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The new German Works Council Modernization Act

The “Act to Promote Works Council Elections and Works Council Activities in a Digital Working World” (Betriebsrätemodernisierungsgesetz – Works Council Modernization Act) came into force on June 18, 2021. The Act is intended to facilitate the activities of works councils and to strengthen the co-determination rights of works councils with regard to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and the plans for more mobile working in companies.

Promoting works council electionsContinue Reading

Germany: Exclusion clauses put to the test

Regularly agreed in employment contracts, exclusion clauses shorten the statutory limitation period for claims arising in the employment relationship and ensure certainty between employer and employee especially with regards to claims that are years old. In a remarkable decision the German Federal Labour Court (BAG, 26.11.2020 – ref. 8 AZR 58/20) has fundamentally changed the case law with regard to the drafting of these clauses. A large number of the exclusion clauses used in practice are now likely to be ineffective.… Continue Reading

Who bears the investigation costs for compliance violations?

Carrying out investigations to determine violations of compliance rules can cause considerable costs for companies. In a recent decision, the German Federal Labor Court (BAG, 29.4.2021 – ref. 8 AZR 276/20) has now clarified the circumstances in which an employee must bear the costs of investigations in connection with allegations of breach of compliance rules by that employee.… Continue Reading

COVID-19: Mandatory testing in companies

In view of worrying pandemic figures, the German Federal Government has amended the existing “SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance” (Corona-ArbSchV) (the Ordinance). Employers now face the additional obligation of offering COVID-19 testing to their employees, unless the employees work from home.

Introduction of mandatory testingContinue Reading

Germany: COVID-19-vaccination and employment law

In Germany, employers are obliged to take all necessary measures, including those to protect against infection (such as offering working from home, increased hygiene protections, social distancing and behavior) and offering voluntary company vaccination programs, in order to protect the health and safety of the workers in the company and to fulfil their obligations under occupational health and safety law. The newly developed vaccines are offering some hope in turning the tide in the fight against COVID-19. The Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht – BAG) had already provided guidance to employers on their obligations and liability in connection with employer-initiated … Continue Reading

Germany: Home office under the new Corona Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance

To combat and prevent the further spread of COVID-19 (the SARS-CoV-2-virus), the German government has issued a new “SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance” (Corona-ArbSchV) (the Ordinance) providing for additional and time-limited measures to reduce workplace-related personal contacts. These measures include the obligation for employers to offer their employees home working, unless there are compelling operational reasons not to do so. In addition, existing occupational health and safety regulations will be tightened.… Continue Reading

Sick leave under German employment law: Termination, medical certificates by phone and latest topics

Termination in case of the threat of taking sick leave

Employees who respond to an instruction by their employer with the threat of taking sick leave can be dismissed without notice. It is irrelevant whether the employee actually falls ill later or whether the instruction by the employer was unlawful. In a recent decision, the Higher Labor Court Rhineland-Palatinate (LAG Rhineland-Palatinate, 21.7.2020 – 8 Sa 430/19) has once again confirmed the previous ruling of the Federal Labour Court.… Continue Reading

Management and foreign languages: Communication with the works council

Managers of international companies are often confronted with the problem of having to communicate with their employees and the works council in a foreign language that they do not fully master. This can easily lead to conflicts. In a recent decision in June, the Nuremberg Regional Labor Court (ref. 1 TaBV 33/19) has now clarified the scope.

The works council of a German branch of a Spanish clothing company demanded that communication with the branch manager, who at the beginning hardly spoke any German, be conducted exclusively in German during meetings or negotiations. Appraisal interviews and staff meetings had been … Continue Reading

Preparing to return to the workplace: What should German employers be doing?

Public life is slowly returning to normality in Germany as stores, restaurants and cafes begin to  reopen. However, a return to ”business as usual“ seems a long way off. Companies and employers need to consider different priorities and complex provisions when preparing the return to the workplace.

In general, employers have a duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of their employees. They have to assess possible risks to employees’ safety and health and take measures based on this assessment as well as identify and take additional measures where necessary to ensure the workplace is safe.… Continue Reading

Relaxation of German working time regulations due to COVID-19?

In an effort to fight the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) is working on a bill to relax restrictions on working time in Germany. Specifically, longer working hours, shorter rest periods and the employment of workers on Sundays and public holidays for certain activities will temporarily be permitted.

The right to issue such a bill without having to seek the approval of the parliament (Bundestag) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat) was granted to BMAS as part of the government’s social protection package passed on 27 March 2020. This new regulation authorizes … Continue Reading

COVID-19 / Germany: Admissible measures and co-determination rights

The rapid spread of COVID-19 within Europe and the beginning of the pandemic have led many of our clients to consider how employees and, if necessary, customers can be protected against any further spread of the infection and which employment law related measures should they be taking. We have summarised and answered the main questions in a table below. This table is intended as guide for questions arising at short notice and represents the current legal opinion of our colleagues working in the field of German employment law.

Please note, however, that the current legal assessments, in particular with regard … Continue Reading

COVID-19: Erleichterungen bei Kurzarbeit

Um Arbeitsplätze zu schützen und die infolge der Corona-Krise von einem Arbeitsausfall betroffenen Unternehmen zu unterstützen, hat die deutsche Regierung Erleichterungen bei der Kurzarbeit beschlossen. Rückwirkend zum 1. März 2020 können Betriebe bei der Agentur für Arbeit Kurzarbeit beantragen, wenn ein Zehntel (statt bisher 1/3) ihrer Beschäftigten von einem Arbeitsausfall wegen der Epidemie betroffen ist. Wird die Kurzarbeit bewilligt, erstattet die Agentur für Arbeit einerseits durch das Kurzarbeitergeld 60% (bzw. bei Beschäftigten mit Kindern 67%) des Verdienstausfalls und übernimmt – das ist neu – zu 100% die Sozialversicherungsbeiträge. Diese mussten bisher auch im Fall der Kurzarbeit von den Arbeitgebern getragen … Continue Reading

Germany: An Employer’s duties dealing with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – Q&A

COVID-19 is spreading across the world and companies everywhere are faced with its challenges. In circumstances where a COVID-19 case impacts your German workplace we recommend close coordination with the public health authority on how to proceed. In doing so – especially against a possible liability for illness or even death – it will show that you, as an employer, have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that you have protected your employees. For further guidance please check our Q&A list:

1. Can employees be forced to take unpaid leave or flexitime or to reduce their working hours?

There is … Continue Reading

Crowd workers do not qualify as employees

As the end of the year approaches, the German courts have published a decision providing employers with further clarity on the issue of crowd working.

What is crowd working?

Crowd working is a highly flexible form of working. According to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), around 4.8 percent of the German electorate earn their money through “mini-jobs” or tasks sourced through the internet. These crowd workers take on work from companies that is offered to all, for example via apps or on general or specialised network platforms. These tasks generally have to be completed within a … Continue Reading

Update on electronic medical certificates

Medical certificates may not be ordered online

A recent decision of the Hamburg Regional Court (LG Hamburg 3.9.2019 – 406 HK O 56/19) has ruled that issuing medical certificates of incapacity by remote diagnosis is a violation of medical diligence. This means that employees will not be able to apply online for a medical certificate confirming their inability to work (as previously discussed in our blog article, Facilitating HR Management: Electronic medical certificates on 23rd September 2019).

According to the Professional Code of Conduct for Physicians, doctors must proceed with the necessary care when issuing medical reports and … Continue Reading

Facilitating HR Management: Electronic medical certificates

As part of the “Third Bureaucracy Relief Act” the German government intends to introduce an electronic submission procedure for medical certificates regarding the incapacity of employees. More than 80 million of such certificates are issued every year by doctors in Germany. Replacing extensive documentation and record-keeping duties will allow medium-sized companies in particular to reduce existing manual processing workloads.

According to current German law an employee must submit a medical certificate of incapacity to the employer at the latest by the fourth day of absence due to illness. In the future, employers will be able to retrieve electronic certificates directly … Continue Reading

Control or trust: Legal claim to home office?

Digitization and  technological advances are accelerating the flexibility of working conditions leading to a changed understanding of leadership. A key topic of debate is the “home office” which is currently used by approximately 12 per cent of employees in Germany for all or part of their working time. On this topic, the German government is currently considering a bill requiring companies to comply with a worker’s desire to work from home – based on their assessment that 40 per cent of all employees could realistically work from home and that the majority of employees would be interested in doing so.… Continue Reading

Managing German labour migration: The new “Skilled Immigration Act”

The German Bundesrat recently approved a long-awaited and controversially debated immigration legislation, implementing several European directives dating back more than ten years. The “Skilled Immigration Act (“Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz”) intends to attract qualified professionals from around the world. Further, the Act aims to improve labour market efficiency, prevent skill shortages and offset regional imbalances in order to sustain competitiveness and economic growth. The Skilled Immigration Act provides clear requirements for “qualified professionals” which, for the first time, includes academics as well as persons with vocational qualifications.

To enter the German labour market, highly qualified third-country professionals must present a valid … Continue Reading

EuGH fordert systematische Arbeitszeiterfassung

Unternehmen in der Europäischen Union sollen künftig dazu verpflichtet sein, ein System zur Erfassung der täglichen effektiven Arbeitszeit ihrer Arbeitnehmer einzuführen. Der Europäische Gerichtshof (EuGH) entschied in einem Urteil vom 14.05.2019, dass alle Mitgliedstaaten von Arbeitgebern einfordern müssen, „ein objektives, verlässliches und zugängliches System einzurichten, mit dem die von einem jeden Arbeitnehmer geleistete tägliche Arbeitszeit gemessen werden kann.“ (Pressemitteilung des EuGH).

 Die Entscheidung betrifft eine Klage der spanischen Gewerkschaft CCOO gegen die Deutsche Bank SAE in Spanien, in dem sie argumentierte, nur durch eine umfassende Zeiterfassung könne die Bank ihrer Verpflichtung nachkommen, der Gewerkschaft die monatlich geleisteten Überstunden zur Prüfung … Continue Reading

German court: Protection of whistle-blower confidentiality does not generally override the data subject access right

On the scope of subject access requests under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GRPR) in the context of compliance and whistle-blowing regimes, the Regional Labour Court (Landesarbeitsgericht) of Stuttgart decided that an employer was required not only to provide an employee with the records containing performance and behavioural data, but also to disclose information regarding internal investigations. This is the first reported successful enforcement of a data subject access right under Article 15 GDPR before a regional labour court in Germany. (The judgment was handed down on 20 December 2018 but has just been published … Continue Reading

Key developments expected for 2019

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 … Continue Reading

Fairness als neue Arbeitgeberpflicht

Arbeitgeber sehen sich in Deutschland mit einer neuen Rechtspflicht konfrontiert: Laut Bundesarbeitsgericht müssen Verträge mit Arbeitnehmern „fair verhandelt“ werden, um wirksam zu sein.

Im entschiedenen Fall hatte eine Reinigungskraft in ihrer Privatwohnung einen Aufhebungsvertrag mit ihrem Arbeitgeber abgeschlossen – darin wurde die sofortige Beendigung ihres Arbeitsverhältnisses ohne Zahlung einer Abfindung vereinbart. Im Nachhinein focht die Arbeitnehmerin den Vertrag wegen Irrtums, arglistiger Täuschung und widerrechtlicher Drohung an und widerrief ihn hilfsweise zusätzlich. Sie gab an, an dem Tag krank gewesen zu sein und den Vertrag unter Druck unterzeichnet zu haben. Tatsächlich hielt die Vereinbarung vor dem Bundesarbeitsgericht nicht (Az.: 6 AZR … Continue Reading

Generalanwalt am EuGH fordert allgemeine Arbeitszeiterfassung

Nach den Schlussanträgen des Generalanwalts am Europäischen Gerichtshof (EuGH) sollen Unternehmen künftig verpflichtet sein, ein System zur Erfassung der täglichen Arbeitszeit ihrer Mitarbeiter einzuführen (Schlussanträge v. 31.01.2019, Az. C-55/18). Die dabei gemeinte Arbeitszeit umfasst den Zeitraum der tatsächlichen Verrichtung der Arbeitsleistung ohne Ruhepausen.

Schon jetzt müssen Unternehmen aufgrund des Arbeitszeitgesetzes jede Arbeitszeit erfassen, die die regelmäßig zulässige werktägliche Arbeitszeit der Mitarbeiter von acht Stunden überschreitet oder auf Sonn- und Feiertage entfällt (§ 16 Abs. 2 Arbeitszeitgesetz); andernfalls droht eine Geldbuße von bis zu 15.000 Euro. Dagegen sind Unternehmen in Deutschland nicht generell verpflichtet, die werktägliche Arbeitszeit von acht Stunden oder … Continue Reading

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