A case from the European Court has examined whether stand by time is working time. Stand by time in this context was where the employee could be at home, as long as he was within a distance that allowed him to respond at work within a set time.

The actual facts are that this was a fireman who did stand by duties from time to time and was paid an annual allowance. When on stand by he had to be within 8 minutes of the fire station.

Before the actual court decision, the Advocate General had indicated that the quality of time spent on stand by, being free to watch television or have dinner, would determine whether this was working time. The Court disagreed with the Advocate General and stated that the quality of the time, or the intensity of the work was not the determining factor. The Court said that it could not be a rest period if the employee was not free to come and go as they choose.

The decision has been set out clearly. Where a worker has to be present at a location, even if that is their home, and available for work at short notice, then this would be classed as normal working duties.

This case may have profound implications for some models in the care sector specifically, but also for construction and response based maintenance. However, at present this applies to the working time regime, and not necessarily the minimum wage.

The case is Ville de Nivelles v Matzak and can be read:

http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf;jsessionid=9ea7d2dc30dd4b72a3fcc6c94fe0aae6939f78e04f6c.e34KaxiLc3qMb40Rch0SaxyNbxb0?text=&docid=199508&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=206271

Back to legal updates