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How do Germany's new rules on recording working hours affect you?

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
How do Germany's new rules on recording working hours affect you?
According to Germany's Working Hours Act, employees' work time should now be recorded on a daily basis. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Martin Schutt

A regulation has come into effect that requires employers to track working time for all of their employees on a daily basis. But will the law truly bolster workers' rights or just become an annoyance to employers and employees alike?


Since March 4th, employers in Germany are now legally required to track the working hours of their employees.

The so-called Working Hours Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz) comes as the result of a Federal Labour Court (BAG) ruling from September 2022, which referred back to a 2019 ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that stated that member states should be implementing systems to record how many hours per week employees are working.

Until recently, however, the court rulings had not been officially enforced.

By requiring employers to track employees’ working hours, the court is aiming to crack down on illegal exploitation of workers, such as unpaid labour or unpaid overtime.

According to the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), in 2023 the average employee in Germany worked an average of 13.2 hours of paid, and 18.4 hours of unpaid overtime. Additionally, IAB notes that unpaid overtime is more common in the East.

Previously there was no requirement for most employers to record working hours on a daily basis, with many workers in Germany essentially trusting their bosses or HR personnel to keep track of hours and pay accordingly.

The primary exceptions to this were minimum wage workers, and workers in industries like construction or catering, which are already required to keep track of their hours.

READ ALSO: Is Germany becoming a 'low wage' country?

Additionally employers were already required to track hours worked on Sundays and public holidays.

How it affects your work day

Ultimately responsibility falls on employers to set up a system that allows employees to easily track their real hours worked.

According to Germany’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, employers must “introduce a system with which the working time worked by employees can be recorded”, and also use the system.


But the Working Hours Act isn't specific about how businesses should record their employees' working time – both handwritten or electronic tracking systems are an option. The primary requirements, according to the ECJ's ruling, are that the system should be forgery-proof and traceable.

Additionally, employers may delegate the recording of working time to employees.

So businesses that already keep track of working hours with timesheets, by hand or electronically, can continue using these methods. Meaning that for many employees in Germany the new regulation may not result in any significant change to their workdays.

In other cases, the rule may add one more small task to employees’ daily workflow.

There is reason to question if the Working Hours Act will actually amount to better workers’ protections or if it’s just creating yet another piece of bureaucratic data collection for employers and employees alike.


Since either employers or employees can self-report working hours, tracking working-time effectively remains trust-based.

One employee at a large German-based firm, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Local that their company made a concerted effort to communicate that workers are to update a time-sheet on a daily basis now.

But just a couple weeks later, employees have found themselves hurriedly back-filling working hours from the previous weeks without double checking their real working hours.

READ ALSO: How Germany is trialling the four day working week


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