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2016 promises to be an interesting year in German employment law. Only a few days after a draft law on new regulations for temporary work and the differentiation between employment relationships and freelance and works contracts have been published (although it has been meanwhile been withdrawn and will be newly discussed in January) a new draft law on equal pay for men and women has been published by the competent Ministry for Families, Senior persons, Women and Youth. Further the government announced to prepare a further law giving employees the right to return to a fulltime job after having reduced the work time previously.

EMPLAWYERS partner Roland Falder has published a trilingual handbook on German und Chinese labour and employment laws together with his co-author Michael Lorenz, international tax expert and owner of a law firm based in Bangkok and Hong Kong. Roland Falder has a longstanding experience with international secondments to and from China and is a frequency speaker on Chinese employment law topics.

The handbook contains a description of the principles of German and Chinese labour, social security and tax laws in German, English and Chinese. It further includes templates and excerpts from relevant legal materials (such as the Sino German Double Taxation Treaty).

The book will be useful for foreign HR experts dealing with China and makes communication between HR departments and consultants in China and abroad easier. Even experts only interested in German or Chinese employment law will be able to benefit from the handbook.

The book is available in stationary German and Chinese bookstores and with many online dealers (such as amazon.de).

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has decided that time spent travelling to and from first and last customers by workers without a fixed office must be regarded as working time.

In July 2015 we informed about the non-binding opinion of the Advocate General and the upcoming decision of the ECJ concerning the Spanish case Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones Obreras v. Tyco Integrated Security SL, Tyco Integrated Fire & Security Corporation Servicios SA.

In its decision the European Court of Justice has now acted on the suggestion of the Advocate General and has held, that for the purposes of the Working Time Directive the time spent travelling between an employee's home and the premises of the customer designated by the employer at the beginning and end of each day, should count as working time.

It is a typical situation of daily HR work in Germany. The six month (probationary) period of newly hired employee is nearing its end, but a final decision on the extension of the employment relationship has not yet been taken. The employer is not 100 % sure about the employees performance, but would like to give him another chance. Another case is a long-term sickness during the probation period, which does not yet allow a proper performance evaluation. The problem is, that after six month continued employment many employees (in entities with more than 10 employees) enjoy full protection against dismissal.

The European Working Time Directive sets clear and strict limits for permitted hours of work to protect the employees' health and safety. Work-time is any time that is not rest time, there is nothing in between. Thus for certain activities such as commuting from home to work and vice versa it needs to be determined whether such time is considered work or free-time.

While normal commuting (until now) is not counted as working time the European Court of Justice now considers a decision that might change the landscape for whole industries.

According to the opinion of the Advocate General in a Spanish case of workers without fixed work base the travelling time to and from home to a costumer must be seen as working time.

German law supports parents in raising their children. One of the main incentives is the benefit of Elternzeit (literally "parents' time", also known as parental leave), a time to care for the child or make arrangements for the child's welfare and to initiate a functioning work-life balance. Additionally there are regulations on the Elterngeld (literally "parents' money"), a tax-financed payment to support parents in the first 14 months after the birth of a child. In January 2015 alterations of the laws regulating the parental leave came into effect, but most modification are only becoming relevant for children born after 01.07.2015. These new regulations raise a number of questions, with which we deal below.

It has been a fundamental principle of German employment law that all protective laws and regulations relevant for employees do not apply to the contractual relationship between a company and a Managing Director. This principle is now frequently being challenged by (former) Managing Directors who look e. g. for protection against dismissal. Two new decisions of the Federal Labour Court allow those former Managing Directors access to Labour Court Jurisdiction, thus opening the path to employee benefits for them.

In case of service contracts employees of the contractor often work at the premises of the customer. This creates the risk that they actually must be seen as employees of the customer. In order to avoid such risk the customer often demands that the contractor is in the possession of a precautionary licence to lease out employees. In case of a dispute with the employee (especially about a dismissal) both companies then argue that either the service contract is the correct legal basis of the activities of the employee at the customer premises or that the licence to lease out employees covers the activities at the customer premises. Thus – so their argumentation – there is no claim of the employee to have an employment relationship with the customer company.

A new decision of the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig (Bundesverwaltungsgericht, 6 CN 1/13 of 26 November 2014) has created great uncertainties among companies offering telephone or online services to their customers on Sundays and public holidays.

On January 1st 2015 Germany's first minimum wage law enters into force. Many (foreign) companies don't see any reason for concern, since they are paying their employees working in Germany well above 8.50 Euro net per hour, the (in most industries) new minimum wage.

The real danger – however – is hidden in the new law and forces employers to carefully monitor their German contract management.