Project time tracking

Violation of the Working Hours Act " Penalties & rules ✓

A violation of the Working Hours Act can lead to severe fines, both for companies and for responsible managers. Compliance with the regulations through accurate time recording is therefore of crucial importance.
Violation of the Working Hours Act " Penalties & rules ✓

In the modern world of work Flexible working hours and overtime is often the rule. But where is the line between dedicated commitment and unlawful behaviour? The German Working Hours Act sets clear boundaries to protect employees. In our blog article, we shed light on the legal provisions, explain possible penalties for violations and provide practical tips on how both employees and employers can comply with the regulations and protect themselves against Working time fraud can protect them.

Table of contents - What you can expect:

Fines - What does a working time offence cost?
Everyone must adhere to these rules
Time recording is labour protection
Avoid violations of the Working Hours Act

Current requirements: How must working hours be recorded?

According to the German Working Hours Act, working hours must be recorded accurately and reliably in order to ensure compliance with legal regulations. In particular, Section 16 (2) ArbZG stipulates that the employer is obliged to record working hours in excess of the working day and to keep the records for at least two years. This documentation obligation serves to protect employees and to allow the supervisory authorities to check this.

Fines: How much do offences against the Working Hours Act cost?

Accurate recording of project time is not only good business practice, but also a legal requirement in Germany and, in some cases, a collective labour agreement. Companies that violate the Working Hours Act expose themselves to the risk of fines and other consequences.

Extract from the catalogue of fines

Violations of the Working Hours Act are often treated as administrative offences and can result in fines of up to 30,000 € per offence can be penalised. These fines can be imposed both on the company and on the responsible manager personally. The exact amount of the fine is at the discretion of the competent supervisory authority (e.g. district government, labour inspectorate). The current catalogue of fines published by the State Committee for Occupational Health and Safety and Safety Technology (LASI) is published.

The five most common offences and their fines:

Infringement Fine
Exceeding the daily working time limit
("10-hour limit")
Up to 1 hour: 80 €

Each additional half hour or part thereof: €100

Exceeding the average working time limit
("8-hour limit")
Per started hour: 600 €
Failure to grant prescribed breaks For each prescribed break not granted: € 400
Undercutting the minimum rest period (11 hours) Per started hour: 80 €
Violation of the obligation to record working hours Per case per employee: € 1,600

Even if the individual fines seem manageable at first, they can quickly add up to five or six-figure sums, even in smaller companies. This is due to the fact that the Limitation period two years and the supervisory authority can check the time sheets of all employees for the last 24 months in order to penalise any infringements found. In addition Repeated and intentional offencesthat jeopardise the health of an employee may be prosecuted. These can be penalised with Prison sentences of up to one year or be penalised with fines.

Reputational damage

Companies that violate time recording regulations risk their reputation and credibility. This can lead to a loss of trust among customers, business partners and employees and have long-term negative effects. Violations of occupational health and safety laws quickly lead to negative media coverage, as in the case of an Amazon subcontractor in 2021 who was criticised in the ZDF magazine "Frontal". At the time, Amazon filed criminal charges after the subcontractor exploited its employees, resulting in barely sustainable salaries, work pressure, unpaid overtime and disregard for statutory rest periods.

Violation of the Working Hours Act: Which rules must be adhered to?

Violations of working time regulations are no trifling matter - on the contrary. They affect the health of employees and can cause high costs in an emergency. The saying "ignorance is no defence against punishment" applies particularly to working hours. As the Working Hours Act is intended to ensure the health and safety of employees, the responsibility for compliance lies with the employer.

Break time

It's not just your body that signals when it's high time for a break, the legislator also has strict rules on when you MUST take a break. This is regulated in the Working Hours Act § 4.

Working time per day Minimum duration of the break Maximum working time without a break
6 to 9 hours 30 minutes 6 hours
Over 9 hours 45 minutes 6 hours

After six hours at the latest, the legislator requires a Rest break - This also applies to the most dedicated workaholic. However, employees can divide their breaks into several sections - the break does not have to be taken in one go. A small example calculation: You start work at 8 am. According to the ArbZG, you must then take a break of 30 minutes by 2 pm at the latest. However, you can divide this half hour into two 15-minute sections - for example, one break from 12.30 to 12.45 and the next from 13.45 to 14.00. But be careful: a break block must be at least 15 minutes long!

Maximum working hours

Suppose an employee in a company is unexpectedly absent while at the same time an urgent complaint has to be processed and an important customer enquiry is received. Another employee, Müller, is the last one to stay in the office after a 12-hour day to get everything done - but this is against the Working Hours Act. This is because the following limits apply to the maximum working hours:

Rule Description of the
Weekly working hours Maximum 48 hours per week, spread over Monday to Saturday
Daily working time Maximum 8 or 10 hours per day
Flexibility Monday to Thursday 10 hours each, Friday 8 hours, split is permitted
Boundaries Maximum 60 hours per week, cannot be allocated to 5 days
Exceptions Increase to a maximum of 10 hours per day requires an average of 8 hours within 6 months or 24 weeks

Rest periods

There are different views on whether you live to work or work to live. However, there is no room for debate when it comes to the statutory rest period: There must be at least 11 hours between the end of one working day and the start of the next - even in the following situations:

📞 A phone call after a business lunch counts as working time and the 11-hour rest period begins afterwards.

🍽️ Business meals count as working time if they are part of the job or have been ordered by the manager.

🏡 The statutory regulations on rest periods must also be observed when working from home.

Sundays and public holidays

The Working Hours Act stipulates a general ban on working on Sundays and public holidays, with exceptions for certain professions and emergencies. Employees who nevertheless have to work on these days are entitled to at least 15 Sundays off per year. Exceptions can be requested for work on Sundays and public holidays, but substitute rest days must be granted, usually within two weeks for Sundays and within eight weeks for public holidays.

However, it is possible to apply to the relevant supervisory authority for an exemption authorisation to work on these days. This includes

1. a maximum of 10 Sundays and public holidays per year in the retail sector for Sundays open for business.

2. one Sunday a year to carry out the statutory inventory.

3. a maximum of 5 Sundays and public holidays per year to prevent disproportionate damage, whereby this damage must be significant and working on these days must be justified. This could be, for example, the threat of production downtime due to unexpected repairs.

Special features: What are the exceptions?

As is generally known, exceptions prove the rule - even when it comes to working hours:

Business trips
The assessment of whether travelling time is to be regarded as working time depends on the means of transport used and how employees are allowed or required to spend the time while travelling. For Travelling by plane or train travelling time is considered working time if employees are required to work. However, if they are free to organise themselves and use the time for recreation or personal activities, it is regarded as free time. In the case of Car journeys to the customer the journey time for the driver is working time, while the co-driver usually has free time.
Secondary employment
If employees work part-time for another employer or are self-employed on a part-time basis, both the maximum permitted working hours and the rest period of 11 hours in total apply. The Working Hours Act mainly focuses on dependent employment, but running your own business is generally permitted as long as it is not in competition with your main employer. However, excessive self-employment may be inadmissible, especially if it leads to overtiredness and impairs the fulfilment of the main employer's obligations under labour law.
Special groups of people
It is important to note that for particularly vulnerable groups such as pregnant and breastfeeding women, Young people under the age of 18 and severely disabled persons, special provisions and restrictions on working hours may apply. These relate in particular to the maximum permitted working hours, overtime and work on Sundays and public holidays.

When is it particularly important to record working hours? 3 examples

The importance of accurate time and attendance recording extends across various areas, from public procurement to customer billing and labour law compliance. Especially in industries where public funds are involved or hourly billing is common, accurate time recording is essential to avoid contractual penalties and maintain customer trust.

Public contracts

When awarding public contracts, there are often strict requirements for project time recording. Contracting authorities require detailed records to ensure that contractual obligations are met and public funds are used correctly. Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to contractual penalties or even exclusion from future contracts.

Customer billing

If you bill clients by the hour, it is essential to accurately record project time. Errors or irregularities in project time recording can lead to a loss of trust with your customers and jeopardise the financial integrity of your company. It can also lead to disputes over services rendered and payment defaults. This can be remedied with time sheets that can be sent regularly during the project. The invoice appendix then itemises all the time worked in detail.

Labour law provisions

At the latest with the BAG ruling and the resulting draft bill from the BMAS, the recording of working hours has also become mandatory in Germany. In some sectors, working conditions are also regulated by collective agreements. These can contain individual requirements for project time recording to ensure that working hours and remuneration are recorded correctly - particularly in the construction, healthcare and retail sectors.
Unless otherwise stipulated in collective agreements or company/service agreements, the following applies: Working time must be documented (electronically). Companies with up to 10 employees are exempt from the electronic recording obligation according to the Draft bill of the BMAS However, all employees - with the exception of those in the public sector - must record their times in another form.

ZEP: Your tool for avoiding violations of the Working Hours Act!

We know that recording project times can be a complex and demanding task. Companies face various challenges when it comes to accurately recording and documenting project time. Are you still relying on manual project time tracking methods? Don't do that! Errors and inaccuracies are virtually inevitable. Why?

Forgotten or incorrectly entered project times by employees

Susceptibility to human error with manual recordings

💸 Possible consequences: incorrect invoicing, excessive working hours, irregularities in reports

🔍 Lack of transparency due to incorrect or incomplete project time recording

📊 Lack of overview in billing leads to difficulties in planning and cost control

⚠️ Risk of not keeping an eye on project progress and recognising problems in good time

It is advisable to ensure that suitable measures are implemented so that you can best protect yourself from legal consequences. A modern software solution for Project time tracking like ZEP can help you ensure compliance with legal requirements and avoid potential consequences. With ZEP, you already fulfil all legal and working time requirements.

Conclusion

In the modern world of work, compliance with the Working Hours Act is essential to protect both employees and employers. Violations can lead to severe fines and damage a company's reputation. Accurate working time recording is therefore crucial in order to comply with legal regulations and avoid potential consequences. Modern solutions such as ZEP make this task easier and offer transparency and legal security.

FAQ

Who is liable for over 10 hours of work?

Both the company and the manager responsible can be held personally accountable for violations of the Working Hours Act, especially if working hours exceed 10 hours per day. This can lead to fines and, in the case of repeated or wilful violations, even criminal prosecution.

Who controls the Working Hours Act?

The supervisory authorities, such as the district government or the labour inspectorate, are responsible for monitoring compliance with the Working Hours Act in accordance with the state laws. These authorities can Work time tracking and impose fines for violations. The Länderausschuss für Arbeitsschutz und Sicherheitstechnik (LASI) publishes a catalogue of fines as a guide to the level of penalties.

Tanja Hartmann CEP

Tanja Hartmann

Content Marketing Manager at ZEP

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