The German government has introduced legislation expected to come into force 1 January 2019, that would give full-time employees the right to temporarily convert to part-time status (referred to as a “part-time bridge”). This is part of a coalition agreement reached on 7 February 2018, to modify multiple labor law provisions related to fixed-term and part-time employment.
Current German law allows employees who have worked for more than six months in a company employing more than 15 employees to reduce their working hours if the employer agrees with the employee’s distribution of working time. Employers may reject the employee’s part-time work request if there are conflicting operational reasons. Currently, employees are only allowed to request part-time status if the employee is approaching retirement age, is a parent or is severely disabled. In addition, the current reduction of work hours request is permanent, and employees are not guaranteed to be able to return to full-time arrangements. The new bill aims to offer more flexibility to employees and better work-life balance.
Starting 1 January 2019, employees will be allowed to temporarily change their working arrangement from full-time to part-time for any reason. The new law will apply to existing and future part-time and full-time employees.
Employees will be allowed to reduce their working hours if they have worked for more than six months in a company employing more than 45 employees. The part-time arrangement can vary from a minimum of one year to a maximum of five years, with the employee retaining the right to return to full-time employment at the end of their part-time bridge period. The application for a reduction of working hours should be sent in writing to the employer at least three months before the start of the new working arrangement.
Certain restrictions apply to the right to reduce working hours. For companies employing 45 to 200 employees, the employer can reject the employee’s application if one employee for every 15 employees is already using the part-time bridge work schedule. The bill is unclear how the applications will be selected and whether they should be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. For companies with more than 200 employees, the employer can only reject the employee’s request if there are demonstrable conflicting reasons.
Employers are advised to monitor the implementation timeline of the proposed law and make the necessary changes to comply with the legislation, which is expected to pass this legislative session and come into force 1 January 2019. Employers should also be aware that additional changes discussed in the coalition agreement are expected to be presented by the federal government in the coming months. The new changes would impact fixed-term employment contracts, work council election procedures and teleworking.
Draft law on Part-Time Bridge Work (Brückenteilzeit modell)