Germany has recently made significant changes to its labour laws, which have implications for employers and employees alike. These changes reflect the country's ongoing efforts to adapt to a rapidly changing global economy and to ensure that its labour laws remain fair and equitable. The most important changes are briefly presented below.

1. The minimum wage for workers in certain occupations

The statutory minimum wage was raised significantly to EUR 12.00 per hour on 1 October 2022. For this reason, no further increase is planned in 2023 with the exception in the area of care, where the minimum wage will be increased in Mai 2023. However, in addition to the statutory minimum wage, there are also sectoral minimum wages. A sectoral minimum wage is negotiated by trade unions and employers in a collective agreement and declared generally binding by politicians. It then applies to all employees in that sector - even if their employer is not covered by a collective agreement! For example for electricians, the minimum wage will increase to 13.40 euros per hour on 1 January 2023. For painters and varnishers, the minimum wage will rise to 14.50 euros for journeymen and for assistants to 12.50 euros on 1 April 2023. This is designed to ensure that skilled workers receive fair compensation for their services and to prevent the undercutting of wages by unscrupulous employers.


2. Electronic certificate of incapacity for work (eAU)

Since 1 January 2023 employers have been obliged to retrieve data on the incapacity for work of legally insured employees from the statutory health insurance companies. The obligation of employees to submit a certificate of incapacity for work is therefore no longer applicable. At the moment employees will continue to receive the certificate of incapacity for work from the attending doctor, but are not obliged to present it to the employer. Employees are still obliged to immediately report to the employer that they are unable to work and, if necessary, to have this determined by a doctor. This regulation is for state-insured persons, and for privately insured workers, the previous regulations continue to apply.


3. Limitation of holiday claims

The European Court of Justice ruled on 22 September 2022 (case number: C-120/21) that the entitlement to statutory annual leave can only be forfeited by national limitation rules if the employee concerned was previously informed by their employer of the risk of forfeiture of leave and requested to take leave. Without such information, the employer could not rely on national limitation rules. This decision of the European Court of Justice was implemented by the Federal Labour Court on 20 December 2022.


4. Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtgesetz)

The new Supply Chain Due Diligence Act came into force on 1 January 2023. The aim is to improve human rights in global supply chains. Companies with more than 3,000 employees must identify risks in their supply chain and assess or prioritise them. In addition, the company must submit a so-called policy statement on its corporate human rights strategy. Indirect suppliers must also be included if the company becomes aware of human rights violations. Therefore, affected companies are obliged to set up complaint channels for those working in the supply chains and to report regularly on supply chain management. Violations are subject to fines ranging from 100,000 euros to two percent of the average annual turnover.


5. Obligation to record working time

The European Court of Justice had already ruled in 2019 that companies in the EU must record the working time of their employees. The Federal Labour Court confirmed the obligation for German companies to record working time in September 2022. The obligation to record working time applies immediately - so there is no transition period. The form in which working time is recorded, for example timesheets or digital tools, is up to the company to decide. The employer must ensure the actual and correct recording of working time. Despite the Federal Labour Court decision, there is still uncertainty on several points - such as the question of whether the mandatory recording of working time also applies to managers.


6. Whistleblower Protection Act (Hinweisgeberschutzgesetz)

The federal government is obliged under European law to implement the Whistleblower Directive. The law was passed by the German Bundestag on 16 December 2022 and will probably come into force in April 2023. The law provides that companies with 50 or more employees must install and operate an internal whistleblower system. Companies with between 50 and 249 employees will be granted a transitional period until 17 December 2023. The Federal Office of Justice will also set up an external reporting office that whistleblowers can choose to use. Anonymous tips must also be followed up. Whistleblowers will be better protected from reprisals through a reversal of the burden of proof. It is presumed in their favour that discrimination is reprisal. This can result in claims for damages.


Overall, the recent amendments to labour law in Germany reflect the country's ongoing commitment to fairness and equity in the workplace. These changes have implications not only for employers and employees in Germany but also for international businesses and lawyers who work with German companies. As Germany continues to evolve its labour laws, it will be important for businesses and legal professionals to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and to adapt accordingly.