Germany: Temporary Part-Time Employment Is Now Possible

By Anja Becher March 28, 2019
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Germany: Temporary Part-Time Employment Is Now Possible

​In Germany, employees have long been able to reduce their work hours and switch from full-time to part-time employment. But until now, this demand for part-time work had a downside: The employee had no right to return to his or her previous full-time work hours at the same employer. Hence, employees who asked for part-time work ran the risk of having to work part time permanently while with the company, unless they were working part time temporarily while on parental leave.

New Legislation

Starting Jan. 1, German law gave employees a general right to work part time temporarily.

Workers who've been employed for more than six months at a company with over 45 employees can now reduce their work hours for a limited period. The law requires this temporary part-time arrangement to be in place for at least one year, and it can last a maximum of five years, after which time the employee can return to full-time work.

How Does One Make Such a Request?

The worker must use e-mail, a letter or a fax to ask the employer for a part-time schedule at least three months before the worker wishes to go part time. The request must include:

  • The date the temporary part-time employment will begin.
  • The date the temporary part-time employment will end.
  • The number of hours the employee wishes to work.

The request must be phrased so the employer can approve or reject the new work schedule with a simple "yes" or "no."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to the Global Human Resources Discipline]

What Does the Employer Need to Do?

If the employer opposes the proposed work schedule, it must deny the request in writing at least one month before the part-time work was to start; otherwise, the law says the employee's request is considered approved.

The law requires that the employer's denial be in the form of a written and signed letter, not an e-mail or fax.

When Can the Employer Reject a Request?

An employer can reject a request for temporary part-time work if the employee's reduced hours would significantly disrupt the processes, workflow or safety of the company, or if the reduced hours would cause the employer to incur significantly high costs.

An employer can also reject a request if a certain number of employees are already working part time temporarily. Companies with between 46 and 200 workers are only required to grant part-time temporary employment to 1 in 15 employees; larger employers don't have this privilege. The right to part-time work does not apply to employers with fewer than 46 workers.

If a midsize employer receives simultaneous requests for temporary part-time work that exceed this "1 in 15" limit, the employer chooses which workers can reduce their hours. There must, however, be objective reasons for approving certain requests and rejecting others. Such reasons could include, for example, the employee's personal circumstances.

Anja Becher is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Berlin. 

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