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The European Union has set certain rules that employers in EU member states must comply with in order to avoid legal liability. These rules were established to protect workers’ rights when it comes to working hours, overtime, and breaks.
In this guide, you’ll learn about the EU time tracking law and The European Working Time Directive, as well as find out what you need to do to comply with EU regulations regarding tracking employees’ working hours.
The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) was originally passed in 1993 and updated in 2003. Its purpose is to regulate labor and working time for employees.
EWTD mandates minimum daily and weekly rest periods, sets guidelines for breaks, night work, annual leave, and the maximum number of weekly working hours. EU member states are required to create laws to define specifics while using the EWTD for guidance.
However, until 2019, the regulations set by the EWTD were frequently avoided by employers by simply not keeping track of employees’ work hours.
One example of this was the Spanish branch of Deutsche Bank, which was sued by CCOO, a Spanish trade union. While Deutsche Bank had a system for recording employee absences, it didn’t have a way to track work hours.
CCOO claimed that they were unable to determine whether workers’ rights were being respected at the company because there was no way to know how much time workers were spending on the job.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) concluded that a lack of a time tracking system makes it impossible to ensure that businesses are complying with EWTD regulations. As a result, the ECJ ruled that all EU businesses must set up an objective, reliable, and accessible time recording system.
All member states need to comply with this ruling, regardless of any existing laws on the subject.
The purpose of the EWTD is to protect the health and safety of employees. It also brings benefits for employers by ensuring they’ll have a healthy and productive workforce.
EU employers are required to do three things when it comes to tracking time and attendance:
Track time and attendance for all their employees
Meet minimum standards outlined by the EWTD
Comply with state regulations regarding time and attendance tracking
Additionally, according to the EWTD, employers must follow these rules:
“The average working time for each seven-day period, including overtime, does not exceed 48 hours.”
Employers need to ensure that their employees don’t work for more than 48 hours over a seven-day period. This includes overtime work and is calculated as a four-month average.
“Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that, per each seven-day period, every worker is entitled to a minimum uninterrupted rest period of 24 hours plus the 11 hours' daily rest referred to in Article 3.”
Additionally, all employees are entitled to at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest daily, as well as 24 hours of uninterrupted rest after every seven-day period.
Note that some EU member states have even more strict regulations regarding rest time. For example, Slovenia requires employers to give employees a minimum of 12 hours of rest between workdays.
“It is important that night workers should be entitled to a free health assessment prior to their assignment and thereafter at regular intervals and that whenever possible they should be transferred to day work for which they are suited if they suffer from health problems.”
The EWTD classifies a night worker as an employee that “works at night for at least three hours a day.”
Night time is defined as “any period of not less than seven hours, as defined by national law, and which must include, in any case, the period between midnight and 05:00.”
Night workers should not work for more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period. They also have the right to free periodical health assessments.
“Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that, where the working day is longer than six hours, every worker is entitled to a rest break, the details of which, including duration and the terms on which it is granted, shall be laid down in collective agreements or agreements between the two sides of industry or, failing that, by national legislation.”
Employees that work for more than six hours a day are entitled to a daily rest break. Member states determine the required duration of that break on their own.
Taking Slovenia as an example again, it requires employers to provide employees with a 30-minute break that’s calculated into their working time.
“Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that every worker is entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks in accordance with the conditions for entitlement to, and granting of, such leave laid down by national legislation and/or practice.”
European employers are required to provide employees with a minimum of four weeks of paid annual leave.
The annual leave cannot be replaced by an allowance. The only exception here is if an employee leaves the company or is fired before taking their annual leave.
The EWTD allows member states to regulate these rules further, and some states have implemented even stricter regulations. Here are examples from Spain, Germany, and Ireland.
Germany has implemented all of the rules from the EWTD while also adding the following:
Employees can work for a maximum of 8 hours a day. Any work done after 8 hours of work is considered overtime and needs to be documented, signed by the employee, and kept in records for a minimum of 2 years.
An employee can’t work for more than 10 hours in a single shift (8 hours of regular work plus 2 hours of overtime).
Employees are entitled to a 15-minute break after 6 hours of work or a 45-minute break after 9 hours of work.
Employers are obligated to document employees’ working hours in hard-copy or digital format. Records need to include the date, the employee’s name, when they started and ended their shift, the total number of hours worked, and the employee’s signature.
German companies that don’t comply with these regulations could face a fine of up to 15,000 euros.
Similarly to Germany, Spain follows all the EWTD regulations while also adding in a few of its own:
Companies are required to keep hourly records for all employees for a minimum of four years.
All time records need to be public and available to employees, the government, and unions.
Employers need to notify unions of employee overtime hours every month.
Businesses are required to keep records of the start and end times of every workday for every employee, including breaks, in a reliable and accessible system.
Businesses that don’t comply with these regulations can face fines of up to 6,250 euros.
The Netherlands has instituted its own Working Hours Act, which requires employers in the country to follow these rules:
Employees can work for a maximum of 60 hours a week.
Employee shifts can’t be longer than 12 hours.
Employees are entitled to 11 hours of non-work time between workdays.
Employers are required to keep time and attendance records for all their employees. These records need to include hours worked, breaks, vacation time, and sick leave.
Records must be kept for at least one year. Additionally, employees need to have access to their records.
Businesses that don’t comply with the Working Hours Act may be fined up to 10,000 euros per employee.
Sweden’s Working Hours Act follows the EWTD and adds the following rules:
Employees can’t work for more than 40 hours in a regular workweek.
If an employee needs to be at the employer’s disposal at the place of work, employers can claim up to 48 hours of on-call time per employee over a period of 4 weeks.
Employees can work a maximum of 48 hours of overtime over a period of four weeks.
Employers are required to maintain records of overtime and on-call time for every employee. Employees can inspect their time records.
Employees have the right to an uninterrupted rest period of 36 hours for every seven-day period. This does not include the time the employee spends away from the workplace while still having to be at the employers’ disposal.
Ireland’s Organisation of Working Time Act requires employers to keep records of total hours and days worked by each employee.
If the company does not use a digital means of tracking time, it needs to record employees’ hours using a provided template form (Form OWT1).
Additionally, employers need to retain employees’ time records for a minimum of three years. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to 2,500 euros.
If your company is based in a European Union member state, you must implement a system to track your employees’ work hours. Such a system should be able to track your employees’ time accurately and generate detailed timesheets.
Advanced time tracking solutions such as Hubstaff also allow you to:
Track how employees spend work hours through app and URL tracking
Create and manage employee schedules
Set and monitor project budgets
Apart from features, you should also pay attention to ease of use and the availability and quality of customer support when choosing a time tracking solution.
The time tracking software you decide to use should be intuitive and user-friendly to ensure that employees will be able to learn how to use it quickly and won’t require any extensive training.
It should also offer multiple customer support options and have a responsive support team.
Before you implement time tracking, you should create a time tracking policy that will help employees understand how they should track the time they spend at work. This will prevent misunderstandings and ensure all employees know how to track time properly.
Your time tracking policy should include step-by-step instructions on how to use your company’s time tracking software. Additionally, you’ll want to include examples of typical situations employees could find themselves in and explain the proper way to track their time in those situations.
Hubstaff is a time tracking solution you can use to automatically clock employees in and out, generate accurate timesheets, and review detailed reports on how employees spend work hours.
It also has proof of work features that allow you to identify time-wasting apps and websites.
Hubstaff supports project budgets and weekly hours limits, as well as location tracking and productivity measurement.
It comes with a free 14-day trial you can use to see if the app is the right fit for your team’s needs.
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