The Court of Justice of the European Union clarifies the concept of “working time”
On 10 September 2015 the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) adopted a judgment in the Case C-266/14 Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones obreras clarifying the concept of “working time” within the meaning of the Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time (the Directive).
Dispute in the main proceedings
The company Tyco Integrated Security SL and Tyco Integrated Fire & Security Corporation Servicios SA (‘Tyco’) carries out, in the majority of Spanish provinces, a business that involves installing and maintaining security systems which enable intrusions to be detected and burglaries to be prevented. In 2011 Tyco closed its regional offices in the provinces and attached all its employees to the central office in Madrid.
The technicians employed by Tyco install and maintain, in a functioning state, security equipment in private homes and on industrial and commercial premises located within the geographical area assigned to them, which consists of all or part of the province in which they work and sometimes more than one province. Those workers each have the use of a company vehicle in which they travel every day from their homes to the places where they are to carry out the installation or maintenance of security systems. However, Tyco does not count the time spent travelling between home and customers as working time, thus regarding it as a rest period. It calculates daily working hours by counting the time elapsing between when its employees arrive at the premises of the first customer of the day and when those employees leave the premises of the last customer, account being taken only of the time of the work on the premises and of the journeys getting from one customer to another. Before the closure of the regional offices, however, Tyco used to count the daily working time of its employees as starting when they arrived at those offices in order to pick up the vehicle and ending when they returned in the evening at these offices.
The question referred for a preliminary ruling
The Spanish National High Court decided to stay proceedings and to refer the question to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling asking whether the time spent travelling at the beginning and end of the day constitutes “working time” within the meaning of the Directive.
Findings of the CJEU
The CJEU finds that in circumstances such as those at issue in the main proceedings, in which workers do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent by those workers travelling each day between their homes and the premises of the first and last customers designated by their employer constitutes ‘working time’, within the meaning of the Directive.
Workers in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings must be regarded as carrying out their activity or duties during the time spent travelling between home and customers. The journeys of the workers, who are employed in a job such as that at issue in the main proceedings, to go to the customers designated by their employer, is a necessary means of providing those workers’ technical services to those customers. Not taking those journeys into account would enable an employer such as Tyco to claim that only the time spent carrying out the activity of installing and maintaining the security systems falls within the concept of ‘working time’, within the meaning of Directive, which would distort that concept and jeopardise the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers.
The CJEU considers that during those journeys, the workers act on those instructions of the employer, who may change the order of the customers or cancel or add an appointment. During the necessary travelling time those workers are not able to use their time freely and pursue their own interests, so that, consequently, they are at their employer’s disposal. If a worker who no longer has a fixed place of work is carrying out his duties during his journey to or from a customer, that worker must also be regarded as working during that journey.