Overall, working time is frequently recorded in Germany. Around 80 per cent of employees state that their working times are recorded by the employer or documented by themselves. However, working times at home are recorded less frequently. The recording of working times is an important instrument for occupational safety and health (OSH). It can be used to track exposure times, prevent temporal boundarylessness, and ensure recovery.
The ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) of May 2019 and the ruling of the Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht, BAG) of September 2022 have strengthened the legal basis for the recording of working times. Employers are consequently obliged to establish an “objective, reliable, and accessible system for recording working time” that measures daily working times and their distribution. The provisions in the Working Hours Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, ArbZG) according to which only the length of working times on weekdays that exceed the eight-hour working day and total working times on Sundays and public holidays have to be recorded (see Section 16(2) ArbZG) therefore do not go far enough. Employers can delegate the recording of working times to employees, but still bear the responsibility for compliance with the Working Hours Act and the legally compliant documentation of working times.
Working time recording as an instrument of occupational safety and health
Objective measurement of working times enables compliance with working time requirements, for instance concerning maximum daily and weekly working times, minimum rest periods, and rest breaks. Where employees work atypical times, as when doing shift, night, and weekend work or on-call duty, working time recording also helps organisations comply with health and safety standards. With regard to maximum exposure levels, for example to physical, biological, or chemical hazardous substances, the length of working times dictates the duration of the exposure. Working times, rest breaks, rest periods, and work done at atypical times determine employees’ exposure during working hours and therefore how much recovery time they may need.
More flexibility, less boundarylessness
Research done by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) and the BAuA Working Time Survey (Arbeitszeitbefragung) show that there is a lower risk of overtime, long working hours, or shortened rest periods among employees whose working times are recorded compared to employees whose working hours are not recorded. Additionally, employees whose working hours are recorded are contacted less frequently from work in their free time and also work less frequently at weekends. Employees at workplaces where working time recording and working time accounts are implemented not only report less overtime in general, but are also more likely to compensate for overtime with time off. This means that recording working hours can not only prevent boundarylessness, but also enable employees to benefit from greater flexibility and working time control.