European Court of Justice Decision-All Working Hours Must Be Recorded and Unpaid Overtime Ended?

Are you working excessive overtime and not getting paid? The European Court of Justice issued an interesting decision this week (14th May 2019) when it ruled that companies in the EU must set up a system to record the hours of work of their employees. All EU member states must act on foot of this decision which has direct effect in member states. (Press release of the Court of Justice of the European Union).

The Court found that member states must “must require employers to set up an objective, reliable and accessible system enabling the duration of time worked each day by each worker to be measured.”

In this case a Spanish trade union had brought a case against a local branch of Germany’s Deutsche Bank and a ruling was needed as to whether a system had to be established to record working hours.

Member states must implement the working time directive and it is impossible to do so fairly if employees’ working hours are not recorded. The Spanish court found that 53.7 % of overtime hours of Spanish workers were not recorded.

Impact in Ireland?

Will this have any practical effect in Ireland, however, given that Irish employers already have an obligation to record working time of employees pursuant to the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 and the various organisation of working time regulations.

Has Ireland failed to properly implement the working time directive if all workers hours are not being recorded, including unpaid overtime and those workers who are paid a salary?

It is suspected that many Irish employers do not accurately record the working hours of their employees and this decision should increase the pressure on them to do so.

It is expected that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will carefully consider this decision and see is there a need to increase workplace inspections to check on working time records being kept.

On the one hand it is argued that Ireland already has legislation since 1997-the Organisation of working time act 1997-to ensure employees’ hours of work are recorded; others argue that there is not enough inspections carried out by the WRC and there is a culture o f non-compliance with the existing legislation in Ireland.

Time will tell whether this European Court of Justice decision will have any practical effect in the Irish workplace or not.

Read the full decision of the European Court of Justice here.