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The European Court of Justice (EJC) has considered the issue of stand-by time spent at home, where the worker was uner a duty to respond to calls and be at the place of work within eight minutes in Ville de Nivelles v Matzak. It concluded that this time was working time.

Mr Matzak, a retained firefighter in Belgium, was required to remain contactable and, if necessary, report to the fire station within eight minutes when he was on stand-by. Time spent on stand-by was unpaid. The ECJ observed that where a worker is required to be physically present and available at a place determined by the employer, this will constitute working time. In the present case Mr Matzak was not simply required to be contactable while on stand-by, he was obliged to respond to calls within eight minutes and therefore be physically present at a place determined by his employer. These constraints limited his opportunities to pursue personal and social interests and therefore the time spent on stand-by had to be regarded as working time. The ECJ left it to the national court to determine whether the claimant had been properly paid for this time.

Take note: Following Matzak it is clear that where a worker has limited opportunity to pursue personal or social activities during on-call time spent at home, then the time must be working time. Mr Matzak's available time was limited due to the obligation placed on him to remain at home and to be able to reach his place of work within 8 minutes if called.

This article is taken from HR Law March 2018.