Berlin The corona virus has changed the world of work. Whoever can, sits in the home office and uses the possibilities of flexible working hours to reconcile family and work in the crisis as well as possible. But many workers are also noticing how work and leisure time are becoming increasingly blurred.
Working hours should actually be recorded and invoiced exactly. Exactly a year ago, in a Spanish case, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled that EU member states must oblige employers to put in place an objective, reliable and accessible system that can measure the daily working hours of every worker.
But nothing has happened in Germany since then to implement the judgment in national law. The question of which legislative consequences arise from the ECJ ruling for Germany is controversial in legal literature, between the social partners and within the federal government, the Federal Ministry of Labor said on request. “Political decisions on how to proceed have not yet been made.”
The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) is now slowly running out of patience: “Without reliable time recording, it is impossible for employees to enforce their rights so that rest and maximum working hours are observed,” said new board member Anja Piel told Handelsblatt.
Unrecognized working hours not only remained invisible, but too often unpaid. “This is unreasonable and also harbors additional risks, especially for those who now keep working in companies under difficult conditions and often from home,” emphasized Piel.
Support comes from the governing party SPD: “For us, the mandate for the judgment is clear,” says Katja Mast, deputy chairwoman of the parliamentary group: “We need a manageable record-keeping requirement in companies.”
The German Working Hours Act so far only obliges employers to record daily working hours of more than eight hours and the total working time on Sundays and public holidays. There are further rules, for example, for truck drivers or for certain industries according to the Posted Workers Act and the Minimum Wages Act.
However, several legal opinions written after the ECJ judgment see a need for action by the government. Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) is skeptical about stricter recording requirements because he wants to protect the economy from additional bureaucracy.
However, the Munich lawyers Volker Rieble and Stephan Vielmeier commissioned by him also write in their report: “National law must be adapted.” Otherwise, “regulatory inaction” will be answered by German labor courts.
In mid-March, an expert opinion from the Hugo Sinzheimer Institute for Labor Law emphasized the need for action by national legislators. Union lawyers, however, also believe that the ECJ ruling is already binding and must be observed. “However, this does not change the fact that the legislator has to adjust the legal regulations in Germany due to an otherwise existing violation of transparency,” says the expertise.
In the view of the Federal Association of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), however, the need for implementation from the ECJ decision is still controversial. “But it is undisputed that employers need and employees want flexible working hours,” BDA chief executive Steffen Kampeter told Handelsblatt. Under no circumstances should additional recording requirements be introduced instead of tackling the long overdue flexibility of the Working Hours Act.
Kampeter: “Adaptability is the key”
In the coalition agreement, the Union and the SPD had agreed to enable companies bound by collective agreements to work more flexibly through a tariff opening clause in the Working Hours Act. Above all, employers are calling for the maximum weekly working time of 48 hours, as provided for in the EU Working Time Directive, to no longer be used as a benchmark. But nothing has happened so far in this project either.
The logbook idea of some hardly fits into a modern working world, which is becoming increasingly dynamic, not least because of digitization, said Kampeter: “The acute crisis shows that adaptability in industrial relations is now the key. What fits least in this situation are new bureaucracy and monitoring regulations. “
In order to ensure supplies in the corona crisis, the Federal Government loosened the Working Time Act for a limited period until the end of June for certain “systemically relevant” professions, for example in health care or logistics. Daily working hours can be extended to up to twelve hours and the uninterrupted rest period can be reduced from eleven to nine hours.
This change is sharply criticized by the DGB: Instead of enacting harmful corona special rules for the benefit of employers – which should be withdrawn as soon as possible – the Federal Government must now finally implement the ECJ requirements “for a legal obligation for employers to record all working hours without exceptions “Demands board member Piel.
More: Working time recording: employers fear return to time clock.