In the current “war for talents” that German employers increasingly have to fight, a good work-life balance is an important requirement for most job applicants. But it is an equally valuable selling point for employers in order to retain their current employees! Therefore, one sees companies already offering e.g. much more flexible working models providing part-time work or home office arrangements than several years ago. Many companies in Germany also voluntarily offer part-time working models for those in retirement, flexible or trust-based working-time models, company nurseries, staff canteens, sport programs, sabbaticals or carer’s leave. Whether on a voluntary basis or by mutual agreement between employer and employee respectively, the possibilities are endless and can be arranged to accommodate an employee’s individual needs as necessary.
However, even if the employer does not support the employee’s wish for a better work-life balance, the employee has a general entitlement to a reduction of its individual working time. The prerequisites for such an entitlement are:
- a job tenure of more than six months,
- a timely request three months before the desired reduction,
- no request for reduction of working time within the last two years,
- that the employer has more than 15 employees, and
- there are no operational reasons (e.g. material interference with the company’s organisation, the work flow or the operational safety, or unreasonably high costs for the employer) to refuse the requested reduction in the particular case.
In this regard, we have to point out that the German courts are very reluctant to accept any operational reasons thus giving the majority of employees a right to request a part-time working model. In case of employees on parental leave, a request for part-time work can only be denied by the employer in very specific and rare cases. In addition, there is a specific statutory provision protecting part-time workers against any less favourable treatment by the employer in comparison to full-time workers.
An entitlement to work from home is, in contrast, not provided under German law. Employees who would like to work from home would have to reach an agreement with the employer in this regard.