How Bavaria plans to shake up German working time rules

How Bavaria plans to shake up German working time rules
Should work time be more flexible? Photo: DPA
The Bavarian state government wants to make rules on rest and maximum working hours more flexible.

The government, led by a coalition of the Christian Democrats’ sister party the CSU, and the Freie Wähler (Free Voters), believes current regulations are outdated.

The laws allow for an employee in Germany to work eight hours a day, which can be extended to a maximum of 10 hours in some circumstances.

The Bavarian plan, which will be put forward to the Bundesrat – Germany's upper house of parliament – envisages relaxing these rules, including the compulsory uninterrupted rest period of 11 hours between two working days. 

According to the government, which is led by the CSU's Markus Söder, many employees in the southern state want this change in order to improve the work and family life balance.

It would mean employees could, for example, take a break in the afternoon and work their hours late in the evening, before starting the next day as usual. It’s particularly aimed at parents who may have to pick up or look after children in the middle of the day. 

“Modern communication technology increasingly offers freedom for working independent of time and place, and opens up a higher degree of flexibility for companies and employees,” the cabinet said in a statement on Monday.

Making working hours more flexible in Germany has been a topic debated over the past few years, as the workforce changes and digitalization continues.

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However, the Social Democrats slammed the Bavarian initiative, raising concerns that softening the rules could allow employees to become exploited.

The Bundesrat is the upper house of parliament and consists of representatives of the German states. Laws concerning state affairs or the constitution must be approved by it before they come into force.

What are the rules on working time in Germany?

The Working Time Act stipulates the number of hours a person can work in a regular working day. In Germany, an employee can work eight hours a day, Monday to Saturday, for a maximum of 48 hours per week.

An employee can work up to 10 hours a day if the average number of hours per day does not exceed eight over 24 weeks. To extend beyond this requires specific agreements and approval by the relevant local authority.

Workers are also required to have an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours after the end of their daily working time.

When it comes to breaks, the law also specifies that employees must receive a 30-minute break when working between six and nine hours.

Working more than nine hours a day requires at least a 45-minute break. Break times are decided by the employer, unless another way of distributing breaks has been decided through a collective bargaining agreement.

EXPLAINED: Who are the foreign workers coming to Germany?

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