Employment Law20.12.2021 News

Coalition agreement & labour law: working hours

The new coalition agreement of the forthcoming government of SPD, Bündnis90/DieGrünen and FDP has been officially approved by the signatures of the “traffic light” parties. In a series of articles over the next few days, we are informing you of the statements contained in the coalition agreement on labour law and the concrete effects of the plans. Today’s topic: innovations with respect to working hours.

The statements

"[...] "We are upholding the principle of an 8-hour day in the German Working Hours Act [Arbeitszeitgesetz- ArbZG].

[...] with a temporary regulation with an evaluation clause to be adopted in 2022, we will make it possible for employees to organise their working hours more flexibly within the framework of collective agreements, subject to certain conditions and within deadlines to be observed.

[...] we want to create a limited possibility to deviate from the currently existing regulations of the German Working Hours Act with regard to the maximum daily working hours, if collective agreements or shop agreements based on collective agreements provide for this (room for experimentation).

[...] we are examining the need for adjustments in the light of the case law of the European Court of Justice on working time legislation.  [...] flexible working time models (e.g. trust-based working time) [...] must remain possible."

(Coalition agreement between SPD, Bündnis90/Die Grünen and FDP, p. 68)

The effects

Even though the coalition agreement upholds the principle of the 8-hour day, a deviation from the maximum daily working time is to be possible on the basis of a collective agreement or a shop agreement based on collective agreements. Since there should only be limited possibilities and since the restrictions laid down by the European Working Time Directive will also have to be accounted for in the planned new regulation, the new regulation will presumably be in the range of between 10 and 13 hours maximum daily working hours and provide for compensatory measures for the additional burden.

A regulation is also going to be created as early as next year - albeit only for a limited period - which is to enable further deviation from the current regulations on maximum working hours and rest breaks in the German Working Hours Act by means of collective agreements and thus a further flexibilisation of working hours. It is to be hoped that the coalition will be able to agree on clear and unambiguous regulations to enable employers and employees to use this "room for experimentation" without risk, and that this will prove its worth for an indefinite continuation.

Finally, the coalition also intends to implement the ECJ case law of 14 May 2019 (docket No. C-55/18 - CCOO), according to which the recording of working time in EU member states must be carried out by an objective, reliable and accessible system. It will be interesting to see how the future government intends to reconcile the implementation of this case law with the equally desired maintenance of trust-based working time.

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