EMPLOYMENT

Time On Call At Home = Working Time

February was a busy month for all Employment law enthusiasts with the UK Government publishing the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices and the much anticipated Pimlico Plumbers hearing finally reaching the Supreme Court.We await the Supreme Courts decision on whether it considers that Mr Smith was a 'worker' within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act with interest. 

The 21st February also saw the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) hand down its judgment in the case of Ville de Nivelles v Matzak.

The Court in this case was asked to consider whether time which a volunteer fire-fighter spent on ‘stand-by-duty’ constituted working time for the purposes of the Working Time Directive.

Article 2 of the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) defines "working time" as any period during which the worker is:

‘Working; At the employer's disposal; and Carrying out their activity or duties in accordance with national laws and/or practice.’

The Directive is implemented in Northern Ireland by the Working Time (NI) Regulations 2016.

In its decision the CJEU determined that time Mr Matzak spent on stand-by did constitute working time. Mr Matzak had served as a volunteer firefighter in the Belgian town of Nivelles since 1980. His role required him to take part in a standby rota one week in four covering weekends and evenings. Significantly while on 'stand-by duty', Mr Matzak was required to be contactable and within 8 minutes travelling time of the fire station.

In its conclusion the CJEU determined that when a worker has to be physically present at a place determined by the employer (even if it’s their own home) thereby significantly restricting the opportunities for other activities this must be regarded as ‘working time’.

This case could have significant ramifications for employers who retain such on call or emergency workers as the ability to respond quickly is often a vital pre-requisite for the role. The CJEU did however offer some comfort to employers by stating that Mr Matzak's position could be distinguished from a worker who is not under such strict time restrictions as such a worker ‘may manage his time with fewer constraints and pursue his own interests.’ In such circumstances ‘only time linked to the actual provision of services must be regarded as ‘working time’, within the meaning of Directive’

If you require advice or guidance in relation to working time please contact Millar McCall Wylie on 02890 200050 and ask to speak with a member of our Employment Team. 


 

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