[EU] EU court rules staff working hours must be recorded

Following a recent European Court of Justice ruling, companies in the EU must now set up a system to record the number of hours employees work each day, Politico reports.

Businesses within the EU should note that the judgment requires all EU member states to make sure employers establish these systems. The court said they were needed in order to enforce the legal limits around working hours.

In a statement (originally linked by Politico), the court said guaranteeing employees' rights under the EU's working time directive and the charter of fundamental rights demanded that member states "must require employers to set up an objective, reliable and accessible system enabling the duration of time worked each day by each worker to be measured."

EU member states would have to decide specific arrangements to implement the systems themselves and must take into account peculiarities of particular fields or companies where applicable.

The judgment reportedly came after a Spanish trade union - CCOO - asked a Madrid court to rule whether the local branch of Germany's Deutsche Bank, which only keeps a measure of overtime, must establish a system recording employees' working hours. The Spanish court asked for a ruling from the European Court of Justice.

The Luxembourg court noted, in its statement, that according to local court provided data, 53.7 per cent of Spanish employees' overtime hours went unrecorded. The court added that member states held the responsibility to implement the EU's working time directive. The directive outlines minimum daily and weekly rest periods for employees and maximum working hours.

The court stated that without a system to record working hours employees were unable to reliably work out their working hours or rest periods, a situation which makes it, "excessively difficult, if not impossible in practice, for workers to ensure that their rights are complied with."

This ruling could have a significant impact since modern-day working hours are not clearly defined at present. The EU court did not specify, for example, an e-mail quickly written from home would automatically be recorded as work time. Member states are left to decide the specifics.

The German Employers' Association BDA was critical of the judgement for being "behind the times." BDA told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, "We employers are against the general reintroduction of the punch clock in the 21st century."

By contrast, European trade unions welcomed the ruling.

Annelie Buntenbach - board member of the German Trade Union Confederation DGB - said, "The court puts a stop to flat-rate work, and rightly so. Flexibility will not suffer, on the contrary: Instead of with a punch clock, working hours can today be documented with smartphones and apps, after all."

According to reporting by El País José María Martínez - secretary-general of the CCOO - said the CoJ’s decision had allowed them "tools to tackle overtime fraud."