Wage theft and exploitation still plague employees in Europe

Dorothy Chong | June 11, 2019

The EU’s latest time tracking ruling serves as an opportune reminder

A recent survey by TSheets of more than 3,500 working adults in Spain and Germany revealed that employees continue to fall victim to wage theft, adding weight and reason to the EU’s recent time tracking ruling. The recent mandate, in short, requires employers to establish detailed methods of tracking the hourly work of employees to ensure full compensation, instead of just recording overtime hours, as required in the past. In Spain, 19% of employees say they’ve been victims of wage theft; meanwhile, in Germany, the number is at 16%. Employees in Spain and Germany say they've been victims of wage theft 

54% of overtime hours went unrecorded and unpaid

A lawsuit from the Spanish trade union, Federación de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), argued that because of inadequate time tracking and recordkeeping, 54% of overtime hours in Spain went unrecorded and unpaid, according to a 2016 survey. There was also no way to determine if employers complied with the minimum daily and weekly rest periods, threatening the well-being of employees under the EU’s Working Time Directive. 

‘I don’t know’ signals bigger problems

In the TSheets survey, employees admit to not knowing if they have been exploited, suggesting the number of victims might be higher. This group makes up 16% in Spain and 15%in Germany. The mobility enjoyed by EU workers under the Citizens’ Right Directive has always been a point of contention. Employees find themselves in foreign countries with unfamiliar labour laws, leaving them susceptible to exploitation. Employees in Spain and Germany don't know if they've been victims of wage theft 

A 21st-century solution for an age-old problem

The ruling also arrived nearly a year after the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—the debate between an employer’s right to monitor and an employee’s right to privacy continues. In response to the ruling, the Confederation of German Employers’ Association issued a statement: “We, the employers, are against the universal reintroduction of the punch clock in the 21st century. One cannot react to the challenges of Work 4.0 with a timekeeping system 1.0.” But not all agree. Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg Opinion’s columnist based in Berlin, opined that the ruling can yield to useful data on productivity and profitability while ensuring the information is readily available to keep abuse and negligence at bay.The technology and accountability behind modern-day time tracking have long surpassed the days of handwritten timesheets and physical punch cards hinted in the earlier statement. Features such as GPS tracking and geofencing allow employers and employees to reap the rewards of transparency with expressed consent and without sacrificing privacy, offering the relief and resolution to fulfill both the EU time tracking ruling and GDPR. 
*Methodology: TSheets by QuickBooks commissioned Google Surveys to poll 3,698 employed for wages adults with internet access in Germany and Spain. Respondents were rewarded for their participation. The data was collected on May 29, 2019, with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points.
TSheets by QuickBooks welcomes the re-use of this data under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided the original source is cited with attribution to “TSheets by QuickBooks.”
Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and was accurate at the time of publication. It is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal advice. You should consult your own advisors before engaging in any transaction.
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