The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that workers without a fixed office are to incorporate their first and last journey of the day as billable ‘work’. That means European decorators, salesmen, plumbers and many other workers who operate without a fixed office from now on will be paid for traveling to their first customer of the day and home from their last. The time now counts towards the 48-hour working week.
The judgment adds to a significant tightening of labour rules in Europe, and could make thousands of UK companies hire more employees to stick to the new law. The law is believed to force many companies to disburse higher salaries to their staff in order to circumvent breaking minimum wages laws. It will also give employees more breaks.
Under the current European Working Time Directive, UK employees cannot work over 48 hours a week unless they decide to opt out. Under the British government guidelines, regular travel to and travel back from work are not counted towards the target but time spent traveling at work does. So, the new ruling is completely against the UK government guidelines.
The court dismissed the arguments that counting traveling time as working time could easily be abused by deceitful workers to do their personal business, saying that should be prevented by the companies.
The law provoked anger in business organizations as they will have to spend significantly higher amount to pay current and new employees. As the traveling time adds to the 48-hour work week, workers will have less time to do their actual job, and companies may have to hire new employees to complete those hours of work.
Businesses that always argue that the ECJ is too powerful argue that it is a question of whether it is the European judges and bureaucrats, or the British courts and voters who should control these matters. Many even suggest British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ongoing renegotiation efforts must include ECJ’s ability to rule internal affairs of UK.
On the other hand, the workers such as cleaners, electricians and carers are happy and excited as they are about to receive massive pay rise (be that monetary or net for time).
So, the reactions to the new law from workers and employers are different as the law has become a trending topic on major social media. A Telegraph Poll with the question “Do you think the EU’s top court makes good decisions for British workers?” gets 57 percent NO vote. Around 5000 readers have responded to the questing so far.
One major argument against the new law is that no matter what profession somebody is in, he or she needs to get to work. And it’s quite interesting that journey time only for workers without any fixed office be counted towards their weekly working hours. With new law having far reaching implications for small and medium businesses, it’s important to see how the small and medium companies in UK react to the new law over time. The UK government has a lot to ponder over on this new law.