Welcome to our weekly case law update. Today’s case concerns the Working Time Regulations and considers specifically to what extent an employer is obligated to record the number of hours worked by their employees each week.
CCOO are a Spanish workers’ trade union. They were concerned that Deutsche Bank may have been failing to comply with the weekly working limit of 48 hours as found in the Working Time Directive (the EU directive that was the basis for the UK’s Working Time Regulations).
They brought a legal challenge against the company and the matter was referred to the European Court of Justice. CCOO sought a declaration that Deutsche Bank were obliged to record the precise number of hours worked by each of its employees per week (thus allowing the union to ascertain whether they were adhering to the Directive).
The European Court found in favour of the union and considered that Deutsche Bank ought to have “an objective, reliable and accessible system enabling the duration of time worked each day by each worker to be measured”. They said that without such a system, it would be very difficult to ensure with certainty that employees’ working time rights were respected (as no one would quite know how long an employee had worked per week).
What Does this Mean for UK Employers?
You may be wondering how this is relevant to your business in the UK, especially now we have left the European Union.
However, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 provides that certain EU law shall become “retained EU law” after the end of the transition period (1st January 2021).
UK law that was created so to implement an EU Directive (like the Working Time Regulations) shall be classed as retained EU law. The Withdrawal Act also says that any European Court decisions in relation to retained EU law must be followed by UK courts.
In other words, the decision in the CCOO case is binding on UK courts even after the end of the transition period and therefore any UK court is likely to consider that employers should have a precise means of monitoring their employees’ hours.
The Takeaway Point
Employers would be wise to ensure that they have an adequate system in place for monitoring the amount of hours worked by each employee, each week; anything else is likely to fall foul of the certainty required by the European Court to monitor whether employees’ working time rights are being adhered to. Also, the argument that it would be costly to implement such a practice and therefore unfair on employer’s is likely to fall on deaf ears, as the European Court made it clear that economic considerations should not trump workers’ rights.
However in the UK cases on working hours are still rare as is enforcement action by the HSE. And for office based staff a swipe in system of door entry will enable most employers to at least know how long each employee has been in the workplace.