EU Law Update: Travelling time is ‘working time’

There were developments in September in relation to the European Law obligation on airlines to pay compensation where a flight is delayed or cancelled.

European Court of Justice judgment on September 17th, in a case arising from a claim for €600 from KLM because of a 29-hour delay, reinforces consumer rights.

KLM had argued that it was not obliged to pay compensation under European Law as an exception for “extraordinary circumstances” applied to the delay. The delay arose from an unforeseen technical problem which was not identified by general maintenance checks and tests. The court held that unforeseen technical problems were part and parcel of the daily business of an air carrier and as such could not be deemed “extraordinary” and on that basis compensation for the delay was payable to passengers.

On September 24th, shortly after the Volkswagen emissions scandal emerged, the European Commission made a statement calling for full disclosure, zero tolerance and strict compliance with EU rules on pollutant emissions. The commission called on all EU member states to carry out national investigations and report back to them. It announced that a new Real Driving Emission (RDE) test procedure would be phased in from early 2016.

The recent judgment of the European Court of Justice in the Tyco case on September 10th could have far-reaching effects in Ireland for employers whose staff do not have a fixed place of work.

The case addressed the question of whether time spent travelling between home and individual clients for such employees constitutes “working time” or “rest period” under the Organisation of Working Time Directive, and whether benefits accordingly accrue in respect of that time. The court came to the conclusion that travelling time must be included in “working time” since the employer determines the place where the employee should be and the employee remains at the employer’s disposal.

While this judgment may not immediately impact private employers, it would appear that this case could have significant broader implications for public bodies who are directly bound by this judgment. Not only would this mean that travelling time would be included in “working time”, but many other employees who do not have a fixed place of work, including a wide range of health care workers, could be affected by this judgment.

This article by Elaine Davis and Joanne Finnmembers of the Irish Society for European Law, was published in the Irish Times on Friday, 16 October, 2015.

© 2015