May 22, 2019

On 14 May the European Court of Justice decided that all EU member states have to ensure employers set up a system to track employees’ daily working hours. According to the justices, this is the only way to ensure compliance with daily maximum working hours and obligatory rest periods.

The ruling has divided opinion. Some view it as an important step towards workplace health and safety regulations being fulfilled. Others fear it will lead to too much red tape. There are also many questions left to be answered about how this decision can be implemented in practice, particularly in times of trust-based working hours and remote work.

What the judgement says

The decision says that any system for tracking working hours has to be objective, reliable and accessible. Yet the court leaves member states a lot of leeway what such a system has to look like in practice, allowing them to take into consideration national circumstances, for instance in certain sectors or for companies of different sizes.

There is now deadline for introduction.

Possible implementation scenarios

National legislatures have now got to decide how to implement such a system. Questions they have to answer include, “What counts as working time, what does not? How should replying to e-mails after hours or on weekends be treated? How precise do the recordings have to be?”.

What is clear is that any system must ensure that employees who are not located at a traditional working place such as a factory or an office can reliably record their working hours. The ECJ has also left open the form of documentation. Thus, both paper-based and electronic tracking are conceivable.

The form should follow the needs of the industry in question. For workers in manufacturing companies for example an electronic punch clock makes sense. It lets them document very simply the start and end of their shift.

For employees in the professional services sector, who often have flexible working hours and might even work from home, an electronic tracking system is to be preferred. Field staff will probably prefer tracking via an app.

Our practical experience

Although tracking working hours is not currently mandatory, for some companies (including in professional services) it has already been necessary. For example, in project-based businesses where working time has to be documented so customers can be properly invoiced. Other companies have decided to set up such systems for the sake of transparency.

This is why the proMX developed project management solution proRM Fast Start includes a time tracking feature. It allows employees to easily record working time in their browser or via a mobile app.

With only a few clicks they can record their working effort (including start and end time point) in a calendar view and select whether their effort is billable to the customer or not. Comments may also be added.

proRM Fast Start also includes a digital punch clock. The Coming/Going feature records start and end of one’s working day with just one click each.

Besides regular work, Vacation, absences and holidays may also be tracked. This way you get a complete picture that will satisfy both the ECJ and your customers.

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