The new year 2020 is just around the corner and will bring about some changes with regard to German labour and employment law. Some of those changes are already certain due to a change in statutory law, while others can only be predicted at this time. We have summarised the key developments below:
Changes with regard to the statutory minimum wage
A Germany-wide statutory minimum wage for apprentices comes into effect as of 1 January 2020. It will initially amount to EUR 515.00 gross per month and will gradually increase during the following years. Exemptions from this minimum wage are only permissible by collective agreements concluded between employers and trade unions for individual industry sectors. From a practical point of view, however, it is estimated that less than 10 % of the apprentices working in Germany will actually receive a remuneration increase due to the introduction of the minimum wage. As many employers already pay a remuneration considerably above the minimum wage in order to fill open apprenticeship positions, the actual impact of the new minimum wage will likely remain low and will mainly affect particular professions with traditionally low remuneration for apprentices (e.g. hairdressers).
Furthermore, the Germany-wide statutory minimum wage for employees will be increased from EUR 9.19 to EUR 9.35 gross per hour with effect as of 1 January 2020. The minimum wage is also due to be evaluated by the competent commission in 2020, which could lead to further increases.
New law on immigration of skilled employees
With effect as of 1 March 2020, a new law on the immigration of skilled employees will be introduced in Germany. The law is supposed to make it easier for employees from Non-EU and Non-EEA (European Economic Area and Switzerland) countries to work in Germany. However, only people with a university degree or a completed qualified apprenticeship will be able to gain access to employment in Germany through the new law. The new law will not be restricted to certain occupations and will abolish the previously mandatory priority check for skilled workers. The new law will make it considerably easier for employers to recruit foreign skilled workers, intending to reduce the severe lack of skilled workers in Germany.
Potential changes due to the ECJ ruling on the recording of working time
The European Court of Justice has caused quite a stir with its ruling in May 2019 on employers’ obligations regarding the recording of their employees’ working time. The ECJ ruled that the Member States must oblige employers to set up a system for the daily recording of working time. German law currently provides that only overtime exceeding a working time of eight hours per day has to be recorded. The German Working Time Act will have to be reviewed and amended in light of the new ECJ ruling. However, the content and timing of such changes remains unclear at the moment. It is, therefore, also difficult to predict how the ECJ ruling will actually affect work life in Germany for both employees and employers in practice.
Implementation of the new EU Directive on the protection of whistleblowers
The EU recently approved a directive aimed at extending and harmonising the protection of whistle blowers. In particular, the directive obliges companies in the Member States to set up internal reporting channels for whistle blowers. As EU directives do not directly apply in the Member States, Germany will have to implement the new regulations into national law within the next two years.