Germany’s Labour Court demands employers record staff working hours
Following a poorly enforced 2019 European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling, Germany’s Federal Labour Court (BAG) has announced that employers will soon be required to officially record employee working hours.
Why are the new working hours records being introduced in Germany?
Since there is currently no widespread legal requirement for employers to officially record working hours, many employees in Germany work under a trust-based system with bosses.
According to current German labour law, companies are only obliged to track the working hours of employees who receive minimum wage. In industries where exploitative working practices are more prevalent, such as hospitality and construction, employers are also required to track hours that staff work on Sundays and public holidays.
According to the ECJ, the current system means that existing labour laws are more likely to be breached and employees are often not compensated for unrecorded overtime. The Federal Statistics Office stated that in 2021, 4,5 million workers in Germany worked overtime, with a fifth receiving no extra pay.
The 2019 ECJ ruling, now to be implemented in Germany, is therefore calling for employers across Europe to implement an “objective, reliable and accessible” system for tracking employee working hours, to ensure that labour laws and workers' rights are correctly observed.
How will employees in Germany be affected by the new labour laws?
While some industries have long tracked employee hours, the new BAG ruling would see official tracking methods introduced for a further 45 million employees across Germany, Gregor Thüsing, professor of labour law at the University of Bonn, told Tagesschau.
When it comes to working from home, critics of the new law are suggesting it could mean the end of the “home office” wave brought about by restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. However, Anja Piel, an executive board member of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), told Tagesschau, “Working time recording must not be equated with presence in one place – for example, the office."
When the law is introduced it is also likely that employers will suggest an electronic clocking-in system, as many companies already use apps and Excel sheets to record employee hours, which are convenient for on-site and remote work.
When will the new clocking-in laws come into effect?
Many explicit guidelines will have to be established before any laws can come into effect. First, Germany’s Labour Ministry (BMAS) is expected to publish a report in November, which will look into the reasoning behind the BAG ruling. However, when the law comes into effect, experts hope that workers’ rights in Germany will be strengthened in some areas.
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