Field service is one of those sectors most likely to be affected by a European Court of Justice ruling on what constitutes “working time” for mobile employees.
The ECJ has ruled that time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office should be regarded as working time. Previously some organisations, including those engaged in field service, have not regarded this element of travelling time as work.
The court says the ruling, which has caused some controversy among European Union member states, has been enforced to protect the health and safety of mobile workers as set out in the EU's working time directive, which stipulates that they cannot work more than 48 hours in a week unless they opt out. Member states will be required to ensure national legislation on working time complies with the ruling. Workers are required to sign a waiver in order to opt out.
Mobile workforce management software developer Auto Time is one company advising that service organisations may now find themselves in breach of EU working time regulations unless they review operations. Christian Berenger, Operations Director at Auto Time says: “The new ruling could leave contractors, already under pressure to deliver their services cost-effectively, confronted by increased labour costs and facing a tough battle to operate profitably within tight margins. To minimise compliance risk, employers need to put systems in place that will enable them to gain total transparency of their workforce, track their movements and plan staff workloads to coincide with their daily commute to minimise costs.”
The ruling by the European Court of Justice deeming time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers should be regarded as work means businesses now more than ever should be carefully considering the deployment of their workforce, agrees Marina Stedman, director at ClickSoftware.
“Thousands of employers may be in breach of employment law, requiring them to implement workforce management strategies that take this ruling into account. Businesses not already doing so should be looking at software that manages all time related services with one single platform, to ensure when staff are dispatched to a task, this is being factored in. Having this in place, businesses will be able to proactively design rosters that consider the capacity of staffing shifts days and weeks in advance.”
The role of technology in supporting organisations to comply with the new ECJ ruling surrounding mobile workers should not be underestimated
Real-time data access allows managers to track the whereabouts and task status of their workforce, calculate the ‘actual hours’ worked and respond to operational issues with better informed decisions as they happen, he points out and recommends empowering staff to manage their hours, via a secure web portal using their smartphone or tablet. ”
There’s likely to be an impact on schedule optimization, too, thinks Bereneger. “Scheduling functions provide managers with the ability to optimise staff shifts by allocating job tasks to dovetail with their daily commute, ensuring assignments at the start and end of the day are located near employees' homes to minimise travel time.