EU time tracking ruling: what it means for employees and employers

EU FlagThe Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled last month that the member countries must establish detailed methods of tracking the hourly work of employees, so that they can be properly compensated for time worked.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit by the Federación de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), a Spanish trade union, against the Spanish subsidiary of Deutsche Bank. The main issues in question related to calculating overtime hours – 54% of which goes unrecorded in Spain – and protecting obligatory rest.  “Member States 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,” the court said in its ruling.

The ECJ ruling is explicitly intended to protect the worker against potential workplace abuses. It is an effort to enforce the European Working Time Directive, which restricts employers from making employees work more than 48 hours a week, and grants people at least 11 consecutive hours of rest every day.

What the ECJ ruling means

The ECJ ruling extends to all companies operating in the EU. The ruling does not specify any guidelines for how employers should record work hours for their employees. In most cases, companies will need a clock-in/clock-out system that would allow them to monitor when employees start and end work, and when people have breaks. Employers will need to know employees’ exact work hours.

At first sight, this may seem cumbersome and backward. But given the technology available today, this could actually be a good idea, for both employers and employees. The “punch clock” has evolved, and businesses and employees don’t have to sacrifice contemporary technical flexibility for exact timekeeping. Modern time and attendance tracking software, often on the cloud, work on mobile phones. Clocking in and out is a matter of a tap on your smartphone screen or on a web page. So even if you are checking emails at home or taking a call from your boss, tracking that time isn’t really an inconvenience. Many of the software systems are priced such that small businesses can afford them. And most provide great analytical tools.

For employees

From an employee standpoint, there’s definitely a lot to be excited about.

Mobile and web time tracking
Mobile and web time tracking

Accurate time tracking provides irrefutable, objective proof against unlawful overtime. Time tracking thus becomes a tool towards building fairer, more accountable workplaces that help protect employee safety and health.

Moving beyond just clocking in and out, good time tracking can detail the time that employees spend on different tasks, when they take breaks and how long they last. It can help document off-site and off-hours work, as well as work-related travel, all of which are frequently overlooked. Basically, it gives employees full visibility into their work schedules – allowing them to address unhealthy workloads and the associated stress, anxiety and exhaustion that come with it.

For employers

Analyze employee time
Time Tracking reports

Companies can use time tracking to track employee working hours. It makes payroll much more accurate. Billing customers for work done is now much clearer and transparent and all hours worked can now be billed. The time tracking data collected is a great source of information on project budgets, project status, progress of works, employee productivity and many other aspects that are crucial for business success. For managers, it may make sense to combine data on the quantity and task breakdown of hours worked by employees with productivity information. It may turn out, for example, that a company would be better off with more workers keeping shorter hours than with an overworked team that’s less effective because of stress and exhaustion.

Conclusion

Time tracking doesn’t have to be tedious and cumbersome. With the right approach, you can make it an integral part of your business. Most makers of time tracking software tell customers that it’s vital to make it’s use mandatory to get people into the habit of tracking time, and that the data must be checked regularly to weed out abuses and negligence. If EU companies take the ECJ’s ruling seriously and apply it properly, it could do a world of good to their employees and their economies.

 

Moving to mobile time tracking: Are you prepared?

So you are transitioning from paper time sheets to a slick new mobile time tracking system with all the bells and whistles. You’re excited about the new technology and you know the ROI of automated time tracking. But after years of using a manual time tracking system, you’re definitely apprehensive about the move to a mobile time tracking system. And if you are anxious, then consider what your employees would be feeling.

The transition from paper to mobile, can often seem confusing and overwhelming at first. But regardless of your company size or goals, automating your time and attendance process, will simplify procedures, eliminate errors and provide savings, overall.

But like with anything new, the transition to an automated time and attendance system needs planning and preparation. So here are some tips to help you implement the new technology and get it running smoothly.

  • Get your team on board
Select project
Select project

First things first: it’s critical to make sure that you have the right people on board to support a big change like this. New processes only work, when there is buy-in at all levels. Make sure that you sit down with team leads and influencers and explain why mobile time tracking will benefit them and the business as a whole. Get a couple of the enthusiasts to be the champions for the software. That way, the rest of your team will have someone to turn to if they need help. You might even want to offer some short-term incentives to get people to adopt the new technology quickly.

  • Explain the goal of the time tracking

First, start by asking yourself why you want to set up the time sheets. Perhaps, you spend too much time on payroll and there are too many errors in the process. Maybe your clients need more accurate time records with your billing. Perhaps you need to balance your employee workloads better.

Whatever your reasons, communicate it to your employees. Do you want to make sure that everyone is carrying their own weight? Do you want to estimate project times better for their next projects? Explain it to your employees in terms of the personal benefits that they will gain from it. Smoother distribution of efforts, better time frames on projects, faster payroll with fewer errors.

  • Choose the right level of detail

If you start tracking time without the right level of precision, you may not benefit from the new system. But start tracking too many details, and you’ll end up overwhelming your employees. So the right level of detail for time tracking must be neither too vague nor too precise. So what does that mean, exactly? We recommend that you go in stages. Start your time tracking process at a “project” level, so that you can figure out the hours spent on a project, without over-burdening your employees.

Get your team used to the  software before heading into more detailed tracking. Later on, you may want to include what tasks/deliverables people worked on, so you can get a more detailed breakdown of your projects. But remember that the more you need to track, the harder it is for your employees. So maintain a trade-off between the detail that you want and the tedium for your employees.

  • Select the activities you’re going to track
Time worked by Employee
Time worked by Employee

Once you’ve selected the level of detail, decide on the projects and activities for which you want to track time. Then start adding in more operational activities like maintenance and support that may not necessarily be tied in to specific projects. Then think of adding in administrative tasks such as holidays, time-off and training.  If you don’t need that level of detail, simply create an activity or project called “Other” to which people can add time.

  • Set up a test run / pilot

Now, you need to make sure that you and your team get a better understanding of how to incorporate mobile time tracking into their day-to-day routine.

  • Make sure that your reference data such as Projects, Users, Tasks are all set up correctly.
  • Deploy the software in manageable chunks.If you have a very large number of employees, you may want to start with one team and then deploy it to others
  • Schedule a training session for your employees. Make sure that someone is available to answer any questions that they may have.

Depending on your employee mix (age, tech familiarity), the time to get comfortable with the new technology will vary. Give them time to ease into the new technology.

  • Run in parallel

After you and your team have tried out the new software and worked out the kinks, formalize the new time tracking process. Put in place whatever rules you want for the process.

Based on how the initial roll-out goes, you may want to run the new mobile time tracking in parallel with the old paper-based time sheets for a few weeks. That way you’ll have a backup as you and the team get up to speed with the new system.

But make sure that you give everyone a firm end date for the old system and ensure that you stick with the date.

The first step, of course, is to find a mobile time tracking system that works for you!