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Working time recording in Europe
Decision European Court of Justice (ECJ) and The Netherlands
August 14, 2019 – The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled, on May 14, that employers are required to set up a system enabling the measurement of the duration of time worked each day by each worker, in order to comply with EU rules on maximum weekly working times and rest breaks.
The European Court of Justice announced a key decision concerning the recording of EU working times. The case was brought by the biggest trade union in Spain (CCOO), aiming to require a Spanish subsidiary of Deutsche Bank to implement a system for recording the daily working time of its members.
Information provided as part of this case suggested that overtime was not being logged for over half (53.7%) of the Spanish employees. Therefore, Spanish legislation, which didn’t require a system for logging working time, was deemed incapable of ensuring compliance with EU working times and the health and safety of employees.
This ECJ ruling is not expected to involve a direct or immediate duty for companies to take action. Instead, Member States must implement the judgment using their discretionary authority.
The decision has caused concerns amongst employers. After all the achievements in agile working arrangements, will we go back to punching the clock?
The ECJ ruled that, in order for member states to comply with the EU Working Time Directive, they have to ensure employers set up systems to measure working time. This would ensure that employees were not working more than 48 hours a week and were taking suitable breaks. However, the ruling enables flexibility by stating that Member States can specify their own arrangements for such systems, while considering specific sectors and different factors (e.g. company size).
No going back to punching the clock
Since today’s working hours are less clear-cut and more based on trust, the ECJ decision could have wide-reaching consequences, particularly for global enterprises based in Europe.
In addition, digitalisation has lead to flexible working arrangements. Also the digital technology, enabling more flexible ways of working, is also providing monitoring of working time via Apps. The technology to record and analyse working hours is available to employers, meaning that punching the clock is definitely not needed today.
In the end, there must be a balance between flexibility and compliance, taking into account the health and safety of employees. In addition, looking at working time and overtime working hours, employers in Member States must heed the requirements of the GDPR when recording working time. Now is a good opportunity to check internal processes before any new regulations come into force!
Interestingly, the ruling may trigger a revision of the 2003 Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC).