Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled last month that the member countries must establish detailed methods of tracking the hourly work of employees so that they can be properly compensated for time worked.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit by the Federación de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), a Spanish trade union, against the Spanish subsidiary of Deutsche Bank. The main issues in question-related to calculating overtime hours – 54% of which goes unrecorded in Spain – and protecting obligatory rest. “The 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,” the court said in its ruling.
The ECJ ruling is explicitly intended to protect the worker against potential workplace abuses. It is an effort to enforce the European Working Time Directive, which restricts employers from making employees work more than 48 hours a week, and grants people at least 11 consecutive hours of rest every day.
What the ECJ ruling means
The ECJ ruling extends to all companies operating in the EU. The ruling does not specify any guidelines for how employers should record work hours for their employees. In most cases, companies will need a clock-in/clock-out system that would allow them to monitor when employees start and end work, and when people have breaks. Employers will need to know employees’ exact work hours.
At first sight, this may seem cumbersome and backward. But given the technology available today, this could actually be a good idea, for both employers and employees. The “punch clock” has evolved, and businesses and employees don’t have to sacrifice contemporary technical flexibility for exact timekeeping. Modern time and attendance tracking software, often on the cloud, work on mobile phones. Clocking in and out is a matter of a tap on your smartphone screen or on a web page. So even if you are checking emails at home or taking a call from your boss, tracking that time isn’t really an inconvenience. Many of the software systems are priced such that small businesses can afford them. And most provide great analytical tools.
From an employee standpoint, there’s definitely a lot to be excited about. Accurate time tracking provides irrefutable, objective proof against unlawful overtime. Time tracking thus becomes a tool towards building fairer, more accountable workplaces that help protect employee safety and health.
Moving beyond just clocking in and out, good time tracking can detail the time that employees spend on different tasks, when they take breaks and how long they last. It can help document off-site and off-hours work, as well as work-related travel, all of which are frequently overlooked. Basically, it gives employees full visibility into their work schedules – allowing them to address unhealthy workloads and the associated stress, anxiety and exhaustion that come with it.
Companies can use time tracking to track employee working hours. It makes payroll much more accurate. Billing customers for work done is now much clearer and transparent and all hours worked can now be billed. The time tracking data collected is a great source of information on project budgets, project status, progress of works, employee productivity and many other aspects that are crucial for business success. For managers, it may make sense to combine data on the quantity and task breakdown of hours worked by employees with productivity information. It may turn out, for example, that a company would be better off with more workers keeping shorter hours than with an overworked team that’s less effective because of stress and exhaustion.
Time tracking doesn’t have to be tedious and cumbersome. With the right approach, you can make it an integral part of your business. Most makers of time tracking software tell customers that it’s vital to make it’s use mandatory to get people into the habit of tracking time, and that the data must be checked regularly to weed out abuses and negligence. If EU companies take the ECJ’s ruling seriously and apply it properly, it could do a world of good to their employees and their economies.