Employment Cases Update

Ville de Nivelles v Matzak (ECJ Case C-518/15)

Reference for a preliminary ruling relating to working time and rest periods for volunteer firefighters.

The Claimant was a volunteer firefighter based in Belgium. He claimed that he should be paid a provisional sum by way of damages for a failure to pay him remuneration for his services, particularly for stand-by services. He won to a certain extent but as regards the remuneration claimed for stand-by services which, according to Mr Matzak, must be categorised as working time, the referring court was uncertain whether such services may be considered to fall within the definition of working time, within the meaning of Directive 2003/88.

The following questions were referred to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling

1) Must Article 17(3)(c)(iii) of Directive 2003/88 be interpreted as meaning that the Member States may derogate, with regard to certain categories of firefighters recruited by the public fire services, from all the obligations arising from the provisions of that directive, including Article 2 thereof, which defines, in particular, the concepts of 'working time' and 'rest periods';

2) Must Article 15 of Directive 2003/88 be interpreted as meaning that it permits Member States to maintain or adopt a less restrictive definition of the concept of 'working time' than that laid down in Article 2 of that directive;

3) Must Article 2 of Directive 2003/88 be interpreted as meaning that it requires Member States to determine the remuneration of periods of stand-by time such as those at issue in the main proceedings according to the classification of those periods as 'working time' and 'rest period';

4) Must Article 2 of Directive 2003/88 be interpreted as meaning that stand-by time which a worker spends at home with the duty to respond to calls from his employer within 8 minutes, very significantly restricting the opportunities for other activities, must be regarded as 'working time'.

The court ruled on each question as follows:

1) No
2) No
3) No
4) Yes

Employment Claims without a Lawyer 2nd edition published March 2018

Read the full text of the judgment here