In Germany, the regulation regarding the request of written form for (unilateral) notifications or declarations of the employees will change with effect as of 1 October 2016. Pursuant to a reform of the regulations on terms and conditions (Sec. 305 ff German Civil Code), any provision, which requests a stricter form than text form (email and fax is sufficient) from an employee is then no longer valid.
This reform especially applies to so-called clauses of forfeiture. A clause of forfeiture, which regulates that the employee must demand his claim within three months in writing (i.e. with an original signature of the employee) is not valid after 1 October 2016. From that time onwards, text form must be sufficient for any unilateral declaration of the employee. Therefore, the clause of forfeiture in employment contracts should be adapted in the future. For any employment contracts, which are already in place or are concluded before or on 30 September 2016, the reform does not apply. This means that the clause of forfeiture in such employment contracts is still valid. However, in case of any amendment or alteration of the employment contract, the clause of forfeiture should be adapted as well.
Please note that this regulation does not apply to termination letters. These still need to be in writing in order to be valid pursuant to Sec. 623 German Civil Code. Furthermore, the so-called written form clause regarding changes of the employment contract is – except for individual agreements between the parties – still valid, as these are no unilateral declarations.