With the reform of the MuSchG, its scope of applicability has been extended. Apprentices, interns as well as students doing an obligatory internship and self-employed women, who can be compared to employees, will enjoy the protection of the new MuSchG.
Under the current MuSchG, pregnant employees enjoy special protection against dismissal during the pregnancy and for four months after the birth. From 1 January 2018 onwards, women suffering a miscarriage after the 12th week of pregnancy shall also be protected against termination for the next four months. Terminating an employee during the time of special protection against dismissal will only be possible in exceptional cases. Prior permission has to be obtained from the competent state authority. Under the new MuSchG, the prohibition of termination shall also apply accordingly for preparatory measures. Although it is not entirely clear what measures are included, this will certainly apply to any measures directly linked to the anticipated termination, e.g. consultation of the works council. Extending the prohibition of termination to preparatory measures is, therefore, likely to extend the duration of the termination process.
The maternity leave period, which is currently the time period 6 weeks before and 8 weeks after giving birth, was extended to 12 weeks after the birth in case of multiple births, premature births and disabled children.
The prohibition of night work will be slightly loosened under the new MuSchG. As a general rule, working between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. remains prohibited for pregnant or nursing women. However, from 1 January 2018 on, exceptions of the prohibition of night work will no longer be exclusively possible for certain industries, but for all industries. Work between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. will be permissible if the employee expressly agreed and prior authorization was obtained from the competent supervisory authority. Work after 10 p.m. will, however, only be permissible in exceptional cases.
Under the new MuSchG, the employer is obligated to carry out a risk assessment for each work conducted within the company, not only for work done by pregnant employees. Necessary measures to protect pregnant employees must be implemented immediately after the employer was made aware of a pregnancy and the employee must be offered a conversation on (further) adjustments of her working conditions.