The way working hours are arranged can help an organisation manage its business and help workers balance their responsibilities at work and at home.
To support business owners and to provide clarity on the working time their employees can work, there is a set of rules called the Working Time Regulations that governs the hours most workers are allowed to work. In summary, these regulations determine the maximum weekly working time, patterns of work and holidays, plus the daily and weekly rest periods.
What counts as work?
A working week typically includes job related training, working lunches, paid overtime, time spent on call at the work place, unpaid overtime you’re asked to do, time spent travelling if you travel as part of your job and any time that is treated ‘working time’ under a contract.
The European Court of Justice recently ruled that time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office (or mobile workers) should be regarded as working time.
The Court gave judgement that mobile workers who have no fixed place of work and spend time travelling from home to the first and last customer should have this time considered as working time. The Court added that because the workers are at the employer’s disposal for the time of the journeys, they act under their employer’s instructions and cannot use that time freely to pursue their own interest.
This time may not previously been considered as work by many employers and so those firms employing care workers, gas fitters and sales reps may be in breach of EU working time regulations.
BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said it could have a "huge effect".
"Employers may have to organise work schedules to ensure workers' first and last appointments are close to their homes," he added.
The directive is designed to protect workers from exploitation by employers and, at the same time, protect the “health and safety” of workers.
Chris Tutton, from the solicitors Irwin Mitchell, told the BBC: "Thousands of employers may now potentially be in breach of working time regulation rules in the UK."
Why the change?
The new ruling came about because of an ongoing legal case in Spain involving a company called Tyco, which installs security systems. The company shut its regional offices down in 2011, resulting in employees travelling varying distances before arriving at their first appointment.
The court ruling said: "The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves. Requiring them to ‘bear the burden’ of their employer's choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of worker.”
For more information on working hours and the change in regulation you can visit Gov.uk or call our members helpline on 01565 626001