Part-time work is an important and often disputed matter in German employment relationships. The main rules and regulations regarding part-time can be summarised as follows:
- Employees can claim a reduction of their contractual (full) working time to a part-time employment under the Act on Part-Time and Fixed-Term Contracts. In principal, any employee who has been employed for more than six months in a company with more than 15 employees has this right, provided the reduction is requested three months in advance.
- The employer and employee have to negotiate about the request, in order to come to an agreement on the number of weekly working hours and on the allocation of the working time. If they cannot agree on a part-time arrangement, the employer can decline the request to work part-time, but only if a "business reason" is given. A business reason is only valid if the part-time work significantly impairs the organisation of the firm, the workflow or security aspects or if it triggers disproportional costs for the employer. According to rulings of the German Federal Labour Court, strict prerequisites have to be met to demonstrate and prove a business reason. "Normal" difficulties with part-time-arrangements (such as an increase in administration, or loss of time for the handover of current matters to other employees) are not sufficient. In a dispute, the employer will have to describe in detail the significant negative impacts on the organisation, workflow or security, or list the disproportionate costs arising because of the part-time work. Experience shows that it is often impossible to prove the necessary impact in a court dispute.
The Act on Maternity Leave also provides for part-time work request claims for employees on parental leave. Here, only "pressing operational reasons" can justify the denial of a part-time request. As a result, it is even more difficult to deny the part-time request of an employee on parental leave.
- As explained, the parties must discuss the possibility of allowing the request. If they cannot agree on a reduction of the working hours, the employer is obliged to inform the employee in writing, at least one month before the date designated by the employee for the part-time work to start, that the employer has decided to deny the request. If the employer fails to serve this notice in time, the request for part-time work is implemented, automatically, and cannot be changed, unilaterally, by the employer.
- Employees cannot claim a further reduction of their working hours for two years - from either the date the employee successfully claims part-time work or the date the employer successfully rejects a part-time request.
- Employees must not be discriminated against as a consequence of working part-time. As a result, part-time employees can claim similar benefits to comparable employees working full-time and will usually receive prorated benefits/payments (such as pro-rated Christmas or vacation benefits).
- If a part-time employee wants to work full-time, the employer has to prefer this employee over other, equally qualified, job applicants for a vacant full-time position, although there is no obligation to create a full-time position.