Germany - Employee's right to work part-time

By Kathrin Kruse


In their coalition agreement, dated 7 February 2018, the German parties CDU and SPD addressed a number of labour market issues, focused on the development of the German Fixed-Term and Part-Time Act.

The Federal Government has already presented the first draft of new legal regulations regarding part-time work by introducing a “Bridge Part-Time Work”-Model (Brückenteilzeitmodell), which enables employees to require that their contractually agreed working time will be reduced for a predetermined period of time (between one and five years).

These regulations are expected to come into force from 1 January 2019.

1. Employee´s right to work part-time: What´s the status quo?

Under current German law an employee is entitled to claim for a reduction to their contractually agreed working hours, if they have worked with the company for more than six months and if the company usually employs more than 15 employees.

The employer has to agree to the reduction and is responsible for determining how the time is distributed, taking the wishes of the employee into account, unless there are contrary operational reasons given for refusing the request.

Until now, employees can only work on a part-time basis in relation to part-time retirement, part-time work for parents and part-time requests made by severely disabled employees.

2. What changes are to be expected?

More flexibility for employees thanks to the "Bridge Part-Time Work"- model

With the main focus of making family planning more flexible, the coalition agreement and the federal government's draft provide for the introduction of a right to temporary part-time work for employees who have already worked for more than six months in a company, which is employing more than 45 workers ("Bridge Part-Time Work").

The employer may object to the part-time request if there are contrary operational reasons or contradicting working time requests from other employees. In addition, an employer who usually employs more than 45 but less than 200 employees, may only refuse the employee´s request if, at the time the desired reduction begins, a certain number of employees have already reduced their working time. The number of entitled employees depends on the number of employees working for the company. It should be noted that the calculation only includes employees who are employed on a “Bridge Part-Time” basis. Employees who, for example, work part-time during their parental leave are exempt.

It is not yet clear how requests from eligible employees will be selected. It has been thought that either a 'first come, first serve' approach or one similar to social selection in the context of redundancies could be adopted. However, neither the coalition agreement nor the Federal Government´s draft provides any indication.

Protection of employees, working on-demand

A further aim of the proposed changes is to provide more security in planning and income for employees working on-demand.

The coalition agreement suggests that, in the absence of a contractual agreement on working hours, there should be an increase from ten to 20 hours per week, irrespective of actual hours performed.

The agreement also suggests that if the parties have agreed on working time, the extent to which the employer can demand for different working hours is limited. If weekly minimum working hours are stipulated, the employer may only increase the working time but up to 25%. If the maximum working time is agreed, the employer may only request a 25% reduction.