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Europe clamps down on unpaid travel by employees


Eurostar services between Brussels, London and Paris

Eurostar services between Brussels, London and Paris

Eurostar services between Brussels, London and Paris

Employers who have avoided paying roving workers for time spent travelling to jobs will not maintain the practice for long, business groups have warned.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Friday that workers who do not have a fixed office - such as on-the-road sales executives - are entitled to count time spent travelling from home to their first meeting of the day as work.

The journey from home to their first work appointment, and the journey from their last appointment to home in the evening, must be included when pay, working hours and rest breaks are being calculated.

Both business representative body IBEC and small business group ISME said they already advised employers with roving workers to follow this approach.

"Most SMEs already have agreed protocols with workers who are on the road - they agree a fixed rate, regardless of travel, or schedule the first and final appointment of the day close to their homes" said ISME chief executive Mark Fielding, adding: "The group this decision creates a problem for are those without protocols."

"There are a variety of situations that could fall under this ruling and it will take time for them to emerge" said IBEC head of employment law services Rhona Murphy. "It's a very blunt instrument.

"There may be certain circumstances which merit closer examination. Our advice has consistently been that travel time from a worker's home to a variety of possible working locations is likely to be considered working time."

The decision could also force the Revenue Commissioners to change the rules governing expenses, experts said. In many cases, Revenue forbids companies from paying expenses or subsistence to workers for travel from their home to their first place of work, even if that place of work changes and is occasionally very far away.

"Revenue's rules for reimbursing business expenses and paying subsistence have not kept up with technology and changes in the way people work.

"In some situations, companies are not allowed to reimburse people in a tax-efficient way for expenses linked to work," said EY tax partner Sarah Connellan.

Non-executive directors could get paid for travel to board meetings as part of the ECJ decision, she added.

Companies cannot currently pay expenses to non-executive directors travelling to board meetings, even if they are coming from overseas.

Sunday Indo Business