Germany: employers under a duty to ensure that working time limits are observed
The Cologne State Employment Court recently handed down its judgment in a case concerning working time (case reference 5 TaBV 28/09).
Under the German Hours of Employment Act, an employee's daily working hours are generally not allowed to exceed eight hours. The Act also stipulates that an employee must have an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours at the end of his working day.
Here the employer and the Works Council had entered into a legally binding Works Agreement that the working day should begin no earlier than 7.00am and finish no later than 7.30pm. Some employees, however, voluntarily worked beyond 7.30pm and as a result the Works Council brought a claim against the employer.
The State Employment Court ruled that where working hours have been agreed in a Works Agreement, the employer is under an active duty to ensure that the employees observe those time limits, otherwise it risks being fined. The Court even said that ensuring that employees do not exceed the agreed working hours could mean the employer locking them out of its premises or closing down the communication systems, though this seems most unlikely in practice.