A Belgian firefighter has won his case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to have the time he spent at home on stand-by counted as working time under the Working Time Directive.
Mr Matzak was a retained firefighter and subject to some fairly onerous restrictions when he was on call. He was not only expected to be fully contactable, but also to be able to report to the fire station within eight minutes when called upon. As a result, this had an impact on where Mr Matzak could choose to live and what sort of activities he could do.
The fact that Mr Matzak was expected to remain so close to work during the time he was on call meant he was significantly constrained in terms of his ability to pursue his own interests. This led the ECJ to determine that this time should be designated as working time under the Directive.
While this case may appear to have significance for the many workers who are frequently required to be on call from home, it is worth bearing in mind that the facts were quite specific in this particular case.
Mr Matzak was significantly restricted from pursuing his own personal and social interests as a result of the requirement to report so promptly to work if needed, which will not necessarily be the case where a worker is simply required to be contactable by their employer while on call.
What it is important to look is the overall quality of a worker’s time spent on call and whether it prevents them from pursuing other interests during that time.
For advice on employment issues, please contact the Hugh James employment team.