In a judgment earlier this year, the Court of Justice of the European Union heard the case of Mr. Rudy Matzak, a volunteer firefighter in the town of Nivelles, Belgium. The case was based on Mr. Matzak’s complaint that he was not being paid appropriately for his time spent on-call while at the same time having certain constraints imposed upon him.
The Court considered that even if Mr. Matzak spent his time at home and not his place of work, the obligation to remain physically present at the place determined by the employer and the geographical and temporal constraints resulting from the need to reach his place of work within 8 minutes were such as to objectively limit the opportunities which a worker in Mr. Matzak’s circumstances could devote to his personal and social interests.
With regards to the aforementioned constraints, Mr. Matzak’s situation differed from that of a worker who, during his stand-by duty, must simply be at his employer’s disposal inasmuch as it must be possible to contact him, whilst still enjoying personal freedom at his own home or wherever he wishes to be, without any constraints.
The CJEU therefore ruled that stand-by time which a worker spends at home whilst having to respond to calls and be at the work-place within 8 minutes, reduces considerably the freedom to engage in other activities, and thus must be regarded as ‘working time’.
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