EU Court: Employers Are Obligated to Record Employees’ Working Hours

Employers in the EU are obliged to introduce a system that ensures the measurement of employees’ working hours. This is evident from a new EU judgement, which deals with the question of how employers ensure effective compliance with the rules on rest and working time for their employees, which the EU’s working time directive prescribes.

The EU judgment stems from a specific case in Spain, where Deutsche Bank received an order to introduce time registration from the Norwegian Working Environment Authority in Spain. The bank refused, after which the Spanish trade union movement took the case to the Spanish labor court. Here, doubts arose as to whether it is the employer’s responsibility to record the employee’s working hours, after which the case ended up at the European Court of Justice.

In a judgment of 14 May 2019, the European Court of Justice has imposed on employers “an obligation to introduce an objective, reliable and accessible system that makes it possible to measure the length of each individual worker’s daily working time”. In the past, it has been the employee’s task to prove if a working week has been too long or if rest regulations have not been complied with. But that changes the verdict. The employer is now obliged to be responsible for the inspection, which is why it is also the employer who must lift the burden of proof if disagreements arise about working or rest time.

This judgment is therefore significant not only with a view to ensuring compliance with the provisions on rest time and days off, but also in relation to the Working Time Act’s rules that an employee may not work more than an average of 48 hours per week for a period of 4 months.

According to the judgment, it is up to each individual member state to decide how the practical registration of working hours should take place. However, it is a requirement that it is possible on an objective and reliable basis to determine the employee’s working hours and the time when the work is carried out. However, the production of e-mails or evidence of the use of mobile phones or computers will not be an objective and reliable means of proof.


Since employers are now obliged to ensure effective compliance with the rules on rest and working time, which the EU’s working time directive prescribes, the EU Court’s decision is a clear signal that workers’ rights are taken seriously. At the same time, the decision must be considered an important step in the direction of limiting the amount of free and undocumented overtime.

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