EJC rules those with no fixed office start work when they leave the house

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Employer groups have expressed their disbelief over yesterday’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that time spent travelling to work could now constitute someone’s actual working time in some circumstances.

According to the ECJ, the time spent by those who do not have a fixed office (such as sales reps, plumbers, decorators and carers), travelling to their first appointment should constitute the start of their working day, rather than from the point at which they arrive there.

The ruling is part of updating amendments being considered for the controversial Working Time Directive legislation, and experts argue around 1 million people could potentially claim they’re working a longer working week.

Those who travel to work to an office would not be impacted, but Phil Allen, a partner in employment law at Weightmans said the ruling would “significantly increase” the amount of an employee’s day that could be counted as work.

Allie Renison, the head of trade policy at the Institute of Directors, said the European Court of Justice had “become a red-tape machine, tormenting firms across Europe.”

She added: “This ruling will surprise and concern many UK businesses, and indeed public sectors employers, who had been following the law to the letter. The notion that the period mobile workers spend travelling between home and their first client in the morning must count as working time goes above and beyond the protections intended by the law.”

Aye Limbin-Glassey, employment partner at law firm Shakespeare Martinuau, said: 'The need to pay employees travel time means that for some businesses the servicing of clients in remote areas may no longer be profitable.”