Stressed commuters get support from Court


According to an article in the 10 September 2015 BBC News, some commute-stressed commuters who live in the European Union now have support, if indirect, from the European Court of Justice. Specifically, the court ruled that:

Time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office [emphasis mine] should be regarded as working time.

More specifically:

The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.

Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer’s choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.

The ruling comes as the result of a case in which a company decided to close all its regional offices, thereby causing many of its employees to travel farther to work. The ruling supports European Union regulations on allowable working time and apparently includes commuting time between home and work as part of working time. The ruling could affect millions of EU workers by either reducing their in-office working time or further incentivizing employers to adopt home-based telecommuting for some of their workers.

Some details

Except for modifications by geography, the locations of the residences of employees of an organization tend to follow a circular normal distribution centered on the location of the organization’s headquarters. That is, half of the employees pick their residences so that they live within a radius compatible with a commute time of about half an hour. Increasingly fewer employees live at distances farther away from that average distance. If the organization has regional offices that distribution pattern is repeated around those office locations.

Now if the regional offices suddenly disappear, for whatever reason, the general result is that the average employee now has farther to go to get to the organization’s remaining locations. This disruption has often been the trigger that causes the more productive  employees to look elsewhere for employment, with those whose skills are less in demand staying put — and grumbling. The grumbling is probably what caused the aforesaid case before the court.

Some Options

An employer facing the consequences of this ruling might consider one or more of the following options:

  1. Pay the employees, at their established rate, for any commuting time they incur that is in excess of their earlier average;
  2. Reduce their in-office time requirements in compensation for their added commute time;
  3. Encourage eligible employees to telecommute so as to maintain their effort spent working while reducing the commute stress that triggered all this hoorah to begin with.

Which would you pick?

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