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Working Hours in 2021: Is Your Business’ Timekeeping Up to Scratch?

Posted by Neil Fallon on Jan 13, 2021 1:52:05 PM

How do you, as an employer, track the hours your employees have worked? If you’re not maintaining accurate records of shifts, overtime and rest breaks, you could fall short of national and international working time regulations.

But it’s not just about compliance – failing to keep track of when your staff are working, and for how long, could have a number of impacts on employees and your ability to safeguard their wellbeing.

This was true even before the pandemic. Now, with many people working remotely and others continuing to attend work as the coronavirus spreads, knowing what hours your team have worked can provide crucial visibility to help you prevent burnout and minimise workplace exposure to COVID-19.

In the wake of Brexit, businesses operating in the UK face growing uncertainty around a number of workplace regulations – and the Working Time Directive is no exception. In this article, we explore the guidelines for recording working hours in the EU; how the UK regulations currently differ; and how the pandemic is impacting how and why employers must track their workforce’s time.


The EU’s Working Time Directive


While the EU’s member states are granted some autonomy in implementing guidelines for working hours, on the whole businesses need to comply directly with the Working Time Directive.

In order to protect the health and safety of your workforce, working hours must meet the following minimum standards:


  • Average working time should not exceed 48 hours in a seven day period – calculated over a reference period of four, six or 12 months, depending on national legislation.
  • Any shifts of six hours or more must include a rest break, and workers are entitled to a minimum of 11 hours’ rest in every 24-hour period. In addition, each seven day period must provide at least 24 hours of uninterrupted rest.
  • Night shifts should not exceed eight hours per 24-hour period on average.


Some member states will allow individuals to opt out of the Working Time Directive. To some employers, this will be a tempting option; but opting out of a directive intended to safeguard your employees’ wellbeing and living/working conditions may be counterintuitive. Additionally, the rules around consent are strict – particularly when it comes to the consent of the individual, as there must be no detrimental impacts to the employee if they choose not to opt out.

To comply with the directive, businesses must accurately record the specific hours being worked by each employee. Back in 2019, in a case brought by Spanish trade unions against Deutsche Bank, the European Court of Justice concluded that member states must have an “objective, reliable and accessible” system in place to measure the specific hours worked each day, by each employee.

This has the potential to be a huge, resource-intensive undertaking for employers. As a result, many businesses are investing in technology to ensure hours are recorded continuously and accurately, while providing visibility into work patterns for HR professionals and team leaders.


The UK’s Working Time Regulation


Even prior to leaving the EU, the UK had a slightly different set of rules for recording working hours – although the guidance for how many hours employees should work in a week remains consistent.

The Working Time Regulation 1998 requires employers to keep and maintain records of the number of hours worked by each employee, each week – rather than the daily logs required by many EU member states – to ensure the 48-hour a week limit isn’t exceeded. Hours worked on a night shift must similarly be recorded to show compliance with limits, but there is no explicit requirement to track and record rest breaks.

Crucially, records must represent the actual time worked by each employee – ‘expected data’, such as simply recording contracted hours rather than actual hours worked, was deemed inadequate to achieve compliance in a recent UK court case.

Failure to record weekly working time to demonstrate compliance with the 48 hour limit and night hour restrictions is a criminal offence – enforceable by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). While it remains to be seen whether this legislation will change post-Brexit, all employers should be looking to implement best practices for the wellbeing of their employees and organisation.


Time-Keeping From Home


With many people continuing to work remotely as we enter 2021, keeping track of working hours is more difficult, yet arguably more important, than before the pandemic.

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance is essential for employees to perform at their best. However, with the pressures created by the pandemic – including widespread redundancies and the damaged growth many businesses are experiencing – overworking, stress and burnout are growing issues.Working From Home

If you’re not adequately recording each employee’s working hours, they could be exceeding the 48 hour a week limit without your knowledge. In cases where employees are continuously overworking, their physical and mental health could suffer. Not only is this likely to damage their performance, productivity, and even engagement in the business, but in more serious cases it could see individuals taking extended periods of sick leave to recuperate.

This issue is further complicated by many employers allowing more flexible working hours at home to accommodate personal circumstances, such as childcare. Knowing how many hours each member of staff has worked, and when, will better enable you to protect their health and safety by ensuring they’re not exceeding the limits set out in your country’s legislation.


Supporting Track and Trace


If your business cannot operate remotely, it’s imperative you know exactly who attend work, when, and for how long.

Should one of your employees test positive for coronavirus, failing to record working hours could make it extremely difficult to identify which individuals may have come into contact with the virus. As a result, you could face an increased risk of a widespread workplace outbreak – with numerous consequences to employee health and wellbeing, business continuity, and brand reputation.

While it’s recommended that shift patterns are managed to minimise mixing between groups of employees, accurate recording of working hours will help you ensure these measures are being adhered to. If an employee takes sick leave, for example, another team member may be required to cover their shift and mix with a different group.

Likewise, if you’re only monitoring expected or contracted hours, rather than actual hours worked, overtime hours may go unrecorded. So, if an employee stays past the end of their shift without your knowledge, they could be missed out of any internal track and trace in the event of an outbreak.

Ultimately, by knowing exactly when each employee was on the premises, you can bolster your efforts to fight against the virus and protect your workforce against preventable exposure.


“An Objective, Reliable, and Accessible System”


Depending on the scale and nature of your organisation, you may think it’s feasible to manage this information tracking manually. However, this is likely to be very resource intensive and open to inaccuracies.

The European Court of Justice has stated that employers should implement “an objective, reliable and accessible system” for measuring working hours. Irrespective of whether your jurisdiction upholds this EU requirement, adhering to best practice will empower your business to monitor working patterns and protect the health and wellbeing of your workforce.

At Eppione, our comprehensive platform brings all of your daily HR requirements together with employee benefits visibility and sophisticated business intelligence reporting in a single, user-friendly application. Designed with both the EU’s Working Time Directive and the UK’s Working Time Regulations in mind, the Eppione system includes functionality for clocking in and out, as well as timesheet submission – so you can choose a time-keeping method that works for your unique business.

Through Eppione, employers can get detailed visibility into the hours each individual is working – as well as further insights into work patterns through our business intelligence capability. Our easy-to-use solution is available on desktop and as an app for both Android and Apple devices, allowing your employees to record their time quickly, easily, and on a device of their choice.

Whatever methodology you choose to track and monitor working hours, employers must ensure records are accurate and maintained continuously to truly protect the health, wellbeing, and working conditions of your workforce.


Find out more about how the Eppione platform can support your business, and get a free, no-obligation demo today.


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