New EU Big Brother law. All employees to be clocked on and off

Graham Charles Lear
3 min readMay 15, 2019


27.6 million citizens in the UK soon to be monitored

Large cost for a business to implement ‘time and attendance’ systems for all workers

Yesterday in a far-reaching single decision, the judges at the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that all employers, of any size, must set up a time and attendance system for all their employees.

Member states — including the UK even if it ‘leaves’ the EU on 31 October — will have to pass a new law which means that employees’ attendance at their places of work will be monitored.

Foreign judges, foreign laws, local effects

Mrs. Mays’ surrender treaty keeps the UK under EU law

UK will still be under the CJEU rulings even during May’s ‘Transition Period’

This new ruling will affect 27.6 million people in the UK in paid employment (Source: ONS)

The cost will be borne by businesses

UK Government raised objections but these were overruled by the EU judges

The ruling (ECLI:EU:C:2019:402)

In their ruling, the judges of the CJEU, formerly known as the ECJ, said:-

“…in order to ensure the effectiveness of the rights provided for in the Working Time Directive and the Charter, the Member States must require employers to set up an objective, reliable and accessible system enabling the duration of time worked each day by each worker to be measured.”

They also considered the question of the massive costs to business in implementing this, which were raised by the UK Government. The judges said that this ruling: “should not be subordinated to purely economic considerations”.

In other words: ‘Forget the costs, just do it.’

The case and its implications

The original case was brought by a Spanish trade union seeking to force a bank to monitor its employees’ time and overtime worked. However, this ruling creates obligations which affect every business, no matter how small, and which affect every person employed in the UK.

Under this ruling, I believe that the UK government will have to pass a new law requiring all employers to monitor the times each day when their employees are at work, when they are on a lunch break, etc.

The precise type of time-control system is left up to member states to legislate for, but failure to have a system in place could render even the smallest employer liable to prosecution, and would undoubtedly be used in employment tribunal cases across the country.

This will also place a burden on employees. It seems every employee will have to clock themselves on and off each day — and during the course of each day.

The reality of the EU and May’s Surrender Treaty

This is the reality of Mrs May’s surrender treaty — her so-called “Withdrawal Agreement”.

The difference between today, and the situation we would be in if we left under May’s surrender treaty is that the UK will no longer have any say at all. In the ruling yesterday the UK had a say and was overruled.

If Mrs. May’s ‘deal’ were passed we would no longer even be able to protest, as we would not even be present.

Caveat: I am not a lawyer and have seen no legal opinions on this news, as it hasn’t been publicized until now. The facts are as presented but I am not able to say exactly how the UK Government will draft a new law or amend existing ones. What I do know is that the precautionary principle will apply as it always does. In other words, the rules and regulations will be drawn widely, as always happens when the EU uses a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

[ Sources : Court of Justice of the European Union — judgement and press release | ONS ]



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.