Whether weekly or once a year, to another continent or just across the city, work related travel concerns every single employment relationship. Despite its importance, Hungarian regulations are unclear about work related travel, which can easily be the source of an unpleasant labour dispute. To avoid this, from our article you can learn if your business is properly accounting for business travel.
1. Travel and its settlement
It is important to clarify that employee "posting" is not a labour law concept. There are no special labour law rules for business trips or attending a foreign conference, but the “general” rules apply.
In case of business trips, the settlement is usually focused on hotel and restaurant costs, which is properly regulated by the Labour Code. Conversely, an interesting situation can occur when you want to account for the time your employee spent travelling to the location and back.
Logic dictates that if an employee with regular schedule (between 8am. and 4pm. on weekdays) gets home by midnight after a business trip or departs on Sunday afternoon to get to an abroad meeting on Monday, the time spent with travelling must be some form of working time.
Well, because of a less cautious provision of the Labour Code, the relationship between travel and working time does not follow logical thinking from a legal point of view, so it is a good idea to clarify the compensation of travel time with your employees beforehand.
2. The relationship between travel and working time in the Labour Code
The root of the "problem" is that, according to the Labour Code, travel time from the employee’s home to the place where work is in fact carried out and from the place of work to the employee’s home does not qualify as working time.
Although it is clear that the rule was in respect of daily commuting, if the place where work is actually carried out happens to be in another country during the business travel, under the rule, getting there or returning is not considered as working time as well, if that the employee leaves or arrives directly at home.
This provision can lead to absurd situations: for example, if a salesman with regular schedule (8 am - 4 pm on weekdays) starts overseas on Monday and therefore has to travel there on Sunday, as an employee, you are not obliged to compensate his travel time at all.
However, if the above employee "jumps in" to the office to pick up his business laptop or car before traveling, from that moment on, the rest of the trip will be considered as working time (specifically overtime), since the above provision applies only to travels starting from the place of residence.
According to the rule, if a salesman with regular work schedule heads directly home after he finished negotiations at noon, and then arrives home late at night, his working hours were actually over at noon.
It is important that the provision only applies if the employee's usual place of work can otherwise be established. The Court of Justice of the European Union has stated that, in the case of jobs where the place where the work is habitually carried out cannot be determined (eg.: traveling agents, mobile mechanics), travel is part of working time.[i]
You can see that the regulations can primarily be disadvantageous for the workers, because if the trip is not considered as working time, the rules on mandatory rest periods do not have to be taken into account when planning the trip.
However, the provision can cause an unpleasant surprise for the employer as well, since it is not clear whether the worker should be available or can be instructed while traveling, as long as it is unclear whether the travelling is working time or not. This question, however, can only be decided at the end of the journey, depending on where the employee arrives…
3. The solution:
We have pointed out in our article that Hungarian labour law does not properly regulate whose clock is ticking when an employee travels for business. As a prudent employer, it is important to be clear in advance and to set the rules for compensating your employees’ travel time. You can do this either in the employment contracts or in employer's regulations effective for all employees. As legal expertise is of particular importance in employment matters, we recommend that you consult a legal expert in such cases.
[i] Case No. C‑266/14. of the CJEU, Tyco vs. Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones obreras
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