{Study} Time recording and work life balance: working time monitor against overtime

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How much overtime does employees work in Germany? How many hours is that in your entire career? What can time recording systems change? The “Working Time Monitor” provides answers.

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Dr. Philip Bierbach Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®Dr. Philip Bierbach is Managing Director ofgehalt.de GmbH.


ECJ urges work time recording

The ECJ judgment of 14.05.2019 in case C 55/18 obliges Company to record the working hours of their employees. This means that all companies would have to install a timekeeping system. Now it is up to German jurisdiction how the verdict of the ECJ is dealt with.

In Germany, employers have until now been required to record overtime beyond the normal working time of eight hours per day. As usual, the reactions are very different: while unions welcome the verdict, it hails criticism from employers' organizations. Whether such a scheme reduces overtime, however, is doubtful.

About the study “Working Time Monitor”

In our “Working Hours Monitor”, we took a closer look at 215.403 details of employees regarding their overtime. The result: A third of the specialists in Germany work for more than a year free of charge over the course of their entire professional life. The result sounds even more dramatic for managers, because 74 percent of them work a total of 15.390 overtime hours without compensation. Again, that's a full 21 months.

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However, as extreme as these numbers may sound, 46 percent of employees claim that they are not working overtime. So we're dealing with very different work-life balances. But let's take a step back and take a closer look at the data. Around 40 percent of the data we examine comes from women and 60 percent from men. Most of the information is for professionals (92,6 percent). Only 7,4 percent are from executives.

Overtime by gender: men work a little longer

Looking at gender, we find that female employees working with 2,2 work overtime per week on average less than their male counterparts who work overtime on 3,7 weekly. One reason for this is the industry distribution. For example, in sectors where overtime is less prevalent, more women are found than in overtime-affected sectors.

For example, in social institutions we count more female employees than workers. Here's the average overtime hours at 2,24 hours per week. In return, we have more men in logistics and transportation, with weekly average weekly 4,23 overtime. But the industry is just one of the reasons for the gender difference. The distribution of women and men in management positions is also uneven. In positions with high overtime, we usually find more men than women.

Business consultants do the most overtime

Let's just stay with industries: Most of the overtime in this comparison is provided by management consultants. According to our evaluation, they are working overtime on 5,18.

One quarter of the employees working in this field are compensated. The usually high salary in the management consultancy should compensate for the additional burden.

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Hardly any regional differences

Interesting is the result for the comparison to states: Here, there is hardly a difference. This means that almost everywhere the same amount of work is done nationwide. At least in terms of the number of overtime hours. We see a slightly higher value in city states like Hamburg or Berlin.

Logically, metropolitan areas include most and also large companies. The likelihood of working overtime in these regions is simply higher. But in principle, one federal state has no influence on the number of overtime hours. The difference is due to economic structural factors.

Higher incomes lead to more overtime

Another, perhaps not so surprising result: In higher income classes, the number of overtime hours increases. While professionals with an annual salary of up to 20.000 spend Euro 1,9 overtime per week, those working above 120.000 Euro spend an additional 6,8 hours on average. Executives with over 120.000 Euro a year come in for over 10 hours a week.

Of course, the age has an effect on the overtime: Young professionals under 20 years pay on average 1,7 overtime per week. Employees between the ages of 30 and 39 come on 3,1 overtime. After the 60. Year of life, employees stay around 3,7 hours in the office every week. One reason for this is the higher proportion of managers the older the employees are.

Working time study - results in summary

Above all, our study clearly shows two aspects:

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  1. Many overtime at management level: Workers in Germany work a lot and above all the management level is strongly affected by overtime. However, we also know from our many years of observations that since 2009 less and less overtime incurred. 2009, after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the economy was bad and the uncertainty was correspondingly large. At that time, the average number of overtime hours was 6,6 per week. Since then, with the 10 boom, the number of overtime hours has dropped to 3,1 h / week. At the management level, however, overtime drops more slowly than with the skilled workers. Should overtime be covered nationwide in the future, the number of additional hours worked could increase again for a short time.
  2. Time recording means higher costsFrom a business point of view, time recording does not only mean higher bureaucracy, but above all higher costs. This is especially true in start-up companies in the start-up phase. We've seen a lot of overtime, especially among 30 executives. Until the 30. Year of life, they have already accumulated overtime on their account through 1.300. This commitment helps young companies to grow while keeping their personnel costs constant. If a working time record were to work, it would have growth-inhibiting consequences for such companies. But here, too, it is important to use the workforce with a sense of proportion.

Conclusion: New working models must not suffer from timekeeping

If the German case law complies with the ECJ ruling, even if only to a lesser extent, we have to rethink working hours and reconcile them with modern working models. Home office and remote work should not be affected.

They are part of our society today, which promotes family life and at the same time wants to be flexible in the job. The world of work 4.0 thus requires an equally flexible and modern time recording model. And of course, work is not only a duty but also necessary for a fulfilling life. It should not be overly limited or sanctioned.

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