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Working hours: when does it start and when does it end?
Business trips, moving, smoking breaks, booting up the computer - our guide reveals which activities count towards working hours.
By Michael Vogel
When does working time start and when does it end?
If there is electronic time recording, clocking in and clocking out marks both the beginning and the end of working hours. Without time recording, the time of appearance at the workplace is the actual start of work for the vast majority of employees. The same applies analogously to the end of work.
Is the lunch break part of working hours?
Definitely no. The working time within the meaning of the Working Hours Act is the time from the beginning to the end of work without the breaks. Only in underground mining do the breaks count as part of working hours.
Is moving part of your working hours?
For activities in which work clothing is absolutely necessary, changing at work is also part of working hours. Nurses or doctors, for example, are already working when they slip into their “white clothes”. However, this does not apply to craftsmen or industrial workers who slip into overalls. Because this type of clothing is not mandatory.
Do you work while going to the toilet or getting coffee around the corner?
From a labor law perspective, both going to the toilet and going to the coffee machine count towards working hours. Because the employer has to respect the personal needs of the employees due to personal rights.
Do you work while smoking?
Since more and more companies have banned cigarettes in the workplace, smokers have to pursue their addiction outdoors or in designated rooms. Many employees are then inevitably not productive for their company. “There are more and more companies that require their employees to clock out before they go to smoke,” says Regina Steiner, specialist lawyer for labor law at the Steiner Mittländer law firm in Frankfurter am Main.
On the other hand, according to the Working Hours Act, a break may be divided into a maximum of 15-minute sections. “Since less time is usually required for a cigarette, strictly speaking, the employee does not take a break from smoking,” explains Steiner. "But if he doesn't take a break, he doesn't have to clock out either." However, if this is referred to, the employer may prohibit smoking entirely during working hours. “You can hardly see it as a‘ personal need ’like going to the toilet,” says Steiner.
Does a sales representative already work when he drives from home to the first customer?
Yes, if he regularly drives from home directly to the first customer in the morning. If, on the other hand, the employee works at the company headquarters and only occasionally looks after customers outside the home, the time from the drive to the customer is not working time that he normally needs to go to the company.
Where are the working hours set?
When exactly the working hours start and end is often stipulated in works agreements or there is a corresponding instruction from the employer. Collective agreements, on the other hand, only regulate the scope of the work. Because of his authority to issue instructions, the employer may also determine the length of breaks, provided that it does not contradict the statutory provisions. For example, he may order that the lunch break in a company lasts longer than the 30 minutes required by law. If there is a works council in the company, this can only be done with its consent.
What is the maximum permitted daily working time?
The Working Hours Act stipulates that the normal daily working time is eight hours; more than ten hours are not allowed. Working days are Monday to Saturday, which in connection with the statutory regular working hours results in 48 hours per week. "If this number of hours per week is exceeded due to operational requirements, it is still legally compliant if it is reached at least as an average value over the course of six months," says Regina Steiner, specialist lawyer for labor law at the Steiner Mittländer law firm in Frankfurter am Main.
However, if the daily working time exceeds ten hours, this is illegal. This also applies, for example, to work assignments at trade fairs, even if this is repeatedly violated - at least approvingly - in these extreme situations.
Is a visit to the doctor counted as working time during actual working hours?
Basically no, because visits to the doctor have to be done in your free time. There are only two exceptions to this: Either it is an emergency or the doctor cannot schedule the appointment during the employee's free time. In this case, however, the employee must present a corresponding certificate from the doctor. In both cases it is then working time.
Do business trips belong to working hours?
Travel times are not automatically working hours. Those hours that are outside the arranged working hours or core working hours of a company are only considered working hours if the employee drives the car himself or works during the trip.
So if someone works ten hours and then sits on the plane for ten hours before working ten hours again, that is legally flawless. Overnight stays during a business trip lasting several days or a training course also do not count as working hours. (Image: ShankaraJN)
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