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Working time directive rules every HR manager should know

Jazmin Lopez
Jazmin Lopez

There are 25.1 million small and medium-sized businesses running in the European Union alone. 

If you run one of these many businesses, you must know that having a strong HR department is essential to the success of your company. However, wrapping your head around the various working time directive regulations or conveying them to your HR manager is no easy task. 

That's why online HR software is an absolute must-have for businesses such as yours. This kind of software allows you to streamline your HR management and make the whole administrative process much simpler for everyone involved. 

For workers in the UK, some changes might be coming up. With Brexit, leaving the EU means that the UK is no longer under the ECJ’s jurisdiction. There are already rumors about the abolishment of the 48 hours per week rule and also that the rest break of 20 minutes might be subject to change. The holiday pay calculations might have adjustments as well. As an employer in the UK, make sure you are updated with the recent changes.

With that in mind, let's have a look at a few time directive rules that your small business should know in the EU and the UK scenario.

Working time directive rules your business needs to follow

The Working Time Directive or the WTD is European legislation that guarantees certain rights to workers of its member states. It lays out rules that relate to work hours, leave, resting breaks and other such criteria as a way to protect the health, safety, and well-being of European workers within the Union.

So what does the current WTD have to say about working time regulations?

Let's have a look.

Exploring current working time regulations

The present working time regulations allow employees to work for a maximum of 48 hours a week. Each of these workers is also allowed to take 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave. Plus, they must receive at least a day off in every single working week or 24 hours of weekly rest.

They are also directed to have one hours' rest in between every 24-hour period and are entitled to a 20-minute break for every working day that's longer than a period of six hours. 

Additionally, there must also be a daily rest of 11 hours between the beginning and end of every consecutive working day. As far as night shifts go, they cannot extend 8 hours for any 24 hour period. 

For workers between the ages of 16-18, the work time is restricted to not more than 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

The exceptions to the rules

The above rules allow for certain exceptions under special circumstances. Article 16 of the Working Time Directive specifies these exceptions:

  • A worker may choose to "opt-out" from the maximum working hours per week. Member states can derogate from certain applicable rules for special categories of workers or sectors 

If a worker chooses to opt-out, such opting out must be done out of their own volition. Additionally, they can choose to opt back into the rules whenever they see fit. While an employer is allowed to request workers to apply for such an arrangement, such an agreement cannot be forced upon a worker or used against them for retention purposes. Moreover, some jobs have other reference periods.

An update to the rule: is time tracking mandatory?

After a decision on the recent case of CCOO vs Deutsche Bank SAE within the European Court of Justice (EJC), all employers are required to keep track of their employees' daily working time. This includes weekly working time, rest periods, night shifts, the exceptions to the rules and other data relevant to the Working Time Directives. 

"The Court holds that, in the absence of a system enabling the duration of time worked each day by each worker to be measured, it is not possible to determine (...), either the number of hours worked and when that work was done, or the number of hours of overtime worked, which makes it excessively difficult, (...), for workers to ensure that their rights are complied with", the ECJ said.

In summary, the Court's ruling is based on the thesis that without an actual time and attendance software, neither overtime nor the time distribution of working time for projects can be demonstrated. 

Employers, however, are required to limit their full-time employees to 48 work hours per week. To calculate average hours, a 17 week work period has been specified. Moreover, there should be at least 11 hours between end of work time and start time. This decision favours the workers’ position to demand their rights are respected, as they are now protected by law.

The verdict will have a major impact on everyday work in Europe. Thanks to the ECJ judgement, even remote workers will benefit since activities such as calling in the evening or similar will also be counted as working time. All in all, any activity that represents the interests of the company must be counted as working time and be recorded as such.

Brexit: changes for UK workers

It is reasonable that some adjustments would have to be made in the worker’s regulations after Brexit. Nevertheless, this does not make them less anxious about it. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng initially guaranteed that there would be no dilution of workers’ rights post-Brexit, after the reviews. Then announced in an interview that the review was no longer happening. At the moment the reviews are paused but they can reopen the discussion in the near future. 

The Employment Bill was promised in the Queen’s Speech at the end of 2019 but it was postponed because of the pandemic. It was announced that the bill will “protect and enhance workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU, making Britain the best place in the world to work” and “promote fairness in the workplace”. It was also told to support flexibility. The interpretation could be ambiguous, so when it is finally released, the uncertainties must be clarified.

The purpose behind the regulations

As an employer, you might wonder about the importance of such regulations and the relevance they hold to your business. The purpose behind the WTD can be summed up under two heads.

1. Preventing exploitation

To prevent the exploitation of vulnerable employees, it is important to have a regulatory body to protect workers from inhumane working conditions. The WTD serves as a necessary legislation to ensure a minimum standard of safety and health for all employees.

2. Employee burnout

Working overtime can lead to employee burnout. Studies have shown that more than 60% of employees experience symptoms of burnout at some point or the other.

Additionally, more than 18% of European workers testify to being stressed out every single day due to work-related anxiety.

This drastically reduces the overall quality of the employee's performance. 

How to Comply with Working Time Directive Rules Using HR Software

It's natural to feel overwhelmed at the sight of all these rules. However, with the help of HR software, you can ensure that your business is fully compliant with every specified Working Time Directive rule. 

Here's how it helps.

1. Time tracking

HR software can help your employees utilize their time in doing meaningful work, instead of manually recording work hours. The software allows you to create digital timesheets that your HR department export to other relevant departments in your business. This also ensures your employees don't exceed 48 hours of work a week. GDPR is also complied with thanks to a simple role system that defines all access and editing rights.

2. Monitor leave

It allows you to define your standards for all kinds of leave allowances including sick leave, remote working and other holidays. This one-time policy can then be integrated within your system allowing you to seamlessly check holiday accruals in relation to various employees. 

3. Overtime 

Keep a record of every employee working overtime and calculate accurate payrolls accordingly. This data allows you to monitor patterns of excessive work that could later affect an employee's productivity and work-life balance.

4. Digital records

The world has gone digital. Get rid of your paper records and choose a more environmentally friendly, efficient, digital system of storage.


Finding the right HR software for your business

Quality HR software that can help you comply with the Working Time Directive is hard to come by. There's nothing worse than investing in something that turns out to be less than exceptional. 

That's why we encourage you to sign up for a 14 day FREE trial of our HR software. Based on your experience you can either extend to the paid version or opt for cancellation. 

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