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Time recording

In times of New Work, home office and freelancing, the boundaries between work and private life are becoming increasingly blurred. This makes it all the more important to ensure that working hours are recorded correctly and fairly. In this article, we reveal which legal regulations need to be observed, what the situation is regarding data protection and which ways and means of recording time exist.

The topic of time recording harbors potential for conflict. The recording of working hours is required by law in Germany. First and foremost, it serves as proof of working hours and break times and thus ensures compliance with legal regulations. However, time recording is often perceived by employees as surveillance, especially in times of digital solutions and recording to the second.

Legal regulations

The Working Hours Act (ArbZG) was enacted in 1994 to protect employees from unauthorized working hours and to ensure employee health protection. It regulates maximum working hours as well as break and rest times. The Working Hours Act also regulates the recording of working hours. In this context, § 16 of the Working Hours Act states the following: (2) The employer is obliged to record the working hours of employees in excess of the working day working hours specified in § 3 sentence 1 and to keep a list of employees who have consented to an extension of working hours in accordance with § 7 para. 7. The records must be kept for at least two years.

Accordingly, the employer is obliged to record and document the working hours of its employees. However, the purpose of recording working hours is not to monitor employees, but rather to ensure compliance with the maximum permitted working hours, such as 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, as well as break and rest times. Time recording is therefore an instrument that can be used to verify compliance with the minimum and maximum working hours specified in the employment contract as well as break and rest times.

Time recording vs. data protection

As the above excerpt shows, although the ArbZG stipulates that working time recording is mandatory, the legal text does not provide any information on what exactly time recording should look like. New and versatile technologies theoretically make it possible to generate additional data beyond the recording of working hours.

It is therefore all the more important that employee trust is not exploited and that the data collected is handled sensitively. A number of data protection regulations must be observed when recording working time. According to Section 75 (1) and (2) of the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG), employers are also obliged to protect the personal rights of employees. Employers must ensure that no unauthorized data is collected and that the privacy of employees remains protected.

In most cases, the works council has the task of checking whether the applicable law and protection and monitoring obligations are being complied with. The employee representative body checks whether the data collection by the employer is lawful, whether the personal data is processed and used correctly in accordance with Article 15 of the GDPR and whether data protection measures are implemented. In addition, the works council has a right of co-determination (Section 87 (1) No. 6 BetrVG) in the introduction of technical access controls.

Ways and means of time recording

There are numerous ways to record working hours. In addition to traditional methods such as timesheets or Excel spreadsheets, there are a variety of time recording systems that promise time-saving documentation.

In smaller companies in particular, working times are often documented manually on a timesheet or in Excel spreadsheets. Although these methods are inexpensive to purchase, they are real time thieves. In addition, manual time recording has numerous sources of error. Firstly, it is extremely susceptible to manipulation, and secondly, data can be accidentally overwritten and irretrievably lost in the process. Time documentation using timesheets or Excel is therefore inexpensive, but also time-consuming and prone to errors.

Software systems, on the other hand, promise time-saving documentation, as working times are recorded automatically and digitally, eliminating the need for manual work. However, the introduction of time recording systems is often a costly affair. In principle, a distinction must be made between hardware and software systems for time recording systems. Time recording terminals are often used in large companies. Here, employees use hardware such as a plastic card, transponder or fingerprint to record the start and end of working hours and break times. The data is stored in a database and can be retrieved for accounting purposes. Incorrect clockings can be corrected retrospectively. Although time recording terminals are low-maintenance, the purchase costs are comparatively high. If the hardware system is not to your liking, it is often difficult to change it at a later date.

Time recording software is comparably inexpensive, as no terminals are required. Only a PC, laptop or smartphone and Internet access are required for time recording with recording software. Here too, employees log in at the start of their working day and log out again at the end of the working day. A huge advantage of time recording software is that it can be used anywhere and at any time and is therefore mobile. This makes it ideal for employees who work from home or in the field. In addition, time recording software is usually linked to other software systems, allowing the recorded data to be processed directly and saving resources.

Depending on the industry, company size and culture, as well as the way the company works, a different time recording method may be more suitable. It can be assumed that many companies will also resort to digital solutions in this area in the future.