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New EU travel time ruling impact on UK firms

A new EU Court of Justice ruling that time spent travelling to and from appointments is part of the working day is set to impact businesses in the UK.

The judgement redefines rules set out in the EU Working Time Directive. One of the Directive's main aims is to ensure that no employee in the EU is obliged to work more than an average of 48 hours a week.

The new ruling means that firms that employ staff who have no fixed base and who travel to appointments, such as sales staff, care workers and engineers, may be in breach of the Directive if they don't pay them for their travel time while they are "at the disposal" of the company.

This travel time - and specifically the time spent getting to and from the first and last appointment of the day - has not previously been considered as work by many employers.

If this travel time is taken into account, firms may find that their staff are now working more than 48 hours a week or that their pay has fallen below the National Minimum Wage, warns Neil Buck, Managing Director of The Personnel Dept.

"This is going to have a significant effect on some businesses," he said. 
"Employers are going to have to look at their procedures and their pay rates as a result of this ruling. They may have to adopt more flexible working practices, increase pay or even ask workers to opt out of the Working Time Directive."
"It's important to be proactive," he added. "Business owners should make sure they have addressed this issue and may have to review staff contracts as a result."

Andrew Willis, Head of Croner Litigation at Wolters Kluwer, said: 

"It would be sensible for employers to seek early advice and consider practically addressing this issue as soon as possible, particularly when reviewing or re-negotiating terms and conditions, so as to ensure compliance with the Working Time Regulations and National Minimum Wage obligations."

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