Last month, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that EU member states must make sure employers are using time tracking and recording systems, so legal limits of working hours are not exceeded. Employers who fail to comply with the directive, could be fined up to 15 thousand euros!
Spanish trades union federation (Federación de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras - CCOO) brought the case to the Spanish National High Court, which then referred the case to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling.
Deutsche Bank was on the other side of the case, after failing to provide the union with information about the total number of overtime hours worked each month. The union demonstrated that companies are obliged to set up time tracking systems in order to comply with national law, as well as with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the EU Working Time directive.
On the other hand, the Deutsche Bank argued that such general obligation doesn’t exist under Spanish law, and that they are only obligated to keep the records of overtime hours at the end of the month.
Over the course of the hearing, an information stood out - more than 50 percent of extra hours worked in Spain aren’t recorded. Meaning the employees are usually underpaid and overworked at the same time.
The ECJ ruled that under the EU Working Time Directive and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, every worker has a limited number of working hours per week. Additionally, workers are entitled to daily and weekly rest times. Since the employee was determined to be a weaker party in the employment relationship, the ECJ found that it was imperative to prevent companies from restricting workers rights.
Moreover, the judges agreed that without a time tracking system it’s impossible to comply with EU regulations. This includes the directive’s objective about safety and health in the workplace.
In the end, all EU member states must require companies to set up an “objective, reliable and accessible system” which would enable them to measure working time for every employee.
When it comes to the implementation of such a system, the member countries need to establish them independently, taking into consideration working sectors, company sizes, etc.
One thing you could argue was overlooked in the ruling is whether workplace activities performed at home have to be recorded. Many people still answer their emails before going to sleep, and are finishing or preparing tomorrow’s tasks.
What Happens Now?
With each passing year there are more employers who allow for more flexible working hours, and some argue this ruling could affect such way of work. However, with automatic time tracking tools it is possible to track employee computers as soon as they log in.
Organizations which don’t require employee computer login will probably have to opt to a modern version of the punch clock.
Member states need to find a way to enforce the ruling upon all companies within their jurisdiction, and organizations should start exploring their employee monitoring software solutions right away.
Timesheets don’t have to be a bad think. From the point of employers - it’ll help you analyze data better, pay employees fairly. It’ll also help you prevent time theft at work. Employees will be paid for all hours they’re putting in, and they’ll be able to improve based on data you’ve collected.
Ensuring your employees are happy and healthy should be on your priority list, and if you’re already treating them with respect, this new directive about time tracking in the EU won’t be an issue for you.