At the beginning of 2019, some important key changes to German labor law came into force. In particular, there were significant changes to the Part-Time and Fixed-Term Work Act, which are described in more detail in the following article.
On 1 January 2019, section 9a was newly inserted into the Part-Time Work and Fixed-Term Employment Contracts Act (TzBfG). This new provision entitles employees to a limited reduction in working hours for a period of between a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years, so-called “bridge part-time”. After this period of time has elapsed, the employee automatically returns to his original working hours. In comparison to other limited rights to part-time working, for example from the “Pflegezeitgesetz” or the “Bundeselterngeld- und Elternzeitgesetz”, the new section 9a TzBfG does not require any further prerequisites, only that the employee has been employed for at least six months and the employer must normally employ more than 45 employees. The employer can refuse the part-time request for urgent operational reasons only. In addition, employers who employ more than 45 but fewer than 201 employees can refuse a part-time request if a certain number of employees are already employed part-time. Starting from the threshold value of 45 employees, only one employee per 15 employees is entitled to a limited period of part-time working. Since the “first” 45 employees count fully, companies with up to 60 employees can only refer to the quota if 4 employees have already been granted temporary part-time work.
A further new provision in TzBfG is that in future employees must make their request to work part-time in writing and no longer merely informally. The requirements for a written rejection, on the other hand, remain unchanged.
The right of return to full-time work has also been changed. Irrespective of the new bridge part-time, it was already possible to return from part-time to full-time before. For this, however, the employer had to have a corresponding job vacancy and the employee had to prove this. In the future, the burden of proof lies with the employer to demonstrate that no corresponding job is available.
On 1 January 2019, stricter rules for work on call came into force. Work on call exists when the employee is obliged to perform his work according to the workload. Since these on call agreements often entail difficulties for employees, particularly with regard to wage levels, section 12 of the Part-Time Work and Fixed-Term Employment Contracts Act was amended in order to provide employees with greater certainty. Since the amendment, where no maximum weekly working hours have been agreed, the employer may require an employee to work an additional maximum of 25 per cent of his weekly working time on call. If, on the other hand, maximum weekly working hours have been agreed, the employer may only require the employee to work an additional maximum of 20 per cent of his weekly working time on call. These changes implement the case law of the Federal Labor Court. Previously, there were no statutory restrictions on the extent to which work must be carried out on demand. Until 2019, there was also a statutory presumption that ten weekly working hours would be deemed to have been agreed if the employee and employer had not specified a number of hours. This has now been increased to 20 hours per week. Consequently, in the case of work on call, if no specific number of hours has been agreed, a weekly working time of 20 hours is deemed to have been agreed. As part of these adjustments, a new reference period was also established for continued pay in the event of illness and on public holidays. According to the 2019 amendment, a reference period of three months applies to the calculation of continued remuneration.