Time sheet: template, content and legal aspects

Smartwatch, record working hours

Timesheets, whether as traditional timesheets or elegant and digital, are useful and important in many industries. In this article, you will find out what you need to bear in mind, the benefits of timesheets and the best way to implement them.


Time sheets are becoming more and more standard. In many industries, working hours have been meticulously recorded for decades. Since the latest decisions by the European Court of Justice and the Federal Labor Court, it has become clear that employers throughout Europe are required to record working hours. What many find annoying, however, sometimes has tangible benefits.

Function and benefits of time sheets

  • Occupational health and safety: The first and causal function of time sheets is occupational health and safety: Legislation requires employers to comply with the applicable rules on maximum working hours, minimum break times and minimum rest periods in accordance with the Working Hours Act (ArbZG). Time sheets are therefore your safeguard in the event of an inspection by customs.
  • Planning: The working time account is calculated on the basis of the timesheets. If the documentation has been kept continuously, which is fortunately becoming easier and cheaper thanks to digital tools, both you and your employees know at all times how many overtime or undertime hours they currently have. This allows you to consciously build up credit balances, for example to compensate for the off-season or order slumps.
  • Payroll accounting: Where hourly wages are paid, the procedure has of course long been standard, but payroll accounting for salary earners also becomes easier if proper timesheets are kept, especially if expenses due to business trips are added.
  • Invoicing: Anyone who works on a project basis, for example in the trade or agency business, would like to pass on the hours worked by their employees to the customer. It is obvious that this is simply impossible without a time sheet.
  • Evidence: In times of working from home, many employers are concerned that they no longer see their employees regularly. Of course, no time recording system that respects data protection and personal freedom of movement can determine whether they actually work as stated. However, false information on working hours constitutes working time fraud, which in the event of a dispute is more serious than a mere breach of working hours.

Contents of a time sheet

There are clear specifications for the classic form of time sheet. These basically don't include much more than the hours worked with the date and time. However, if you want to take advantage of all the benefits of the time sheet, keep the following information to hand:

  • Rest and break times: As an employer, you have a duty under the Working Hours Act to ensure compliance with minimum rest periods, maximum working hours and minimum break times. Calculating these on an ongoing basis is fiddly in Excel and downright impossible on paper. Here you are on the safe side with the appropriate software.
  • At best, software will also take care of calculating the working time account and thus the overtime and undertime. Bear in mind that absences play a role here, that business trips are also part of working time and that, depending on the time of day and day of the week, collectively agreed bonuses must be granted.
  • If you want to record the working hours of your employees for internal controlling or for invoicing to customers, assign the individual time blocks to the corresponding projects, clients or accounts. Project management tools, sometimes industry-specific, can also help you with effective evaluation.

Timesheets are also easy

Quick, easy, digital - register to use it for free!


There are various pieces of legislation on time sheets. However, the much-vaunted Working Hours Act is not one of them - at least not yet. Instead, the Posted Workers Act (AEntG) states that working hours must be documented within 7 days. They must also be kept on this basis for at least 2 years. It should be noted here: Under tax law, timesheets should be kept for at least 10 years. So you are on the safe side.

Special case of sectors susceptible to undeclared work

Undeclared work can occur in practically all sectors, but some are naturally more susceptible to it than others. In sectors that are particularly susceptible to undeclared work, experience has shown that customs authorities look particularly closely and inspections are expected to be more frequent overall.

If you work in one of the following sectors, you should pay particular attention to proper documentation:

  • Construction industry,
  • Restaurant and accommodation industry,
  • Passenger transportation industry,
  • Forwarding, transportation and logistics,
  • Showmanship,
  • Forestry,
  • Building cleaning trade,
  • Trade fair and exhibition construction,
  • Meat industry,
  • Prostitution trade,
  • Guard and security industry

Rights of employees

Your employees have no fixed right to inspect the time sheets. However, according to the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG), they have the right to inspect their own personnel files. If the time sheets are part of the personnel file, they can therefore argue that they also have the right to inspect them.

Keep timesheets quickly and easily

There are many ways to record timesheets, because in the end they are always just documentation of the hours worked. However, if you want to take advantage of all the benefits of proper timesheets, you will hardly be able to avoid comprehensive and digital time recording.

Sawayo's digital working time recording offers you the option of creating frequently used working time models in your company as templates and assigning them to your employees so that you don't have to make the same settings every time.

Based on the assigned working time models, your employees then record their working times independently - all you have to do is check them and correct them if necessary. This saves you a lot of time both when recording and checking. Unlike pen and paper, the right software gives you exactly the figures you need, such as the hours worked in a month or the current overtime. This not only fulfills your obligation to provide evidence, but also gives you valuable information for controlling.

It also gets interesting with historical data, because neither filing cabinets nor Excel files are known for being easy to handle when they are miles long. Especially in an open file, there is also the risk of subsequent manipulation. Sawayo helps you here too: historical data can be saved with a single click and thus protected against manipulation. At the same time, your employees can still view their times.

Timesheets are therefore a complex issue that can become complicated if approached incorrectly. However, if you have a clean process behind it, you not only fulfill your obligations as an employer, but also gain tangible benefits and efficiency gains.

Timesheets are also easy

Quick, easy, digital - register to use it for free!


We would like to point out that the contents of our website (including any legal contributions) are for non-binding informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice in the strict sense. The content of this information cannot and is not intended to replace individual and binding legal advice that addresses your specific situation. In this respect, all information provided is without guarantee of accuracy, completeness and timeliness.

You want to learn more?

Book a call with one of our product experts and learn how Sawayo can make your job easier - or just get started for free.