Standby Time or Working Time?

The European Court of Justice has issued decisions in two cases, emanating from the
German & Slovenian courts, addressing the circumstances under which time on Standby
time will amount to Working time.

The outcome in both cases helps to clarify the issue for employers who require
employees to be on Standby and highlight aspects to consider in order to determine if a particular period on Standby should be treated as paid working time.

The two cases centred on employees working on ‘Standby’; both argued that time on
standby was in fact “Working Time” as a result of constraints placed on them and as
result they were entitled to be remunerated for the hours spent on ‘Standby’.

One concerned a Fire-fighter required to be contactable at any time while on Standby
and be in a position to reach the town boundary within twenty minutes. The other
involved a Specialist Technician who worked in different locations The distance from one
work site was so far from his home, daily travel was impossible and so accommodation,
to which was entitled was provided. He was not obliged to avail of this accommodation.
While he was permitted to leave the work site, he was required to remain contactable
and be in a position to return to the workplace within an hour of notification.
Key to the decision, was the view of the ECJ, that only when the constraints or
limitations placed on the employee during the period by,
– legislation,
– a collective agreement
– or the employer
when the professional services of the employee are not required by the employer;
“objectively and very significantly” reduce the employees ability to manage that time;
then such time amounted to ‘Working Time’, for which the employee was entitled to be paid.

– Time allowed for the employee to return to work or resume professional activities. The
shorter the time, the more likely that all standby time should be treated as “working time”.
– On average how often is the employee required to carry out work duties within the period of standby.
– How much time is spent attending to work duties during the period of standby.
– What equipment/uniform, if any, must the employee have if required to carry out work duties
Employers that utilise on-call or standby time systems should take some time to review their
policy & procedures to ensure compliance with the ECJ rationale as applied in these cases.
You can access the full case here;

When is time spent on call ‘working time’? – Anna Sella