Minimum Working Conditions
The terms and conditions of employment (such as maximum working hours, minimum paid vacation and sick leave) are regulated by statutes, collective bargaining agreements and works council agreements. The individual employment agreement cannot deviate from these provisions to the detriment of the employee. The rights of employees who are only temporarily sent to work in Germany are generally determined by foreign employment law.
A statutory minimum wage of 9.35 EUR per hour applies to all employees in all sectors of business. Employees under 18, trainees and interns are exempted from the regulation. The current minimum wage of 9.35 EUR per hour will be subject to further increase within the next year. It is expected to increase to 9.50 EUR per hour from 1 January 2021. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the legislator decided to ease the access to short-time work benefits. Depending on the duration of the short-time work, the corresponding short-time work allowance increases continuously over months. At present, discussions are underway to extend the regulations beyond 31 December 2020. In addition, changes have been introduced for a limited period, until December 2020, to allow for secondary income while receiving short-time work benefits. An employee’s additional income while receiving short-time work compensation, under certain circumstances, may not be taken into account. In particular, employees should be able to receive short-time work benefits for 24 months (instead of 12 months).
Maximum Working Week
The statutory maximum working time is 8 hours per day from Monday to Saturday. Working on Sundays and public holidays is generally forbidden, unless explicitly permitted by statutory law. The statutory maximum weekly working time is 48 hours. The regular daily working time may be extended up to 10 hours, provided that on average 8 hours per working day are not exceeded within a reference period of 6 months or 24 weeks. An uninterrupted rest period of 11 hours after daily work must be guaranteed. There are no opting-out provisions under German law.
For regular employees, it is not possible to deem any overtime compensated by the regular remuneration. However, it is possible to contractually agree that overtime of 10 – 20 % of the regular working time shall be deemed as compensated by the regular remuneration. For board members and managing directors, any overtime worked is generally covered by their normal salary.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
During the Covid-19 pandemic, employers need to pay special attention to maintain a healthy and safe workplace as the recommendations from the authorities are subject to change. For example, new regulations (announced in April and September 2020) are intended to ensure the safety of all employees in the workplace during the pandemic and to minimise the spread of the virus. The regulations are only recommendations and therefore they are not legally binding. Nevertheless, the employer is obliged under public law to comply with occupational health and safety regulations and has a duty of protection and care towards his employees.
If the employer does not fulfill the rules of occupational safety, the employees are entitled to refuse to work at the workplace without losing their claim to remuneration. Furthermore, the employee is also entitled to demand that health and safety regulations are observed and may claim compensation for any damages. Also, the works council and the German administrative authorities may insist on the fulfillment of applicable health and safety regulations, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.