Catrina Smith (Moderator). Welcome to the next instalment of our series of videos looking at SMART working arrangements. Our objective in these videos is to provide you with a basic understanding of the legal framework relating to SMART working in Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands, where we have strong employment law practices.
Our next Q&A will focus on Germany. We are fortunate to have Katrin Scheicht, an employment partner based in our Munich office, with us.
Q: Katrin, tell us about flexible work in Germany and what changes if any do you expect in the near future?
K: In Germany, we do have flexible working models we well, but these are still limited by statutory restrictions on working time. These restrictions are rather outdated and do not reflect today’s digital working environment or new technologies, e.g smart phones, remote access.
One requirement which is very important in Germany is the Working Time Act and employers are required to comply with that Act. Currently, an employee’s working time is limited to a maximum of eight hours per working day and 48-hours per week. This 48 hours threshold applies to all employees working a five a six day week. A working time of up to 10 hours per day is permissible if the average of 8 hours per day is not exceeded over a six months reference period. After each working day, employees are also entitled to have an uninterrupted rest period generally of at least eleven hours. These restrictions have to be complied with even if the employee is using their smart phone, flexible working time models or work from home.
Another model we have that is increasing is part-time work or home office arrangements, and trusted working time models. Because as in other countries, companies are fighting a war for talent, and they have to offer not only a high salary but also interesting working conditions and have to offer a good working life balance so that they try to be as flexible as possible in giving the employees the opportunity to combine their private interests with the working interests in the best possible way.
Q: What about the part-time work model, how flexible and popular is that in Germany?
K: It has increased in the last few years, so we have about 25 per cent of all employees in Germany are part-time.
Q: And how about zero hour contracts, do you see them in Germany?
K: Some companies do offer zero hours contracts, but in Germany these are not valid. German law follows the inherent principle that the economic and employment risk of the employer shouldn’t rest with the employee. The employer is responsible for giving work to the employee and should not be able to not offer work and not pay the employee. It is usually the situation that certain minimum working time is agreed and a company can conclude a “work on demand” contract, which in addition to specified minimum time, the employer can demand or request that the employee works 25 per cent more than the agreed minimum working time. This gives more flexibility to employer and employee.
Conclusion: Thank you, Katrin for explaining the current developments in Germany as regards SMART working. It appears that lawmakers in Germany are focused on reaching a balance between promoting flexibility and guaranteeing stability in the complex and demanding employment market in Germany.