Maximum number of working hours

Working hours - Maximum number of working hours

Working hours include hours spent working as well as any hours that employees are expected to spend at the workplace at their employer’s disposal.

Working hours monitoring systems

It is important to keep in mind the definition of working hours and only record the actual hours worked in an unambiguous manner. Records of working hours and payroll records must be kept separate. 

The beginning of 2020 brought a shift from overtime monitoring to total hours monitoring at workplaces. The statutory ceiling for working hours was previously based on a ceiling set for overtime while, under the new system, the ceiling is based on total working hours.

The ceiling for total working hours applies to all work regardless of how working hours are organised, including, for example, flexible working hours schemes and flexible working time arrangements. The ceiling is calculated on the basis of all hours worked, regardless of whether they are regular working hours, additional work, overtime, emergency work or handovers. 

Maximum number of working hours during each adjustment period and per year

The provision concerning the absolute ceiling for the total number of working hours constitutes mandatory law. Working hours are calculated per employee and across adjustment periods the length of which must be determined in advance.

Each adjustment period is treated as a separate entity. The Working Hours Act does not specify a time as of which adjustment periods must be observed or the way in which the start dates and lengths of adjustment periods should be regulated by national collective agreements.

Pursuant to section 18 of the Working Hours Act, the rule of thumb is that employees’ total working hours, including any overtime, must not exceed an average of 48 hours per week over a four-month period.

However, national collective agreements can provide for an adjustment period of six months or, for technical or practical reasons, up to 12 months. The maximum number of hours that employees can work depends on the length of the adjustment period, which can thus vary between four and 12 months.

The time as of which adjustment periods are observed can be agreed in whichever manner is the most practical in the sector in which the employer operates.

From the perspective of compliance with the Working Hours Act and keeping track of employees’ working hours, the starting point should be that the ceiling for total working hours is monitored over regular four-month periods. The hours of any temporary workers must be monitored as of the beginning of their contract.

Considering the provisions of the Annual Holidays Act on employees’ annual holiday allowances, the maximum number of hours that employees can work each year on the basis of the Working Hours Act is approximately 2,300 hours (48 hours x the number of working weeks).

Transitional provisions

Employers have until 1 January 2021 to introduce a monitoring system based on total working hours. This leaves a transitional period of just over one year during which employers can use either an overtime monitoring system based on the old provisions or a system based on monitoring employees’ total hours under the new provisions.

Transitioning from a monitoring system based on overtime to a system based on total working hours could complicate matters for employers if the switch took place in the middle of an adjustment period or another reference period, and the transitional provisions are designed to give employers flexibility to bring their working hours monitoring systems into line with the new provisions of the Working Hours Act at the most opportune time.