The highest court in Europe has ruled that workers who do not operate from a permanent workplace should be able to charge employers for the time taken to commute to work, which they are currently not permitted to do. The controversial ruling will impact millions of workers and their employers.
Most employees will be pleased with the ruling, as they will be compensated for the time and cost of travelling to work. However, it will be a big expense for small businesses.
This will be a massive change for those companies who do not have a regional office, and it will be an even bigger change for their employees, including sales reps, cleaners, care workers, gas fitters, builders, plumbers and electricians. If companies do not pay their employees for the time they spend travelling to work, they could be in breach of EU working time regulations.
The ruling follows a Spanish lawsuit involving Tyco, a security systems firm, which closed down all of its regional offices in 2011. This meant that employees had to travel from their homes to each work appointment. The court declared that this was a company decision that benefited the company, but not the employees, who were actually inconvenienced.
The court also ruled that workers who become ill whilst on holiday may be able to claim back their annual leave. This ruling is linked to a legal case in Madrid. When council worker Francisco Pereda was injured just before he was due to start a one-month holiday, his employer Madrid Movilidad refused to allow him to reschedule or delay the holiday. However, the EU disagreed with Madrid Movilidad and ruled in Pereda’s favour, saying his employer should have permitted him to delay his holiday.
Leading experts on employment law believe that employees may take advantage of the new law, claiming extra holiday time, even when they are not ill. This may not be a problem, though, as the ruling hasn’t specified when the employee should notify their employer, or what proof they may need. If employees are required to provide a doctor’s note, for example, it will make it harder for them to take advantage of the system.
Both rules aim to protect the health and safety of workers in the EU. The ruling is similar to the European Working Time Directive, which already applies in the UK. However, it is unclear if either ruling will still apply after Brexit, and we may not find out for a while. Labour asked Theresa May about the rulings, but the answer was inconclusive. According to a Conservative spokesperson, it is not in the “national interest” to comment on negotiations at this point.
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