The controversy regarding the classification of “on-call hours” and/or “stand-by hours” as working hours has been discussed on several occasions by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), that, in the recent judgment regarding the Matzak case, judgment dated 21 February 2018 (C-518/15), has stated that on-call hours shall be accounted for as hours effectively worked if said situation restricts the personal life of the employee.
In this case, the CJEU has affirmed that the on-call hours of a Belgian worker (volunteer firefighter) at his home, subject to the obligation to respond to calls from his employer within the period of eight minutes must be considered to be «working hours» (in particular, because said obligations considerably restrict the option of carrying out other personal and social activities).
The foregoing judgment is “binding“ case law doctrine for all Member States and also for the future judgments of the Spanish Supreme Court. Moreover, the foregoing criteria shall require a review of the Workers’ Statute, that defines as working hours the time at the employment post and the criteria of the Labour Inspectorate. Said situation shall have a significant repercussion on staff that carry out on-call duties, as is the case of health professionals, that are currently only paid for their on-call time if they are required to go to their health centres and for the specific time thereof.
The CJEU has clarified that the European regulations do not provide for how to remunerate said workers, and accordingly each State must individually establish regulations for the remuneration of the working hours and the rest periods.
The Trade Union CCOO (Spanish Workers’ Commissions) recommends that the remuneration for on-call hours should be negotiated in each collective employment agreement applicable to the respective companies, or, otherwise, through corporate agreements to establish the criteria for the sufficient compensation of on-call duties in respect of the personal life of the workers. All of this in order to avoid that the on-call hours are considered as hours effectively worked (that would require the companies to pay overtime hours).
Labour and Human Resources Management Department