Article 31 - Fair and just working conditions
Key facts of the case:
Request for a preliminary ruling from the The Labour Court, Ireland.
Reference for a preliminary ruling – Protection of the safety and health of workers – Organisation of working time – Directive 2003/88/EC – Article 2 – Concept of ‘working time’ – Retained firefighter – Stand-by time according to a stand-by system – Pursuit, during the period of stand-by time, of a self-employed professional activity – Constraints arising from the stand-by system.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Fifth Chamber) hereby rules:
Article 2(1) of Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time must be interpreted as meaning that a period of stand-by time according to a stand-by system served by a retained firefighter, during which that worker, with the permission of his or her employer, carries out a professional activity on his or her own account but must, in the event of an emergency call, reach his or her assigned fire station within 10 minutes, does not constitute ‘working time ’ within the meaning of that provision if it follows from an overall assessment of all the facts of the case, in particular from the scope and terms of that ability to carry out another professional activity and from the absence of obligation to participate in the entirety of the interventions effected from that fire station, that the constraints imposed on the said worker during that period are not of such a nature as to constrain objectively and very significantly the ability that he or she has freely to manage, during the said period, the time during which his or her services as a retained firefighter are not required.
37) In that regard, it must be recalled that the purpose of Directive 2003/88 is to lay down minimum requirements intended to improve the living and working conditions of workers through approximation of national rules concerning, in particular, the duration of working time. Those requirements constitute rules of EU social law of particular importance from which every worker must benefit. In particular, by establishing the right of every worker to a limitation of maximum working hours and to daily and weekly rest periods, that directive gives specific form to the fundamental right expressly enshrined in Article 31(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and must, therefore, be interpreted in the light of that Article 31(2). The provisions of that directive may not be interpreted restrictively to the detriment of the rights that workers derive from it (judgment of 9 March 2021, Stadt Offenbach am Main (A firefighter’s period of stand-by time), C‑580/19, EU:C:2021:183, paragraphs 26 to 28 and the case-law cited).