing a contract. This allows an employer to ask them to work longer than 48 hours a week.

The Institute of Directors immediately condemned the ruling saying it would increase the costs of employing staff. They went on to say the court was “tormenting” companies. “This ruling will surprise and concern many UK businesses, and indeed public sectors employers, who had been following the law to the letter. The ECJ has become a red-tape machine, tormenting firms across Europe.” Allie Renison, head of trade policy at the IoD, told the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce said this demonstrates the importance of Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts to renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership of the EU. Adam Marshall, policy director at the BCC, speaking to the FT, said: “Once again, a faraway court is taking decisions that could impact business prospects, job creation and economic growth in the UK.”

Its not only company owners but managers too, reacting angrily to the ruling.

Dominic Geraldi, Pimlico Plumbers’ general manager, told Management Today magazine“It’s going to be a massive impact on business – it could be catastrophic.”

However, this is a welcome ruling for union leaders. Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison, said to C4HR: “Tens of thousands of [workers] are not getting the minimum wage. This is because their employers fail to pay them for time they spend travelling between the homes of the people they care for. Ministers must now make plans for how this judgment is to be funded.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said the ruling was “common sense and fair play”. “If people spend 10 or more hours travelling to customers, of course it should count for working time limits. It’s the sort of basic right the EU gives to working people which the Prime Minister says he’d like to negotiate away. However he will find workers less likely to support his campaign to stay in the EU if they lose rights and protections like this,” she added.

Lawyers warned that the ruling could have unforeseen consequences for businesses. Alison Clements, of Lewis Silkin, spoke to Management Today about this subject. She said; “companies may now want to include a provision in workers’ contracts. Possibly specifying where they can live and requiring them to seek permission to move outside a specified area. Firms may even end up having to pay staff moving costs if they attempt to impose a contractual restriction on where they can live.”

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