Does working equal working time and not working not equal working time?
Unfortunately, it is not that simple and many questions may arise around this topic. A common question is whether training time is considered as working time.
What is the general rule for the working time?
Working time is the time during which the employee is “at the employer’s disposal”. This means concretely that the employee is under the employer’s authority and cannot freely dispose of his time. In that sense, a stand-by period may be working time. A break and commuting are as a rule not working hours.
It is clear that working hours are more than just the time when actual work is being performed.
Training and working time
Many joint industrial committees have now concluded collective agreements regulating the right to training for employees. It is therefore important to know if this training time is considered as working hours.
If the training is legally mandatory, necessary to execute the job, then it is considered working time. If the training is not legally mandatory, but the employer requests the employee to attend the training as it is beneficial for the employees function, this will be considered working hours as well based on the reasoning that the worker is at the employer’s disposal. Trainings attended at the employee’s initiative and where the employee is not at the employer’s disposal are not considered working time (this of course occurs rarely in practice).
And what about the travel time for a training?
- If the training takes place at the usual work place, the travel time is not working time (= same treatment as commuting time);
- If the training takes place at a difference place than the usual work place, discussion may rise. However, there is case law stating that travel time from home to the first client and then from the last client to home, is considered working hours for employees who do not have a fixed or usual work place.
It is therefore possible that a court of law would consider the travel time for legally mandatory training and requested trainings as working hours if the training takes place at a different place than the usual workplace. Kindly note that this is debatable so as an employer you could (continue to) not consider this as working hours, but do know that discussion could arise.