With the promulgation of the law in the Federal Gazette, the following amendments already entered into force on 30 May 2017:

Longer maternity protection if children with disabilities are born

Mothers who give birth to children with disabilities are given a further four weeks, making a total of twelve weeks of maternity protection after the birth, according to the new law.

Protection against dismissal after miscarriages

The protection against dismissal after miscarriages is new. Dismissal of women who have a miscarriage after the twelfth week of pregnancy is inadmissible until expiry of a period of four months.

In addition, the new Maternity Protection Act brings other significant changes, which enter into force on 1 January 2018:

Extension of maternity protection

In the future, maternity protection will also apply to school pupils, students and interns as well as to persons in an employee-like relationship, e. g. managing directors.

Risk assessment

In the future, employers will be obliged to assess the risk to which a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding can be exposed for every activity. If there is an "irresponsible risk" according to the assessment, it must change the working conditions through protective measures. In this connection, the employer must offer the expectant mother a discussion on the planned changes to her working conditions. Only if a change is not possible or if it is only possible with a disproportionate effort is the expectant mother to be employed at a different suitable and reasonable workplace. A release to protect the employee is only to be used as the last possible means.

The legislator intends to provide more detailed information for employers and authorities on the indefinite term of "irresponsible risk" by no later than the entry into force of the law on 1 January 2018.

Relaxation of the ban on work on Sundays and public holidays

The ban on work on Sundays and public holidays is being relaxed. With the woman's consent, work on Sundays and public holidays will be possible in the future in the cases set out in Sec. 10 Working Hours Act (ArbZG).

Night work with the approval of the supervisory authority

By way of derogation from the ban on night work, official approval can be granted in the future for the period until 10 pm. Night work is admissible if the woman gives her consent, if there are no concerns from a medical point of view and if an irresponsible risk to the pregnant woman or her child through working alone is excluded. In justified individual cases, the supervisory authority can also approve employment after 10 pm. This will, however, remain the exception.

Extension of the protection against dismissal

The current special protection against dismissal is being extended to also prohibit "preparatory measures". The legislator does not, however, stipulate exactly which measures are to be included in this.

Conclusion

In the future, employers will have to consider closely which women enjoy rights under maternity protection under the new statutory rules. In many respects, great uncertainty still remains with regard to the changes in the law. The clarifying information announced by the legislator on "irresponsible risk" is eagerly anticipated. It also remains to be seen which measures within the framework of the extended protection against dismissal will be considered inadmissible preparatory measures by the courts.