Part-time employment

Part-time work and part-time employment are of enormous importance in the economy.

Approximately one third of all employees currently work part-time, a total of approximately 11 million employees in Germany. This large number is primarily the result of the Part-Time and Fixed-Term Employment Act (TzBfG) which came into force in 2001. This law aims to promote part-time work, since one of the aims of this law is to improve the compatibility of family, private and working life. None of the provisions of the TzBfG may be amended to the detriment of the part-time employee, neither by means of an employment contract nor by means of a collective bargaining agreement or works agreement.

Part-Time and Fixed-Term Employment Act

According to the TzBfG, a part-time employment relationship exists if an employee works shorter hours than a comparable full-time employee. The standard full-time working hours of the company are to be taken into account.  If the full working time in a company is 40 hours per week, every employee with less than 40 hours per week works part-time, while in another company an employee with 34 hours per week or less works part-time if the standard working time there is only 35 hours per week. The reduced working time can be structured in different ways: Very often the number of hours per week is reduced, but the number of working days remains the same. Or it can work the other way round, so that people work the full number of hours, but not every working day. But other constellations also occur, for example work two weeks full and then two weeks off.

The same labour law for everyone

Part-time employment

As a matter of principle, all labour law provisions that also apply to full-time employees are applicable to part-time employees. This means in particular: The employer has a duty of care towards them and they must pay wages in case of illness and during holidays to which part-time employees are entitled.

The TzBfG has expressly included the prevention of discrimination against part-time employees, which is the aim of the legislator: A comprehensive ban on discrimination applies. The employer may not treat a part-time employee differently because of the part-time work unless objective reasons justify different treatment. The part-time employee is entitled to all financial benefits on a pro rata basis that are also due to a full-time employee. Firstly, he must receive the same hourly wage. So far the legal regulation in theory. Unfortunately, professional practice often looks different, as it is not uncommon for part-time employees to be paid less than their full-time colleagues.

On the other hand, part-time employees are also entitled to special company benefits accordingly. The boss must therefore not deprive him or her of pro rata Christmas or holiday pay, night bonuses or a company pension scheme.

Legal claim to reduction of working time

The TzBfG also promotes part-time work by giving the employee a legal claim to a reduction of his or her contractually agreed working hours.  In order to change from full-time to part-time work, the employee must have been employed in the company for more than six months and must submit his or her request for a reduction in working hours no later than three months before the start of the period requested by the employee. In addition, the company must have more than 15 employees. The employer can refuse the request for part-time work if there are operational reasons for not doing so. This is the case if there is a significant impairment of the work flow or if disproportionate costs are incurred. Many legal disputes concerning part-time work are inflamed by operational reasons. In court proceedings, the employer must explain and prove these in concrete terms. The judges apply strict standards and only really substantial operational reasons can be considered as a refusal of part-time work. The absence of a substitute is not part of this as a matter of principle. The disadvantage of this right to an unlimited reduction in working time under § 8 of the Law on Part-Time Working is that – as the title of the law already indicates – the employee has no right to a subsequent increase in working time.

Part-time employment/ Bild:

This disadvantage is now to be compensated for by § 9a of the Law on Part-Time Working and Fixed-Term Contracts, which has been newly inserted into the Law on Part-Time Working and Fixed-Term Contracts since January 1, 2019. It gives more than every second employee (approx. 22 million) the right to a reduction in working hours for a limited period. The magic word is also called bridge part-time and meets the wish of many employees to be able to work part-time for a limited period of time and then return to their originally contractually agreed working hours. Freelancers, apprentices and trainees are not entitled to bridge part-time work. Although the entitlement to bridge part-time work does not require reasons such as parental leave, care of a relative or further training, it is only possible under certain conditions and in compliance with certain formal requirements and deadlines:

In companies with up to 45 employees there is no such entitlement. In companies with more than 200 employees, all employees have a right to bridge part-time work. In companies with 46 to 200 employees, the employer only has to grant bridge part-time work to one in 15 employees and can reject further employees. The employee must submit the application for bridge part-time work in text form (letter, e-mail or fax) at least three months before the desired start. He or she must state by how many hours he or she wants to reduce his or her working time, over which period the bridge part-time work is to extend and how the future working hours are to be distributed over the working days. The bridge time must be at least 1 – and at most 5 years. The employer can reject the application if there are operational reasons to the contrary. These can be, in particular, the incurrence of high costs or the substantial impairment of the work flow, the organisation or the safety of the operation. In such a case, the employee can only submit a new application after 2 years. The employer’s response must be in writing at least one month before the bridge period. If the employee does not receive an answer, his application is considered approved. The bridge part-time does not include the entitlement of a previously part-time employee to a full-time job now. However, he may further reduce his working time by taking bridge part-time and then return to his previous part-time job later.

In particular, the new legal entitlement to part-time work with a later return to a full-time job accommodates many parents.  In most cases, it is thus possible to reconcile work and family life over a longer period of time, during which childcare takes up different amounts of time.

However, part-time work, especially if it is performed for a longer period, also has disadvantages: It often means a career break, which mostly affects women, as they still make up the majority of all part-time workers.  And part-time work also often leads to massive financial problems in the event of divorce, illness or death of the partner, or when the employee reaches retirement age, which – especially when it comes to pensions – often forces the employee to seek state support.

In this respect, it is advisable to think carefully about the advantages, but also about all the disadvantages – which may occur much later – before deciding on (bridge) part-time work.

Work on call – on-call work

A special form of part-time employment, in addition to work on call and job sharing, is marginal employment on a 450 euro basis. These so-called mini-jobbers – like all other (part-time) employees – are entitled to paid holidays, continued pay in the event of illness and special company payments.

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Remember that!

As employment law cases should be solved quickly, we always have an initial consultation appointment immediately. If possible on the same day, otherwise the next day. Please write us a message or call us directly. You can reach us by phone from Mo-Fr in the time from 8 am to 6pm.

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⏩ On this page we have summarised the most important questions on the subject of termination due to corona.

⏩ In addition, we have collected the most frequently asked questions for employees, employers and works councils on labour law and Corona and published the corresponding answers in a separate section.

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Remember that!

As employment law cases should be solved quickly, we always have an initial consultation appointment immediately. If possible on the same day, otherwise the next day. Please write us a message or call us directly. You can reach us by phone from Mo-Fr in the time from 8 am to 6pm.