11 April 2018

Case law: Worker required by employer to be in particular place and available on short notice while on stand-by was working during that time

Employers who require workers on stand-by to stay in a particular place and be available for work at very short notice, should treat that time spent on stand-by as working time and pay them accordingly, following a recent ruling.

A volunteer retained firefighter in Belgium had to be contactable while on stand-by, and stay within eight minutes of his fire station.

He (along with all other staff, both voluntary and professional) was paid an annual, fixed allowance for stand-by shifts, but claimed this was not enough under Belgian rules governing the payment of 'workers'.

The national tribunal asked the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to determine (assuming that the volunteer was a worker) whether time spent on stand-by, which had to be spent within eight minutes of the station, counted as working time.

The CJEU ruled that a worker on stand-by who had to be physically present at a place specified by their employer and available to work at very short notice was working during that period, even if that place was their home. The CJEU pointed out that the obligation to be physically present somewhere within eight minutes made it impossible for the worker to choose where to be during that time, and their opportunities to enjoy personal activities were significantly restricted.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers who require workers on stand-by to stay in a particular place and be available for work at very short notice should be treating that time spent on stand-by as working time, and pay the worker accordingly

Case reference: Ville de Nivelles v Matzak Case C 518/15