How to Track Time and Stay Compliant in the EU Krystian Biały December 7, 2023

How to Track Time and Stay Compliant in the EU

European Working Time Directive Image


The European Union has set certain rules that employers in EU member states must comply with in order to avoid legal liability. These rules were established to protect workers’ rights when it comes to working hours, overtime, and breaks. In this guide, you’ll learn about the EU time tracking law and The European Working Time Directive, as well as find out what you need to do to track time and comply with EU regulations regarding employees’ working hours.

European Working Time Directive (EWTD)

The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) was originally passed in 1993 and updated in 2003 with the 2003/88/EC working time directive. Its purpose is to regulate labor and working time for employees.

EWTD mandates minimum daily and weekly rest periods, sets guidelines for breaks, night work, annual leave, and the maximum number of weekly working hours. EU member states are required to create laws to define specifics while using the EWTD for guidance.

Time Regulations in practice

The regulations in practice

There is no doubt that it has been difficult to implement the new time registration systems. The regulations set by the EWTD were frequently avoided by employers by simply not keeping track of employees’ work hours.
Hence, in 2019 The European Court of Justice (ECJ) concluded that a lack of a time tracking system makes it impossible to ensure that businesses are complying with EWTD regulations. As a result, the ECJ ruled that all EU businesses must set up an objective, reliable, and accessible time recording system.

That means every employer in the EU must track time and attendance of their employees, meet the minimum standards defined in the EU directive, and of course be compliant with the national legislation that’s been implemented based on the directive.

  • A maximum of 48 hours of work per week, calculated as an average over a reference period of up to four months. Workers can opt out of this limit voluntarily, but they cannot be forced or coerced to do so.
  • Workers must have at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest between two working days.
  • A minimum of 24 hours of weekly rest, which means that workers must have at least one full day off per week.
  • A minimum of 20 minutes of rest break for every six hours of work, which means that workers must have a break during or between working periods.
  • Workers are entitled to at least 28 days of paid holiday per year.
  • Additional protection for night workers, who must not work more than eight hours per night on average, and who must have regular health assessments and the possibility to transfer to day work if their health is affected by night work.

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  • Monitoring and enforcing compliance with the directive may be difficult, especially for workers with irregular or flexible schedules, or those who work across different countries or sectors.
  • It may be challenging to balance the needs and preferences of workers and employers, who may have different views on the optimal working hours and arrangements for their work.
  • Adjustments and adaptations to work organization and management, such as task allocation, team coordination, and resource provision, may be necessary.
  • It helps to prevent work-related accidents, injuries, and illnesses, by reducing the risks of fatigue, stress, and overwork.
  • It improves the work-life balance, well-being, and productivity of workers, by allowing them to have enough time for rest, recovery, and personal activities.
  • It supports the equality and diversity of workers, by enabling them to have more flexibility and choice over their working hours and arrangements.
  • It contributes to the social and economic cohesion of the EU, by harmonizing the working conditions and standards across the member states.

Some examples of working time violations are:

  • Failing to compensate workers for activities that are part of their job, such as wearing a uniform, managing their work area, or attending a meeting. This is called unpaid compensable time.
  • Not paying workers the minimum wage or overtime pay for the hours they work, especially if they work more than 40 hours in a week or eight hours in a day. This is called wage theft.
  • Not allowing workers to take the minimum rest periods and annual leave they are entitled to, such as 11 hours of daily rest, 24 hours of weekly rest, and four weeks of paid vacation per year. This is called working time abuse.
  • Forcing workers to work more than 48 hours per week or to opt out of the limit without their consent. This is called excessive working hours.
  • Not counting the time workers spend on-call, either at the workplace or at home, as working time, even if they are required to be available and ready to work at short notice. This is called on-call time violation.

These are some of the common examples of working time violations that employers may commit. If you think your employer is violating your working time rights, you should consult a professional employment lawyer for advice.

Workers can opt out of the 48-hour week limit by signing an individual agreement with their employer, which must be voluntary and in writing. The agreement can be terminated by the worker at any time, with a notice period of up to three months. The employer must keep records of the workers who have opted out and the hours they have worked.

In some EU countries, such as France, Germany, and Spain, opting out of the 48-hour limit is not allowed or is very restricted. In these countries, workers have to comply with the EWTD or face penalties.

The UK version of the EWTD is known as the Working Time Regulations 1998, which implement the EU directive with some modifications and exemptions. For example, the UK allows workers to opt out of the 48-hour limit by collective or workforce agreements, not just by individual agreements. The UK also excludes some sectors and activities from the EWTD, such as the armed forces, the police, and domestic servants.

How to comply with the EU time tracking law?

If your company is based in a European Union member state, you must implement a system to track your employees’ work hours. Such a system should be able to track time accurately and generate detailed timesheets.

Time registration systems can have various features and functions, such as:

  • Timekeeping: Record start and end times, as well breaks and interruptions, either manually or automatically, using devices such as clocks, timers, calendars, or apps.
  • Timesheet: Enter their working hours and activities, either daily or weekly, using formats such as tables, forms, or spreadsheets.
  • Reporting: Access and export the data and statistics on the working time, such as the total hours, the overtime, the absence, or the productivity, using formats such as charts, graphs, or reports.
  • Invoicing: Calculate and generate invoices based on the billable time and expenses.
  • Scheduling: Plan and manage the working time, such as the assignments, the shifts, the deadlines, or the holidays, using tools such as calendars, planners, or notifications.
  • Approval: Submit and review the working time, such as the timesheets, the invoices, or the requests, using tools such as workflows, signatures, or feedback.

How to track time with M-Files?

Advanced time tracking solution for M-Files allows you to:

  • Measure productivity and track how many working hours are spend on the internal and external projects
  • Set and monitor project activities
  • Automate payroll generate reports
The CtrlTime Application Logo - Time Tracking for M-Files

Use CtrlTime

CtrlTime can be conveniently integrated within your M-Files Vault. This ensures that employees will be able to learn how to use it quickly and won’t require any extensive training.


the EWTD is a set of rules that aim to protect the health and safety of workers in the EU by limiting the number of hours they can work per week, and by ensuring they have adequate rest periods and annual leave. The EWTD has various benefits and challenges for the workers and employers, and it is important to implement effective time registration systems, which are tools that help to track time, record, and analyze the work of your employees. Time registration systems have various features and functions, as well as benefits and challenges, and it is important to choose and use appropriate time registration systems, which are tools that suit the needs and preferences of the workers and employers, and that comply with the relevant rules and standards.