24 October 2022

Time recording in the home office: Is the time clock now coming home?

Since the "Time clock ruling" of the Federal Labour Court the topic of time recording is (again) on everyone's lips. There are still many questions that need to be answered, for example: What will time recording in the home office look like in the future? We have compiled the most important facts and figures.

Home office: many terms, no binding definition

"Home office - what does that actually mean exactly?" What sounds like a banal question at first glance is anything but banal at second (legal) glance. On the one hand, there is currently (still) no binding legal definition for the workplace at home, on the other hand, the term is often used analogously to terms such as "mobile working", "teleworking" or "remote work". The home office is primarily defined by the place where an employee performs his or her work. In this context, experts assume a fixed workplace outside the company at which the employee regularly performs his or her work. And for this reason, the employer is actually also obliged to check whether the employee's workplace at home meets the same legal requirements as the workplace at work. The desk in the children's room or kitchen table in the one-room flat familiar from many Corona postings certainly does not.

Right to home office

Another "bone of contention" from Corona times. Back in October 2020, the then - and now - Federal Minister of Labour presented a bill for mobile working, which provided that full-time employees would be entitled to 24 days of home office per year. In the previous government, he was unable to get his way with this and is therefore currently trying again.

The Mobile Work Act is currently available as a draft bill. It is intended to create reliable legal framework conditions for home office. The draft stipulates that "employers must discuss the possibility of home office with employees who want to work from home. Together they should aim to reach an agreement". There is no longer any talk of a "right" to home office. Thus, the current regulation still applies, in which the employer alone decides whether employees are allowed to work from home. It is not yet known when the legal regulation for mobile working will be introduced.

Home office obligation

As far as the home office obligation known from the past two years is concerned, the Federal Cabinet passed a new Corona Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance at the end of August 2022 with specifications on infection protection in the workplace: After massive criticism, the home office obligation will not be reintroduced after all.

What are the actual working hours in a home office?

Of course, the working hours that are also customary in the company and laid down in the relevant company or service agreement also generally apply to work at home. Many employees whose work is at all suitable for the home office now work flexitime. In these cases, the fixed framework working hours then apply.

Of course, all regulations of the Working Hours Act also apply without restriction in the home office. This means: The maximum working time of ten hours per day may not be exceeded under any circumstances. The rest period of eleven hours after finishing work until the start of the next working day must be observed. After six hours of work, a break of half an hour and - if the working time is nine hours or more - even 45 minutes must be taken. Sunday work is also prohibited in the home office. So much for the theory. The fact that these regulations are hardly observed in practice in times when many employees are "always online" is another matter. However, they are still relevant for time recording.

Time recording in the home office: time clock next to the fridge or in the children's room?

So is the time clock now also coming home? In principle, yes. The BAG ruling mentioned at the beginning does not deal at all with new forms of work such as the home office. The court succinctly states: "The employer is obliged under section 3, paragraph 2, no. 1 of the ArbSchG to introduce a system with which the working time worked by employees can be recorded". There is no mention of exceptions, e.g. in the home office, so conversely it must be assumed that the ruling also applies to work at home.

Time recording in the home office - no problem thanks to software or app

Those who are already looking for a place for the time clock next to the fridge or in the children's room can stop now. There are now numerous ways to record working hours via software or a mobile app - and thus fulfil all legal requirements.

For example, the ZEP Clock a user-friendly solution for pure working time recording with simple evaluation options in the browser, as a mobile app for iOS and Android or - on site at the company - with the ZEP Terminal.

Time recording for project-oriented companies - no problem thanks to ZEP

Companies in management consultancy or software development, engineering firms or advertising agencies are faced with the additional challenge, apart from the pure time recording, that the employees not only record their working hours completely, even in the home office, but that they also document for which project or which client they have worked. Only in this way is precise project controlling possible and only in this way is it possible to promptly account for the project working hours worked - regardless of WHERE they were worked.

ZEP was developed precisely for these companies. The solution enables time and location-independent time recording and allocation to the corresponding projects - via web interface or mobile app.

For more information on the various applications and modules of ZEP, please visit the ZEP website.