Work flexibility gives rise to a wide range of employment issues. This overview deals primarily with issues concerning part-time working.
In Germany there are a number of different laws that regulate part-time work. Although there are models where employees perform work for a certain period of time and are then released from work for a comparable period of time, with remuneration split between the working and the release period (one example being partial retirement, under several collective bargaining agreements or individual sabbatical agreements), the "regular" part-time model is still one which involves permanent or long-time reduction of working hours and their allocation.
The two main part-time models are under the Act on Part-Time and Fixed-Term Contracts (Teilzeit- und Befristungsgesetz – TzBfG) and under the Act on Parental Allowance and Parental Leave (Bundeselterngeld- und Elternzeitgesetz – BEEG). In both cases employees have to be employed for more than six months in a company with more than 15 employees.
In principle these employees have a right to reduce the contractual (full) working time to part-time employment. The employee must request the reduction of working time three months in advance.
If no mutual agreement can be reached, the employer can decline the request to work part-time only for "business reasons", which is the case if the part-time work significantly impairs the organisation of the firm, workflow or security aspects or if it triggers disproportional costs for the employer. Strict conditions have to be met in order to be able to demonstrate and prove business reasons. "Normal" difficulties which arise in connection with every part-time arrangement (increase of administration, loss of time for handing over current matters for example) are not sufficient to reject the employee's claim.
The BEEG also provides for part-time working claims in favour of employees on parental leave. The main difference to the general claim under the TzBfG is that only "urgent operational reasons" can justify the denial of a part-time request. In other words, it is even more difficult to deny a part-time request from an employee on parental leave. Urgent business reasons could be, for example, the fact that the position cannot be split or that the recruitment of a second part-time worker to do the extra hours is unsuccessful.
Employees must not be discriminated against as a consequence of working part-time. Consequently, part-time employees are entitled to similar benefits as comparable employees working full-time and will usually receive prorated benefits/payments. In Germany three out of four part-time workers are women, which is why dealing with part-time work must also be looked at in the light of the ban on unlawful discrimination.
The government plans to support part-time models and the rights of employees. At present employees are not entitled to re-increase working hours once they have chosen part-time employment. The government plans to grant a right to do so in the future.