European Union: Tormenting Business Or Protecting Basic Worker Rights?

The European Court has risked the wrath of Euro sceptics and anti-red tape commentators by confirming that the journeys to/from home at the beginning and end of the day made by workers with no fixed workplace count as "working time".

The case of Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones obreras (CC.OO.) v Tyco Integrated Security SL & another is significant because if this travel time is "working time", it will impact on the timing of the worker's daily and weekly rest break entitlements under the working time rules. It will also contribute to the total number of hours worked in any one working week - European law imposes a cap of 48 hours, although UK law allows UK workers to opt out of this cap with the written consent of the worker. Furthermore, the working time rules extend beyond employees to all workers so will include agency workers and contractors (other than the genuinely self-employed).

The impact of this case will vary depending on the organisation. Those who have a devolved and dispersed workforce are likely to feel its effects the most. All employers should now review their position to determine the risks of any possible breaches of the working time rules.

Who is affected?

The case affects those workers who have no fixed workplace – such as those involved in visiting customer/client sites as designated by their employer. The employer (Tyco) contended that the time (a) from home to the first client site visit of the day and (b) back home after the last client visit of the day was not working time. Tyco's arguments that this was not working time were rejected by the European Court.

In the UK at least, "normal" commuters who do have a fixed place of work (including offshore) are not affected. If a worker chooses to live in Devon and commute to their office/plant/depot in Derby or Devizes, the commuting time is not working time. The wider health and safety duties and performance management considerations may lead an employer to make enquiries on alertness and effectiveness but, essentially, the choice of a lengthy commute is a lifestyle matter for the individual.

All workers are affected, not merely "employees", so a broader base of the labour force is impacted. Many agency workers and contractors (other than the genuinely self-employed) will be affected.

What happened in this case?

Each Tyco technician covered a regional patch in Spain and attended customer sites using the Tyco vehicle as directed by the company. Each week they attended a logistics hub for various "kit" supplies. In common with many UK employers, the need to attend a regional office/depot had been replaced by technology so that communications with national head office was by mobile phone/handheld devices. Tyco argued that this travelling time was a rest period because the technicians weren't carrying out installation or maintenance. The Court disagreed, finding that travelling time was working time within the meaning of the working time rules. For mobile workers, travelling was an integral part of their duties and they were subject to the employers' instructions during that time (for example, cancelling or adding customer appointments).

The Court noted that the European working time rules should not be subordinate to purely economic considerations (such as increased cost for employers and therefore any additional cost being borne by customers/service users). In other words, safety and the health of workers (and others who may be affected by the actions of an over-tired worker) "trump" the employer's cost or organisational challenges.

What are the implications under UK law?

If the travel time is working time then the following UK working time rules have to be considered:

  • maximum working time (48 hours a week)
  • daily rest breaks (11 hours break) in each 24 hours
  • weekly rest breaks (2 x 24 hour break in each 7 days or 1 x 48 hour break in each 14 days)

There are also restrictions on length of night work and (20 minute) rest breaks, but these are likely to be less problematic. The restrictions for young workers (under 18s) are more onerous still.

Where will the impact be most severe?

Only those workers with "no fixed work abode" are covered by the ruling. As mentioned above, if a worker has a fixed workplace (from where they may then travel to make a number of client calls), the time spent travelling to and from their home and workplace is not working time.

In terms of sectors, much initial attention has been on the care sector (already hard hit by funding cuts and the prospect, from April 2016, of the National Living Wage). The effect is far broader and deeper, however. Any employer with a peripatetic workforce will need to look at its resourcing plans. Can the existing workforce cover the same workload without risking breaching the working time limits and without damaging productivity? How will this be able to withstand the pressures of busy periods? In terms of sectors, facilities management and any business with a repair, service and maintenance offering are likely to be hit hardest.

Is this all about extra costs/pay?

Not directly. The case was concerned with working time – not with pay for travel time. The National Minimum Wage (NMW) has separate rules governing when travel time must attract the NMW. These are likely to be mirrored in the National Living Wage.

Indirectly, however, there may well be an increased cost:

  • There may be a limit to what smart rostering, innovative use of technology and workforce planning can achieve where current work patterns may infringe the working time limits. Additional staff may be required. Therefore, there would be more direct and indirect cost. Headcount metrics will be impacted. We often hear about the UK productivity "gap" and, whilst workforce planners are a resilient bunch, hiring more people may impact on the challenge to maximise the use of the "human capital".
  • Workers and their unions are unlikely to see the nuance between time being working time for health and safety purposes - but not for reward/pay purposes. There are already signs of, for example, union representatives seeking to bring travel time into account in pay negotiations (and it should be noted that some organisations/sectors choose to pay for at least some travel time on a commercial/negotiated basis).

Any exclusions or workarounds, please?

Lawyer's note of caution here - aspects of the working time rules involve criminal sanctions (e.g. the 48 hour week, night working limits, obligations to provide compensatory rest (see below) etc.). Other aspects are more like employment rights – the sanction is an Employment Tribunal claim – so the risk is contingent on a claim being brought.

Certain sectors are excluded entirely from all or most of the key limits – e.g. mobile workers in civil aviation, travelling staff in passenger or goods by road or air transport and workers covered by the "drivers hours" or tachograph regime. Also, police and civil protection staff and certain shipping crew are excluded.

The 48 hour weekly working limit can be opted out of on an individual basis. From a wider safety and health perspective, employers may want to query how this aligns with strategy/values.

Also, employers can negotiate limited relaxations of some rules, e.g. the rest break and night work restrictions, typically with unions or with elected representatives.

Examples of other means of relaxing the rules are as follows:

  • Where "...the worker's different places of work are distant from one another" (e.g. perhaps, a regional manager of a retail/leisure business who is based at a number of outlets)
  • Where continuity is required e.g. utilities production and distribution, telecoms, airports and docks and domestic waste management
  • Where there is a cyclical surge in activities (e.g. tourism, postal services – Christmas etc)
  • Exceptional or unforeseen services and accidents (question whether a motorway accident is unforeseeable?!)
  • Security guards and caretakers where a permanent presence is required
  • Many rail workers

Regardless of any relaxation of the rules, employers must still provide "compensatory rest". This means the worker must receive a period of rest (not working time) as close to the "lost" rest as practicable. Given the health and safety objectives of the rules, an employer is likely to in breach where a worker goes for a lengthy period without being able to take their "lost breaks". Of course, each case will be fact sensitive.


The impact of this case will vary by organisation – there is not an "off the peg" risk assessment or solution. This will depend on your sector, your resourcing and delivery model, your contracts and policies and your overall risk profile and people strategy. Recent years have seen an increasingly devolved and dispersed workforce. Much of this (technology enabled) process has led to increased efficiency, a focus on outputs and helped with work life balance and empowerment.

Perhaps this case asks as a sense check on that movement – how are people getting to the "job", how safe are they? Are others likely to be impacted? There is a wider discussion here than mere legal compliance: are we resourcing to the optimal level? Often your service delivery people are the only or main interface with your customer/client –this case may act as a useful prompt to look afresh at your "front of house" delivery on a holistic financial, risk, compliance and values basis.

As to whether this case is an example of "tormenting business" or "protecting basic worker rights", that depends on your view. As the initial commentary makes clear the case is a useful rehearsal of some of the Brexit debates. Plenty more to come on that.

Click here to read our previous alert reporting the Advocate General's opinion on this case in June this year.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Nick Elwell-Sutton
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.