[EU Ruling] Do You Need to Record Staff Working Hours?

By Nicola Mullineux
02 Jul 2019

The European Court of Justice has ruled that EU businesses must record every hour that employees work. But that’s not part of UK law. So, who should you listen to—the politicians or the judges? (Short answer: the judges)

Groundbreaking EU case impacts UK businesses

In May 2019, a groundbreaking legal case between one of Spain’s biggest trade unions and one of Germany’s biggest banks had a huge impact on UK businesses.

The European Court of Justice ruled that all bosses should have a system in place to record all of the hours that staff work.

Now, UK law does require you to keep some working time records. But there’s nothing in our legislation that says you need a system to track all staff hours.  

So, has the EU ruling changed UK laws? No, it hasn’t.

Will it change how you monitor workers’ hours? If you want to avoid the risk of costly legal action, then the answer is yes. Here’s why…

Judges vs. politicians: who makes the rules?

It comes down to how we make our laws. Politicians create legislation and courts interpret it when ruling on legal cases. It’s these rulings that shape how laws work in real life.

When a judge in the more senior courts makes a decision, it has to be upheld in similar cases in the future. Otherwise, there would be no consistency in our laws.

Only a higher court can overturn a judge’s ruling. And because The European Court of Justice has precedence over all UK courts, its decisions are more or less final.  

So, while The European Court of Justice can’t change UK legislation, our law courts and our enforcement bodies (like the HSE) must follow its rulings.

And if you’re thinking that EU rulings won’t apply post-Brexit, think again. Any decision made while the UK is an EU member will stay binding after we leave. 

The law hasn’t changed: your risk has

So, coming back to The European Court of Justice ruling on monitoring working hours…

The laws around working time are enforced by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or Local Authority.

If an employee complained that they were being made to work excessive hours an enforcement officer would investigate and expect to see your working time records.

That means you would need evidence to prove that you record your staff’s working hours and counter any allegations made. And if you don’t, you may potentially face prosecution.

How to protect your business

The best way to protect your business is to track staff working hours. There are several ways to do this, but the easiest is through some form of automated system.

Clocking in and out used to be the norm for British workers. You might have seen old-style punch cards and clocking-in machines. Depending on your age, you might have even used one yourself.

Fortunately, technology has moved on. Today, apps like Blip by BrightHR let staff clock in and out and record when they take breaks with a swipe of their smartphone. Then you get an automatic record of the hours that staff work, including what time they arrive, when they leave and the number of hours that staff work each week.

Such tools help you meet the UK laws and show you follow The European Court of Justice ruling. Plus, it makes life easier for you and your workers.

Speak to an expert

If you’re still confused about how court rulings impact your business, I don’t blame you. It is confusing.

But don’t worry, our employment law experts are here to help. Call Croner today and get instant, practical advice on how to meet workplace rules and protect your business. Call 01455 858 132 or request a call back here.    

About the Author

Nicola Mullineux

Nicola Mullineux, as Group Content Manager, leads a team of employment law content writers who produce guidance and commentary on employment law, case law and key HR developments. She has written articles for national publications for over 10 years and regularly helps to shape employment of the future by taking part in Government consultations on employment law change.


Nicola Mullineux

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