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Time registration: what obligations are there (not)?

02 November 2021 Annelies Bries Employers

Is the time clock back? Time registration is on the table again, but not with the idea of controlling. We do, however, have to look after the welfare of our employees. After all, the time clock helps to keep work and private life more separate, and that can be useful in a hybrid work context. What does the legislation say about time registration? Can you use it today or in the future? We'll explain.

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Legislation on time registration

In recent years, time registration has been discussed at both European and Belgian level:

  • European legislation
    The European Court of Justice ruled on 14 May 2019 that each Member State within the European Union must ensure that the duration of each employee's daily working time can be measured, and is also effectively measured through objective systems.
  • Judgment Labour Court of Brussels
    In 2020, a remarkable judgment of the Labour Court of Brussels followed, stating that every employer has the obligation to set up an objective, reliable and accessible system to register the daily working time of every employee.
  • Brussels Labour Tribunal
    According to recent judgments of the Brussels Labour Tribunal, the employer is not at fault if he does not have a time registration system, as this is not (yet) prescribed by the Belgian legislator.

The crux of the matter: there is as yet no general obligation to record time, although Belgian labour law does provide for various control measures:

  • the compulsory use of a time-recording system in case of rolling shifts;
  • the compulsory registration of all deviations from the normal hourly schedule of part-time employees in a deviation register. You can replace this deviation register by using a time tracking system that meets certain conditions.
  • overtime, which is subject to strict rules;
  • the mandatory inclusion of all possible timetables (indicating the start, end,  and breaks) in the work rules;

Introducing a time registration system

Even though it is not mandatory, you can and may already use a time registration system today. Do you want to introduce it? Then you will probably have to make an adjustment to your employment regulations. The advantage of a time registration system is that it gives you as an employer more insight into the hours worked by your employees. On the other hand, your employees also get more autonomy and control, especially when there are sliding timetables.

Beware of the pitfalls of a time registration system. Don't use it to impose boundaries or to control (a lot), but to find a balance between the expectations of the company and the employees and to watch over the well-being of the employees.

Time registration for telework?

By the way, you can also enter time registration for telework, at least if the system you use allows it. In principle, your employee has to work the same number of hours as during a normal working day at the office, but he can determine his own schedule. Your employee may then choose when to perform those hours. In principle, you will never have to pay overtime.

If you are going to mandate that your employee must follow a specific schedule while telecommuting, and you are going to use a timekeeping system that shows that the employee is performing more hours than they should, then obviously you are going to have to pay for the overtime.

What will the future bring?

It is possible that the use of a time registration system will become mandatory in the future. Indeed, in the recent budget agreement it was announced that the social partners in the National Labour Council will have to give their opinion on how the ruling of the European Court of Justice will be implemented. So it remains to be seen what will be decided. Acerta will of course keep you informed.

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Written by Annelies Bries

Legal advisor at Acerta

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