Editorial

09 Jul 2021

EU Mandatory Time Tracking

Mary Isaeva

In May 2019, the European Court of Justice came up with a new ruling that has caused significant changes to the business world.

This new collective agreement decreed that all employers in the European Union must implement a system that tracks the working hours of their employees. These new directives cover several factors and specific arrangements, which are as follows:

Work Time & Daily Rest

Under these new directives, working hours for employees are limited to an average of 48 hours per week, including overtime. Employees must also be given a rest period of 11 straight hours daily and a 24-hour period of uninterrupted rest every week for the fundamental rights of the employees.

Breaks

Companies must give a rest break to employees after more than 6 hours per day of daily working time. The length of the break will depend on the agreements you have in place, or the times determined by national law.

Annual Leave

Additionally, employees are given the right to 4 weeks of paid annual leave every year.

It is important to remember that this is not yet a legal requirement in every member of the European Union. However, the different European nations are starting to implement this gradually.

Monumental changes to general business operation take time to properly come into effect, after all.

Time tracking is essential because it allows you to gather important information on your employees' working habits and use this data to your advantage. Although working hours have been reduced, this change in basic rules doesn't necessarily negatively impact productivity.

Regardless, please be aware of these changes when implementing the new working standards.

In the US, attendance tracking and timekeeping have been legal requirements for some time, while European legislation only recently adapted this time management model.

Still, it remains an integral part of the process of running a company, and lets you look at a number of factors, including weekly working hours, the payment of overtime hours, and collective working time.

The New EU Time Tracking Directive

It is essential to understand that this new time arrangement has context and that there are many things you need to consider as a business with EU employers.

It is crucial to have a little background on when this event happened, why it happened, and its result. There are plenty of great reasons why an exact time tracking directive can be helpful for businesses, and it is also essential to look at how this legal obligation came to be.

When Did It Happen?

This national legislation came into effect on May 14th, 2019. That day, the European Court of Justice made its ruling and passed minimum standards time tracking laws for businesses across the EU.

This practical application is still relatively new.

There are still countries in the EU that are in the process of phasing in the new daily working hours. Of course, events such as COVID-19 and the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union have muddied the waters slightly.

Why Did It Happen?

This statutory obligation seems to have stemmed from a legal claim brought by the Spanish workers union CCOO against Deutsche Bank SAE.

The union sought a declaration from the Spanish High Court that the bank was obliged to keep records of the daily working times of all employees. The bank had a system in place to record overtime, absences, and sick leave, but nothing to track daily and weekly working hours.

The goal was to ensure that fundamental worker rights were being met and that employees were getting the weekly rest they deserved. What was the result?

The Spanish High Court asked the ECJ whether existing laws required employers to record daily working hours. After deliberation, the ECJ came to the decision that Member States should now be required to ensure that businesses set up reliable and objective procedures to measure the daily working time of employees.

What Was The Result?

The Spanish High Court asked the ECJ whether existing laws required employers to record daily working hours. After much deliberation, the ECJ came to the decision that Member States should now be required to ensure that businesses set up reliable and objective procedures to measure the daily working employee time.

Consequences of Not Time Tracking

This pragmatic approach to time tracking has been greeted positively by some but negatively by others.

However, there is no doubting the fact that there are consequences in choosing not to time track and a direct impact on both employers and employees. Now, of course, businesses who elect not to implement this 21st-century ruling will be subject to punishments by law, often in the form of fines.

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In Spain, companies can face fines, determined by the size of the business, as it is their responsibility to keep track of worked hours. Penalties are very detrimental and can adversely affect the future growth of the business, so it's imperative to make the most of this and implement a cautious approach as much as possible.

What EU Time Keeping Law Means for Companies

This new employment relationship means that EU companies will need to change their approach to timekeeping and set up a time tracking solution to help them effectively track the number of hours worked by their employees.

There is no catch-all for the best and most effective ways for tracking consecutive hours. And it seems as though the EU, and, specifically, the ECJ, is allowing Member States to set their specific mandates for this, meaning that provided the businesses follow the specific rules laid out by their country, they can follow a general employment contract.

Companies are being strongly encouraged to implement accessible systems like these, and each country within the EU is taking gradual steps to ensure that this happens.

How Many Hours Should A Person Work in Different EU Nations?

It's also important to understand the different hours that the varying categories of employees are expected or required to work depending upon the EU member state.

We're going to take a look at three of the major players in the EU, and how time tracking laws may vary within Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands.

German Labour Laws

Under the German Working Time Act, employees are permitted to work a maximum of 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week. And any hours of overtime that fall outside of these 8 hours must be documented and held for a minimum of 2 years.

10 hours is the maximum time arrangement per shift, and after 6 regular hours, employees are entitled to a 15-minute break, while employers working 9 hours should receive a 45-minute break.

Failure by employers to keep and document this information can result in a fine of up to €15,000.

The ECJ ruling was received with mixed opinions and emotions in Germany. The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), for example, is pleased to be rid of "flat-rate work," as it called the old collective working time standards.

Organizations that empathize with the DGB believe that workers have suffered far too many unpaid overtime hours for many years.

Spanish Labour Laws

Spain was the first country in the EU to introduce this time tracking law, most likely as a result of the court case between CCOO and Deutsche Bank. In Spain, all businesses are required to keep hourly records of their employees, and they must keep these time records for a period of 4 years.

The businesses must make these records available to the public so that they might be accessed by employees, trade unions, and the government. And a record should be kept for each employee at the start of every working day, including breaks.

Failure to comply with these directives could land Spanish companies with a fine of between €626 and €6,250, depending on the size of the business.

Dutch Labour Laws

In the Netherlands, employees are permitted to work a maximum of 60 hours per week, and a shift can be a maximum of 12 hours. What's more, employees must have 11 straight hours of rest once a shift has finished.

Companies must keep time and attendance records of employees for a minimum of 12 months, and companies that fail to adhere to this can expect fines of between €100 and €10,000.Time

Regarding The UK Time Tracking Standards

Although the United Kingdom departed from the European Union, it still holds an important place in Europe and the world.

It comes as no surprise if the UK has implemented rigid time obligations in its labor policies. The 1998 Working Time Regulations provide a strict charter to do with employee rights and employer obligations.

According to the Working Time Regulations:

  • Employees are prohibited from working past a 48-hour duration of time unless they have willingly opted out with a written agreement to continue.
  • Regarding 24-hour cycles, employees cannot work beyond 8-hour periods.

Such timekeeping must be accurately recorded, of course, and be documented for a two-year period. The regulation does not specify how this data should be captured, only that it should be legible and accessible for government employees.

The Benefits Of Time Tracking

There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to clocking time, and there are plenty of benefits to think about here. You have to make sure you do as much as possible to understand the advantages of this. There are benefits to time recording, for both employer and employer, and we’re going to take a look at them right now.

There are many things to think about when it comes to clocking time, and there are plenty of benefits to consider.

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You have to make sure you do as much as possible to understand the advantages of a daily record. There are advantages to time recording for both employer and employer, and we're going to look at them right now.

Employee Benefits

Employees will benefit from time tracking with a clear record of their worked hours, which means no disputes about wages or unpaid overtime hours.

According to their employment contract, it also means they know what breaks and time-off they are legally entitled to.

Furthermore, it gives legal protection against employers who might be looking to exploit their workers. It also means people can properly disconnect when they leave work without being constantly pestered.

Employer Benefits

From the side of the companies, time tracking also has advantages. For one thing, it allows the business to be more organized, which isn't a bad thing.

The increased transparency strengthens relations and trust between companies and their employees. Additionally, it also means your employees are likely to be healthier and happier, resulting in greater productivity, thus boosting the business as a result.

Why Time Tracking Matters

Employees can turn timekeeping into a resource that will improve their overall work experience and productivity. Let's look at some of the many ways that timekeeping can be shifted from an annoying ruling into a winning advantage.

1. Improved Concentration

When you begin measuring how your workday proceeds, every second becomes far more occupied. Employees who track their days will take on their tasks individually rather than trying to do them all at once.

Multitasking is a severe time waster, after all.

2. Increasing Accountability

Being responsible for your tasks is one thing, but what about holding yourself accountable for the quality and efficiency of its completion?

Time tracking allows managers to monitor who completed a task and how well they did so. Managers aren't the biggest fans of procrastination, and time tracking helps iron out the kinks in productivity.

3. Avoiding Burnout

As terrible as it is, burnout is often the result of poor time management. Poorly managed task distributions can cause an imbalance in expectations and increase the pressure of unfairly loaded employees.

The new time obligations will hopefully lessen the instances of employee burnout with fairer and more manageable workdays.

4. Optimized Team Management

If it seems like certain team members take longer to complete tasks than others, that might be because they do. Every employee has a different working standard, and some people are natural perfectionists.

Other employees might often take on more work than they can handle, which also leads to potential burnout. With timekeeping at hand, you can ensure that everyone is working at a fair rate to the best of their abilities.

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5. Increased Profits

The timeframes allotted to tasks are often wildly inaccurate in practice. This leads to wasted time and money.

If you track the time of each project accurately, you can better estimate how long each task takes to complete, allowing you to set more accurate timeslots. A more efficient management style inevitably leads to more profits.

6. Task Prioritization

Once your employees understand the time and effort needed to complete the average task, prioritization becomes a far easier process.

This appreciation allows employees to manage their days better, ensuring that they get the most demanding work out of the way first.

7. Boosted Morale

An efficient team is a happy one. When employees know exactly where their week's efforts went, they are far more likely to reflect positively on their contributions.

Knowing exactly how you will get through the day does wonders for confidence, rather than having a rough estimation of what a working day will entail.

There are a couple of tasks to consider that will help you implement the new statutory obligation and time tracking in your company.

How to Implement Time Tracking in Your Company

There are a couple of things to consider here that will assist you in executing the new statutory obligation and time tracking in your company.

First things first, you need to make sure you familiarise yourself with the specific laws of your country and how they relate to obligatory time tracking.

Once you are up to speed with the new laws, your next focus should be on avoiding mistakes. Here are several ways to stay on the right side of the new worker rights.

1. Get A Dependable Time Tracking App

Today, business time tracking software will help you get to grips with the current situation, such as flair.hr. Real-time tracking apps are advisable, as they are a great way of implementing more accurate and efficient time tracking services.

It's also a good idea to track absolutely everything, such as overtime work hours, even if you don't necessarily need to, just to be safe.

2. Discuss The New Rulings

Such significant changes to your employees' working lives should be adequately discussed so that everyone understands their new and improved rights.

Employees should see the benefits of these changes to their regular hours and how the new workday will function. The tweaks to your usual working schedule might take some time for everyone to groove with, so you should ensure that your brief is as clear and easy to follow as possible.

3. Establish A New Schedule

Before you even get to briefing your employees on the new normal, you need to ensure that your new work schedule is correctly integrated with your existing one.

These editions can become something of a headache to implement, especially if you have a large workforce. So, ensure that you set aside enough time to streamline the new schedule.

4. Track Every Workstream

It comes as no surprise if 50 million hours, or $7.4 billion are lost daily in the United States alone due to insufficient time tracking methods.

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These titanic losses generally stem from the countless activities that aren't properly tracked, like browsing through emails or getting up to speed with company updates. These missed values might seem negligible, but they certainly add up.

This accelerated timekeeping standard might mean that you become frustratingly pedantic, but time is, after all, money.

5. Assigning Project Creation Rights

Timekeeping can often become unmanageable when too many employees add tasks or even projects to the board.

Many authorities in the timekeeping field advise that only managers should assign tasks. While this shouldn't be a hard ruling, you should undoubtedly give project creation privileges to the most orderly and experienced employees.

6. Select A Timekeeper

While few employees would happily take on such a demanding task, assigning an official company timekeeper is a superb way to consolidate your time tracking efforts.

This employee can then devote more of their attention to tracking the rest of the employees' work, rather than whole and often disconnected teams attempting to do so. Employees will be far more productive when they aren't distracting each other with timekeeping queries.

7. Become A Stickler For Timekeeping

We've been over the hefty fines that you could incur for failing to stick to the new European working time directive, so we don't need to remind you how vital it is that you follow the rules.

If this cooperation means you need to become somewhat overbearing, then suffering frustrated employees is far better than destructive penalties. Don't be afraid to remind your employees often about the new timekeeping regulations, for everyone's sake.

8. Demonstrate The Benefits Of Timekeeping

More humane workdays aside, displaying the benefits of proper timekeeping to your employees can do wonders for efficiency and productivity.

Make sure that your employees know about things like compensation for overtime work, additional rest days, and the new payroll landscape in general.

9. Establish The Ideal Work Outcomes

While the new time obligations might force you to adapt to new working standards, that doesn't mean that you cannot optimize them.

This means that managers need to outline their new expectations clearly, while employees need to provide justifications for time-related discretions.

Rather than making this a purely mathematical process, try to instill a human commitment to the new collective bargaining agreements. Employees who understand their work’s value are guaranteed to take more pride in it.

10. Ease Your HR Load

Your HR department might struggle to adapt to the new time tracking standards, so why not include it directly with whatever resources you assign to get everyone up to speed?

This process should be as automated as possible, and traditional timekeeping methods using books and the like need to be adapted to the appropriate software.

11. Never Stop Optimizing

Remember that there are always more efficient ways to track working hours, even when you have the new time obligations figured out correctly.

You might benefit from a more analytical approach to timekeeping, constantly assessing where you could improve and how to make the workday more pleasant for employees in general.

Conclusion

The widespread changes to the EU working world will present many challenges to businesses across Europe. While a timekeeping overhaul might lead to significant changes to standard working days, the end results are bound to be positive.

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Employees that enjoy supportive and sustainable working standards are bound to appreciate their places within companies better. A company that employs proper timekeeping norms is more productive and ultimately profitable.

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