Companies operating in EU member states must set up a system to record the working time of their members of staff, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled
The court said it was necessary to record employees' hours so that legal working time limits can be properly applied.
"In order to ensure the effectiveness of the rights provided for in the Working Time Directive and the Charter, the Member States 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," said the ECJ in a statement.
Each country will be free to define how to implement such a system, it added.
The May 14 ruling comes after a case brought to the ECJ by Federación de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), a Spanish trade union that asked for Deutsche Bank to be forced to set up a system recording working hours for its employees in Spain.
"The union considered that such a system would make it possible to verify compliance with the stipulated working times and the obligation, laid down in national law, to provide union representatives with information on overtime worked each month," said the ECJ.
Deutsche Bank was not recording its employees' working hours because it said that Spanish law only requires to keep a record of overtime hours worked by members of staff.
According to information cited in the ECJ statement, 53.7% of overtime hours worked in Spain are not recorded. Spanish companies are also legally obliged to know precisely the number of normal hours worked in order to determine whether overtime has been worked.
"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, objectively and reliably, 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, if not impossible in practice, for workers to ensure that their rights are complied with", the ECJ noted in its statement.