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Employment Law Case Update: Ville de Nivelles v Matzak

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In the case of Ville de Nivelles v Matzak, the European Court of Justice considered whether time spent by a firefighter, who was at home on ‘stand-by’, was considered ‘working time’ under the Working Time Directive (WTD).

Rudy Matzak, a volunteer firefighter for the Ville de Nivelles in Belgium, was on-call during the evenings and weekends one week out of four. He was allowed to stay at home when on call but had to be ready and able to attend the fire station within eight minutes of being called.

This meant that he was required to live near to the fire station, and the activities he was able to carry out while on stand-by were severely restricted. Mr Matzak was not paid for the time he spent on ‘stand-by’.

After Mr Matzak had finished his one year probation, he brought proceedings against his employer complaining that he should be paid for time spent on ‘stand-by’ duty.

The ECJ highlighted that under the WTD ‘working time’ is the requirement that a worker must be physically present when needed by the employer, or when a worker needs to be available to the employer to provide appropriate services.

The ECJ ruled that as Mr Matzak was required to respond to calls from his employer within eight minutes, the time he spent on ‘stand-by’ must be considered working time.

This decision confirms that, when on-call, if time at home is severely impacted due to the employer’s requirements, it should be considered as working time. This case will have great impact for many employers as ‘stand-by’ time will now have to be taken into account when complying with rest periods, working hours and the National Minimum Wage.

Employers may want to carry out an audit of the revised working hours in light of this case and check their compliance with the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay calculation. It might be that employers choose to limit restrictions on workers during on-call time to avoid National Minimum Wage issues.


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.