Overtime: The State must better protect employees. – Business

It has now been almost two and a half years since the European Court of Justice literally drowned the unions in this country. Its much-noticed ground-breaking judgment of 14 May 2019 reads like a big promise: in the future, all EU member states should require employers to accurately record not only overtime, but all working time. work of their employees. The great hope was therefore that workers would be protected from exploitation and overload by judgment. At least that’s the theory.

In practice, the project in Germany has so far failed miserably, ricocheting off an unruly federal government. So far, it has cleverly ignored the judgment of the European Court of Justice, although a specially commissioned legal opinion has confirmed the need for action. As a result, the working atmosphere has not become more friendly, as can be seen in many places. In agencies, architectural firms and design offices, to name but a few examples, you can still see the lights come on after 8 p.m. and employees look at their screens. Or the already scarce staff in hospitals, restaurants and hotels complain about having to work poorly paid overtime shifts. In the 2020 pandemic year alone, it should be alarming, employees in Germany worked 1.67 billion hours of overtime. More than half remained unpaid.

This condition is all the more deplorable as many people suffer from the high level of health exposure. Numerous studies have shown this. They develop sleep disturbances, eating disorders, burnout syndromes, depression and, in the worst case, heart disease. The pandemic has also already left its mark. In the home office in particular, it is difficult for employees to distinguish between work and leisure. They do the housework, raise the kids, and sit at their desks at night writing emails. Before showing weakness, they sacrifice their precious free time. If necessary, even without payment.

It would be a fatal signal to relax the law on working time. Only employers would benefit

It is high time for the state to make employers responsible and better protect employees – including against themselves. It should finally implement the demands of the ECJ and establish a workable law on the recording of working hours. But it is to be feared that politicians will continue to take no initiative. The FDP wants to relax the current law on working time. She wants to keep the maximum weekly working time of 48 hours, but it should be possible to increase the daily working hours. This attitude is reflected in the exploratory document with the SPD and the Greens. There is no mention of full documentation of working hours, as required by the ECJ. Instead, it is said that they want to create the “limited opportunity” to deviate from existing regulations of the Working Hours Act regarding maximum daily working hours.

There is no doubt that these flexible working hours can bring benefits. In the modern world of work, individual freedom is offered in many professions. Employees who still write an email in the evening or want to work 13 hours instead of the maximum allowed of ten hours each day are no longer breaking the law. And yet it would be a fatal signal to relax the law on working time. It would legalize ineligible overtime and accept overloading people with approval. The only major beneficiaries would be employers.

You benefit from it if the authorized daily working hours are increased and the time registration required by the ECJ does not take place. A dangerous tolerance would set in quickly. Twelve-hour working days would not only be normal, they would also be secretly expected. Instead of protecting employees from overtime, the pressure would continue to grow. A study by the Hans Böckler Foundation has just shown that employees in companies without time recording work significantly more overtime in the home office.

If researchers and industrial psychologists are to be believed, it is not efficient to work nine, ten or even more hours at a time anyway. Performance and concentration decrease. So, no one should be afraid if the time registration should finally arrive. It only makes the world of work more transparent and fairer.

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