There is a considerable need for external personnel – partly due to the current labour market's limited supply of highly qualified specialists willing to work as employees in some areas and partly due to the increasing demand for flexibility. However, while engaging external personnel allows companies to concentrate on their core competencies and provides easier access to external know-how, it also carries considerable legal and economic risks if handled improperly.
After the sensational Facebook ruling rendered by the Federal Labour Court in 2016, the discrepancy between rapid digitalisation and restrictive case law with regard to Section 87(I)(6) of the Works Constitution Act has once again become the focus of attention in a labour law dispute. The Hamburg Regional Labour Court recently addressed the question of whether a Twitter account maintained by an employer constitutes a technical device that is intended to monitor employees' performance and conduct.
To ensure that serving a dismissal notice will withstand a court's scrutiny, it should be handed to the employee in person and the employee should countersign a duplicate. However, if the dismissal notice is served by an external courier, the employer may have to comply with different data protection requirements to avoid breaching data protection law.
In view of a statutory transition clause in the Temporary Employment Act, for some deployment agencies the 18-month maximum hiring out period will end shortly – for external employees deployed as of 1 April 2017, the expiry date could have been the end of September 2018. To avoid all possible risk of overstepping the maximum hiring out period, personnel services providers and companies using such providers are advised to determine precisely what they consider the expiration date to be.
The Federal Constitutional Court recently restricted the option of concluding fixed-term employment contracts without an objective reason with applicants who have previously worked for the employer. The court also recognised that an unlimited prohibition on prior employment can unreasonably restrict the option of fixed-term contracts without objective reason. This ruling has consequences for current fixed-term contracts and for future hiring practice.
The Christian Democratic Union of Germany, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria and the Social Democratic Party of Germany recently concluded negotiations for a new grand coalition. The 177-page coalition agreement contains very specific proposals for changes to labour law, including with regard to the maximum duration of successive fixed-term employment contracts, substantial restrictions for fixed-term contracts and employees' entitlement to part-time work for a limited period.
The Pay Transparency Act bundles together some regulations and requirements that had already been established and is intended to close the adjusted gender pay gap. That the act's practical relevance has proved limited thus far can be explained by the fact that it was not possible to assert the information claim until January 6 2018. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that the legal consequences of failings to provide information have yet to be clarified.
The Act to Strengthen Company Pensions has introduced pure defined contribution schemes for the first time. This means that employers will not promise specific or calculable retirement benefits, but merely undertake to pay specific contributions to an external pension provider. However, it remains to be seen whether the legislature has managed to strengthen and further spread company pension schemes as intended based on the act.
Since the Berlin Higher Regional Court referred the question to the European Court of Justice of whether it is compatible with EU law that only workers employed in Germany are eligible to participate in the election of workers' representatives on the supervisory board, Germany's legal sector has been eagerly awaiting an answer. The answer is now available and is likely to allow the legal sector to breathe a sigh of relief.
In reorganisation scenarios, German employers must comply with a number of statutory regulations. If a reorganisation involves redundancies and if certain thresholds are exceeded in this respect, special attention must be paid to the regulations aimed at preventing collective redundancies. Any notice of dismissal given in violation of the regulations to prevent collective redundancies contained in Sections 17 and 18 of the Act on Protection Against Unfair Dismissal is invalid.
Discussions concerning the reform of temporary employment planned by the coalition government characterised 2016. It was intended that the Employee Assignment Act, the Works Constitution Act and the Civil Code be readjusted in order to "align temporary work with its core function and prevent the abuse of structures with contracts for work and services". As the legislative process has since been completed, it is now clear that in 2017 the temporary employment industry will face substantial changes.
The Federal Cabinet recently passed the Transparency of Remuneration Act, which is supposed to come into force before Summer 2017. The highly controversial preliminary draft was revised on several occasions. The requirement that the minimum remuneration be stated when advertising a position and an additional codetermination right be included when "implementing measures in terms of actual remuneration equality between women and men" were omitted and not replaced.
Data transfers between group companies are often regarded as an internal matter and this appears to be true, especially if the parent company cites plausible reasons for its inquiry. However, the transfer of personal employee data between legally independent companies in a group is not necessarily permissible. The Federal Data Protection Act permits the collection, processing and use of personal data only if it is permitted by law or if the data subjects have given their consent.
The legislative period is slowly coming to an end, and the last legislation projects under the coalition agreement are still being implemented. Planned legislation for 2017 includes the reform of the Temporary Employment Act. The Federal Cabinet has also passed a bill to revise legislation on maternity protection, which is intended to adapt maternity protection to today's work environment, taking new developments in health science and society into account.
As compliance breaches cannot be prevented, their disclosure through anonymous reports is important. There are different ways and means for a company to communicate with a potential whistleblowing employee, but the ombudsman model is frequently used in practice. The Bochum Regional Court recently decided that the confiscation provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure does not protect compliance ombudsmen with regard to obtaining information from anonymous whistleblowers.
Despite strict compliance regulations, it is customary to offer small gifts of friendship to business partners, especially at Christmas. Successful collaboration is based on trust. However, caution is required – non-compliance may have labour and criminal law consequences. Under criminal law, there are no objections to the common practice of offering small gifts on certain occasions. But to avoid the impression of bribery, employees should consult the company's compliance regulations.
Recent decisions of the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court and the Berlin Regional Court have caused uncertainty for German groups of companies with subsidiaries in Europe. In particular, the decisions concern businesses with employees and subsidiaries within Europe, but outside Germany. If it turns out that restricting German co-determination to Germany is incompatible with EU law, the co-determination scene in Germany will change considerably.
A social plan usually contains provisions regarding the amount of severance payments paid to employees who lose their jobs. In practice, employees who are about to retire often receive lower severance payments than younger employees. The Federal Employment Court recently decided that this differentiation is not permitted if the employee is entitled to early retirement only because he or she is disabled.
It is common practice to use the customary industry wage level determined by collective bargaining agreements as a guideline when deciding on employee remuneration. This often applies even if an employer is no longer a member of an employers' association or party to a collective bargaining agreement. However, it cannot be assumed that merely granting a wage increase under a collective agreement means that the employer intends to pass on such increases in the future.
Following strong criticism of the initial draft bill regarding the coalition government's last employment law project and its agreement concerning the planned re-regulation of temporary employment, the government coalition committee considered an amended draft bill in April 2016, but failed to reach an agreement. This update discusses the changes to be introduced following the unsatisfactory breakthrough that was finally achieved in May 2016.