A number of employment law changes have taken effect at the start of 2016…

Increased fines for unfulfilled employment quotas

Employers with more than 25 employees must employ at least one employee with a disability for every 25 employees in their workforce. A fine applies to those who fail to meet this requirement, the amount of which has recently increased. The fine payable for each required position not filled by a worker with a disability is : EUR 251 each month, for employers with 25 to 99 employees; EUR 352, for employers with 100 to 399 employees and EUR 375 for employers with more than 400 employees.

Amendments to maternity and parental leave

Females working freelance, as independent contractors, are now subject to the same maternity-related protected period as employees ie during the 8 week period prior to and 8 week period following birth, during which time they are not able to work. In addition, for all employees specific protection is introduced against dismissal for a period of 4 weeks following a miscarriage.

Another recent change to family rights is that parental leave no longer has to be taken immediately after the protected maternity-related period of 8 weeks (see above) or after parental leave of the other parent. An employee may now commence parental leave any time up to the second birthday of the child, providing the employer is given 3 months’ advance notice.

Parents have the ability to request a reduction in working hours or working arrangements. Such requests are now formalised and will only attract legal protection from dismissal or disadvantage if they involve at least a 20% reduction in working hours (ie at least 12 hours per week). However, the employer and employee may agree an alternative arrangement for part-time working, during which normal employment protections will still apply.

The provisions of the Fathers’ Leave Act (Vaterkarenzgesetz) are now extended to include women in same-sex civil partnerships.

Details of salary

Basic salary must be communicated to employees in writing. Where salary payments are rolled up (known as “all-in” salaries), basic salary must nonetheless be expressly identified. Where this does not arise and is challenged, the courts are able to determine the appropriate level of salary, based upon local market rates and the nature of work.

Recovery of training costs

Training costs may only be recovered from an employee upon the termination of their employment if certain conditions are met; most importantly that there was clear agreement for recovery in advance and this provided that the amount recoverable would decrease on a monthly basis. A request for recovery is subject to a 4 year limit following the conclusion of training.

New rights for part-time employees

Employers must inform employees working in part-time roles as and when positions with greater hours become available.

Changes to working hours

The maximum permissible working hours per day (including driving to a site which is not the usual place of work) is 12 hours. For apprentices above the age of 16, the maximum number of hours is 10.