In Germany, employees have long had the opportunity to request a switch from full-time to part-time employment. However, any change would be permanent and there was no right to return to their previous full-time working hours. An employee’s part-time request was therefore associated with the risk of having to work part-time on a permanent basis.

New Legislation as of January 1, 2019

Effective January 1, 2019, the legislature included a general right to so-called “temporary part-time” employment. Employees who have been employed for more than six months in a company with more than 45 employees will now be able to request to reduce their working hours to any desired amount for one to five years. At the end of the requested period, the employee would automatically return to his or her original working time.

Requirements on Requesting Part-Time Employment

An employee must submit an application to his or her employer in simple text form no later than three months before the desired start of the temporary part-time employment. In the application, the employee must include:

The request for temporary part-time may also include the desired distribution of the employee’s remaining working hours between the weekdays.

Necessary Actions by Employers

When receiving a request, employers are required to take action. If the employer does not refuse the request in writing at least one month before the start of the temporary part-time employment, the working hours will be automatically reduced to the extent requested by the employee. A timely notification to the employee about whether or not to grant his or her request is therefore important.

Please note that the legislature requires a stricter form of notification from the employer, namely a written and signed letter. An email or fax is not sufficient.

Can an employer reject a request for temporary part-time work?

As with requests for a permanent change, a request for temporary part-time employment can be rejected for operational reasons if the change would lead to significant disruption to processes, the workflow, or safety in the company, or if the change would incur disproportionately high costs.

In order to prevent overburdening an employer, a request can also be rejected if a certain number of employees have already reduced their working hours temporarily. Companies with a workforce of between 46 and 200 employees are only required to grant part-time temporary employment to 1 in 15 employees, which is the so-called “reasonable limit”.

Written by Anja Becher of Ogletree Deakins

© 2019 Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart, P.C.