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Working hours

Timekeeping is compulsory – how do I find the right tool?

There is an increasing overlap between work and private life. Those employed by service providers in particular often read their emails or finish off work at home in the evenings. Nowadays, it is common for the amount of time spent at the office to be less important than the amount of work done. As a consequence, timekeeping is being pushed out of the picture. But there's something that many people don't know: despite these social changes, timekeeping remains a statutory duty.

Simplified documentation for upper management only

According to Art. 46 of the Employment Act (ArG) and Art. 75 of the Ordinance on the Employment Act (ArGV 1), every employer must account for the length of time their employees spend working each day and each week – including compensation time, overtime and breaks. For the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the requirements for work and rest time are a crucial factor in protecting health in the workplace. Last year, an amendment bill was proposed to adapt employment legislation and the obligation to timekeep in accordance with new working practices. This was rejected and the SECO allowed for a somewhat simplified documentation of working hours. This, however, applies only to upper management or those with managerial authority and does not waive the general obligation to record working hours.

We interviewed Corina Müller, head of the department for Occupational Health and Safety in SECO, about this.

What duties do employers have to record working hours?

Employers must keep records and documents from which the information necessary to enforce the law can easily be drawn, and must make these records and documents available to law enforcement agencies (Art. 46 ArG). For every employee covered by the timekeeping regulations, the daily and weekly working hours, including compensation time and overtime as well as their location, the permitted weekly time off or compensation time off, and the location and duration of breaks half an hour or longer in length must be evident (Art. 73 section 1 lit. c – e ArGV 1). There is no prescribed method of timekeeping – it can also be done using Excel spreadsheets or by signing in electronically.

What has changed since 1 January 2014 in terms of timekeeping?

In terms of the law, nothing has changed. The SECO directive simply created a new option for certain members of staff to forego minutely detailed timekeeping and instead record only their daily working hours (simplified timekeeping), implying control over their working time and room for manoeuvre in terms of managing their work specifications. A written agreement between the employer and employee is needed to put this provision into practice. The directive also called to mind that only upper managers count as top-level employees in the context of employment legislation, and the timekeeping regulations do not apply to them.

Some employers do not want to dictate to their staff when and where they should be working. How should employers who promote flexible working without recording working hours deal with these regulations? 

For upper management, it can be agreed that only their daily working hours are recorded (see above). It is not possible to not record working hours at all.

How will we see timekeeping develop over the next few years? What should SMEs be preparing for?

This is a discussion within the political arena and is sure to take some time. It's impossible to say what the results will be.

Tools for timekeeping

Ultimately, it is up to individual companies to decide how they record working hours. Nowadays, a wide array of tools is available with various different features and benefits. These range from a simple Excel spreadsheet to a complex SAP structure. In evaluating a new application, you should ask yourself the following questions:

How many staff members will use this tool to record working hours?

Do we also need to be able to record working hours on mobile devices?

Does the tool need to be able to show different working patterns?

What kinds of analysis do we need?

Is it possible to record project hours at the same time? If necessary, does it have integrated project controlling?

What kind of interfaces to other systems (e.g. finances, projects) does the tool offer?

Is there integrated rights management?

What is the cost-benefit ratio?

Once you have decided on an application (for example TimeTac), let your staff know about recording working hours and outline the basic conditions according to their employment contracts once again. You should also instruct your staff in how to deal with exceptions like working from home and weekend working.

Remember that working hours are a crucial factor in job satisfaction. Show your appreciation and let your employees know that timekeeping is not in place to control their work but to support the health of the company. 

TimeTac time recording

Easy operation, extensive benefits. TimeTac is the user-friendly software for web-based time tracking for businesses and independent workers with potential.