BERLIN (AP) — The European Union’s top court ruled on Tuesday that EU countries must make employers set up a system to measure the time worked every day by each worker to ensure that labor laws are complied with.
The ruling from the European Court of Justice stems from a case in which labor union Comisiones Obreras sought to have a Spanish subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Bank obliged to set up such a system.
The bank contended that Spanish law in practice has a less exacting requirement for overtime hours to be recorded each month. A Spanish court that referred questions to EU judges told them that 53.7% of overtime hours in Spain are not recorded and argued that the country’s existing law doesn’t ensure effective compliance with EU rules on working time or workers’ health and safety.
The ECJ said countries in the 28-nation EU “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.”
It found that, absent such a system, it is impossible to determine “objectively and reliably” the number of hours and the quantity of overtime worked and “excessively difficult, if not impossible in practice” for employees to ensure their rights are upheld.
It wasn’t immediately clear what exactly the ruling will mean in practice. EU countries will have to work out their own specific arrangements to implement the ruling, the court said, taking into account as necessary “the particular characteristics of each sector” and other factors such as companies’ size.
The EU Working Time Directive stipulates that the average working time for a seven-day period must not exceed 48 hours including overtime and that a worker is entitled to a minimum 11 consecutive hours of rest in every 24-hour period, among other things.
The ECJ ruling drew criticism from the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, Germany’s main employer group.
“We employers are against a universal reintroduction of the time clock in the 21st century,” the group said. “You cannot react to the demands of labor world 4.0 with a work time recording system 1.0.”
The group argued that the decision must not disadvantage employees who work flexibly and argued that employees could be obliged to record their own work.