Article 31 - Fair and just working conditions
Key facts of the case:
Request for a preliminary ruling from the Verwaltungsgericht Darmstadt.
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’ – Period of stand-by time according to a stand-by system – Professional firefighters – Directive 89/391/EEC – Articles 5 and 6 – Psychosocial risks – Obligation to prevent.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Grand 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, during which a worker must be able to reach the town boundary of his or her workplace within a 20 minute response time, in uniform with the service vehicle made available to him or her by his or her employer, using traffic regulations privileges and rights of priority attached to that vehicle, constitutes, in its entirety, ‘working time’, within the meaning of that provision, solely if it follows from an overall assessment of all the circumstances of the case, in particular the consequences of such a response time and, where appropriate, the average frequency of interventions during that period, that the constraints imposed on that worker during that period are of such a nature as to constrain objectively and very significantly the ability that he or she has to freely manage, during the same period, the time during which his or her professional services are not required and to devote that time to his or her own interests.
28) Moreover, by establishing the right of every worker to a limitation of maximum working hours and to daily and weekly rest periods, Directive 2003/88 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). It follows in particular that the provisions of Directive 2003/88 may not be interpreted restrictively to the detriment of the rights that workers derive from it (judgment of today, Radiotelevizija Slovenija (Period of stand-by time in a remote location), C‑344/19, paragraph 27 and the case-law cited).
38) It follows from the elements set out in paragraphs 34 to 37 of this judgment and also from the need, recalled in paragraph 28 of this judgment, to interpret Article 2(1) of Directive 2003/88 in the light of Article 31(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, that the concept of ‘working time’ within the meaning of Directive 2003/88 covers the entirety of periods of stand-by time, including those according to a stand-by system, during which the constraints imposed on the worker are such as to affect, objectively and very significantly, the possibility for the latter freely to manage the time during which his or her professional services are not required and to pursue his or her own interests.