Skip
Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

2 minute read

The EU Says That Some Commuting Time Counts As Paid Work

If you don't have an office, your boss has to pay you for the time it takes you to get from job to job.

The EU Says That Some Commuting Time Counts As Paid Work

[Photo: Andia/UIG/Getty Images]

The European Union Court of Justice has ruled that time spent traveling to and from your job counts as work, and that your employer has to pay you for it. But don’t get too excited—this only counts if you have no fixed office or place of work. The new law is designed to protect workers who travel to remote sites, straight from their home. If you commute to the same office cubicle every day, nothing changes.

The ruling comes after Tyco, a Spanish security systems installation company, dissolved its offices in 2011. and told its employees that they had to work from home. Previously, Tyco had paid installers from the moment they arrived in the office, until the moment they knocked off in the evening. After closing its offices, Tyco began to count employees’ paid hours when they arrived at the premises of the first customer, until they left the last customer of the day. Because Tyco employees service a large geographic area, that could mean that they spent hours every day, usually during busy rush-hour traffic, doing unpaid travel.

By today’s judgment, the Court of Justice declares that, where workers, such as those in the situation at issue, do not have a fixed or habitual place of work, the time spent by those workers traveling 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.

Thanks to Tyco’s mean-spirited and exploitative penny-pinching, all EU workers that travel to and from remote locations to do their work will now be paid to do so. Previously, Tyco counted this as "rest" time, like a break. "The Court takes the view that the workers are at the employer’s disposal for the time of the journeys," says the report. If you’re on your way to your regular office, your responsibilities don’t start until you’ve got there, fired up your computer, made a coffee and checked Facebook. For traveling workers like Tyco’s employees, the journey is part of the job. The boss might start calling to give you instructions, or even change the location of the day’s first job, all without you getting paid for it. No more.

The repercussions are bigger than just getting paid fairly for work. In the EU, workers are protected by the Working Time Directive, which limits weekly working hours to 48 hours, and governs the amount of rest time that people must be allowed. Now that travel time counts as paid work, it also counts against those 48 hours, giving a worker back many hours per week.

Contrast this to the United States, where the Supreme Court has recently found that employees don't need to be paid for the time it takes to put on necessary safety gear or during mandated security checks after work.

So this is great news for European electricians, civil servants, engineers, or anyone who travels for work, based out of their home. More pay, and fewer hours. What’s not to like?

Have something to say about this article? You can email us and let us know. If it's interesting and thoughtful, we may publish your response.

loading