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Working time: Direct effect of and exclusions from 48-hour week

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    Pfeiffer and others v Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, Kreisverband Waldshut eV [2005] IRLR 137 ECJ (0 other reports)

Key points

In Pfeiffer and others v Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, Kreisverband Waldshut eV, the ECJ holds:

  • Activities of emergency workers, in an emergency medical service, are not excluded from the scope of the EC Framework Directive on health and safety 89/391/ EC or the Working Time Directive 93/104/EC ("WTD").
  • The concept of "road transport" as excluded by art.1(3) of the WTD does not encompass an emergency medical service, such as the German Red Cross, even though the Red Cross workers used a road vehicle and accompanied patients on their journeys to hospital.
  • The individual worker must freely and expressly consent, if the 48-hour maximum period of weekly working time as laid down in art.6(2) of the WTD is to be validly extended. Further, it is not sufficient that the relevant worker's employment contract refers to a collective agreement that permits such an extension.
  • National legislation that authorises weekly working time in excess of 48 hours, including periods of duty time, is not compatible with the requirements of art.6(2) of the WTD. Further, art.6(2) does not allow legislation in a member state, the effect of which, as regards periods of duty time completed by the German Red Cross emergency workers, is to permit, by means of a collective agreement, the extension of the 48-hour maximum weekly working time.
  • In the absence of the implementation of 48-hour maximum working week, by the member states, art.6(2) of the Working Time Directive is capable of direct effect. The national court must interpret the national law in a way that is consistent with the objectives of the Directive. Consequently, the German national court must do whatever lies within its jurisdiction to ensure that the maximum period of weekly working time, set at 48 hours by art.6(2) of the WTD, is not exceeded.