In late 2015, the European Court of Justice made a new ruling within the existing Working Time Directive, deciding that the time taken by employees without a fixed location to travel to and from work each day should count as working time. In the current legislation, the working day for mobile, home-based workers typically starts when they start their first job of the day, finishes when they complete their last service call, and excludes any time spent travelling to and from those jobs.
The new ruling is expected to be implemented by 2019. It has huge cost implications for business as any organisation employing home-based mobile workers will need to cater for an extended working week, including additional rest breaks and privileges.
Irrespective of whether or not the UK decides to adopt the law post-Brexit, UK businesses will have to ensure their working practices conform to the ruling if they operate in multiple countries across Europe. Despite this, it seems that many business leaders still don’t fully recognise the impact the ruling will have on the bottom line.
A recent survey of 300 EU senior business leaders, carried out by ClickSoftware, found that more than a third (36 per cent) of UK businesses will not be ready for the new working time regulation when it comes into force in 2019. The UK’s lack of preparedness may be a result of the uncertainty brought about by its impending departure from the EU, but businesses that have not implemented the necessary changes by 2019 will find themselves risking tribunal claims and awards of compensation, and being served with improvement or prohibition notices by the Health and Safety Executive. Simply put, business leaders cannot afford to get this one wrong.
The UK is not the only nation unprepared for the new ruling. Most EU companies (60 per cent) will need to make changes to their businesses, although the degree of change is dependent on the particular country. The UK (42 per cent) and France (48 per cent) are the least prepared of all European Union member states, whereas respondents in Germany (69 per cent) and Italy (72 per cent) are most confident that their businesses are ready for the new legislation.
Indeed, one in 10 companies are not even aware of the ruling, despite it having being made a year ago. If the change had been implemented this year, many businesses would by now be breaking a ruling that they are not even aware of.
The sector-specific view
The research did not only rank countries according to their level of preparedness, it also looked specifically at the readiness of specific field service industries – utilities, manufacturing and telecoms.
Those working in manufacturing were found to be least confident about their readiness, with a quarter of respondents (25 per cent) feeling unprepared. The utilities sector was marginally more prepared, with 22 per cent either completely unaware of, or having done nothing to plan ahead for, the new legislation.
The research also found that 43 per cent of respondents from the utilities sector do not believe their business will be ready even by the time the change to the Working Time Directive comes into effect.
Despite this, 68 per cent of utilities personnel indicate they expect the new working time ruling to have a big impact on their business. With a third of them saying their company will need to create new processes, systems and policies, it would seem utilities companies across the board need to give more priority and corporate focus to ensuring their preparedness.
What changes are required?
To be ready for a 2019 implementation, many businesses will have significant changes to make. Nearly half (47 per cent) of those polled say they will need to introduce new systems and technologies to ensure their employees are not travelling long distances to work. And some companies will need to recruit to increase their mobile worker headcount and provide better coverage of remote locations and black spots.
Another way that employers can ensure they are complying with the modified directive is to optimise the location and types of jobs that a field service professional is dispatched to. For example, starting the first and last jobs of the day as near to home as possible and equipping engineers with the right tools and skills will also greatly improve business efficiencies and customer satisfaction. The most efficient solution of all is to deploy optimised scheduling, routing and analytics technologies.
The new ruling applies across Europe, and all EU countries are on a level playing field when it comes to making changes to their businesses. The potential cost implications and risks to business are significant, especially for the utilities sector, which has been no stranger to competitive and regulatory challenges over the past 30 years.