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calendar 26 November 2023
globus Norway

An employee with a special working hour arrangement requested reduced working hours. His working hours were split between so-called “disposable time” and time off. Although the company accepted the request, the working hour arrangement was not changed. The employee was not entitled to a reduction in the arrangement, as the disposable time was not working hours.

A service technician in an oil service company had a special working hour arrangement. Per year, the employee had 132 ordinary working days. For 19 days, he would be available to the company on the so-called “disposable days”, which followed from a collective agreement. He would then have 16 days off, then 19 disposable days, and lastly 23 days off, and so on. As a main rule, work tasks were to be placed during the disposable days. However, the employee could be called in to work on his days off.

As a father of a four-year-old, and with another child on the way, the employee wanted to exercise his right to have his working time reduced by 7.7% for welfare reasons. The company accepted his request, but his working hour arrangement was not changed.

The employee believed that the disposable days had to be considered working hours even if he was not called in, like standby time outside the workplace. He wanted the working hour arrangement to be changed to 19 disposable days, then 23 days off, 19 disposable days and then 23 days off.

Time is not (always) money

The court decided that the employee was not entitled to a change in the working hour arrangement. This was because the disposable days could not be considered as working hours.

On disposable days, his response time could vary from a few hours to several days. In addition, the employee was not subject to any restrictions or instructions on disposable days. He was free to do whatever he wanted, wherever he wanted. The employee was only at the workplace and only performed work tasks when called in. The disposable days were his ordinary working hours and standby time will typically be in addition to ordinary working hours.

Because of this, the disposable days were much more flexible than standby time. The court also emphasised that only 1/7 of standby time would be considered working hours.  

IUNO’s opinion

This case gives essential guidance on what working hours is. Important factors in this interpretation are whether the employee:

  • Is at the workplace
  • Is subject to the company’s managerial rights
  • Performs their work tasks
  • Is subject to any significant restrictions or instructions

Employees’ working hours are closely related to the employees’ right to disconnect. IUNO recommends that companies assess the restrictions on employees during their time off. It can especially be hard to differ between working time and time off when employees work from home.

[The Norwegian Supreme Court judgement of 2 November 2023 in case HR-2023-2068-A]

A service technician in an oil service company had a special working hour arrangement. Per year, the employee had 132 ordinary working days. For 19 days, he would be available to the company on the so-called “disposable days”, which followed from a collective agreement. He would then have 16 days off, then 19 disposable days, and lastly 23 days off, and so on. As a main rule, work tasks were to be placed during the disposable days. However, the employee could be called in to work on his days off.

As a father of a four-year-old, and with another child on the way, the employee wanted to exercise his right to have his working time reduced by 7.7% for welfare reasons. The company accepted his request, but his working hour arrangement was not changed.

The employee believed that the disposable days had to be considered working hours even if he was not called in, like standby time outside the workplace. He wanted the working hour arrangement to be changed to 19 disposable days, then 23 days off, 19 disposable days and then 23 days off.

Time is not (always) money

The court decided that the employee was not entitled to a change in the working hour arrangement. This was because the disposable days could not be considered as working hours.

On disposable days, his response time could vary from a few hours to several days. In addition, the employee was not subject to any restrictions or instructions on disposable days. He was free to do whatever he wanted, wherever he wanted. The employee was only at the workplace and only performed work tasks when called in. The disposable days were his ordinary working hours and standby time will typically be in addition to ordinary working hours.

Because of this, the disposable days were much more flexible than standby time. The court also emphasised that only 1/7 of standby time would be considered working hours.  

IUNO’s opinion

This case gives essential guidance on what working hours is. Important factors in this interpretation are whether the employee:

  • Is at the workplace
  • Is subject to the company’s managerial rights
  • Performs their work tasks
  • Is subject to any significant restrictions or instructions

Employees’ working hours are closely related to the employees’ right to disconnect. IUNO recommends that companies assess the restrictions on employees during their time off. It can especially be hard to differ between working time and time off when employees work from home.

[The Norwegian Supreme Court judgement of 2 November 2023 in case HR-2023-2068-A]

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Aurora Braut Bache

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