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28 May 2018

Germany: bill introduces right to work part-time during a fixed period

Germany seeks to regulate the right to temporary part-time work from January 2019. The idea is that workers will have the right to work part-time for a temporary period that can range from a minimum of one year to a maximum of five years, before returning to full time employment.

The Minister for Social Affairs and Employment has submitted a draft bill that introduces the right to part-time work for a temporary period (the so-called ‘Brückenteilzeit’ or ‘bridging’ part-time work). The new right will be effective for employees working in companies employing at least 45 staff and could come into force on 1 January 2019. Workers with at least 6 months of service can apply for a 1 to 5 years temporary period of part-time work. It is not necessary to motivate the use of this right. So far, the country had a right to work part-time and return to the ordinary working time under specified conditions, like parental leave and family care.

The draft bill is seen as a contribution to a better work-life balance. It creates the possibility for workers, if the employer agrees, to voluntary start with part-time work without the risk that the labour relationship will stay part-time for ever. The bill (Teilzeit- und Befristungsgesetz’, abbreviated TzBfG) guarantees a return to the originally agreed working time after the agreed period. Another aim of the bill is to provide more income and planning security for on-call workers. 

The introduction of the bill is not without criticism. The outgoing government had planned to introduce this right in companies with a workforce of at least 15 workers. Employers and the coalition partner CDU had made a plea to increase this threshold to a workforce of 200 workers. The announced proposal is a compromise; in companies with 45 or more workers, the workers will have the option to arrange part-time work. In medium sized companies with a workforce between 45 and 200 workers, this right to apply is limited and guaranteed up to every 15th worker.

Trade union confederation DGB welcomes the right to opt for a fixed and temporary period of part-time work and speaks about a necessary compromise. However, the trade union has criticised the limitation for small and medium sized companies, as it will reduce the possibility for many workers to apply the scheme.

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