On June 23, 2022, the German Bundestag passed a bill to transpose the EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions into German law. By August 1, 2022, companies will have to comply with a comprehensive catalog of new obligations.
One key aspect is the obligation to issue the essential terms of employment to the employee – at the latest one month after the start of work – in written form, a wet-ink signed hard copy! Non-compliance is punishable by a fine. Does this spell the end of (already incomplete) digitalization and the paperless office in the workplace?
For all employment relationships starting after July 31, 2022, additional information must be included in the employment contracts. Important to note is that the employer must record these in writing (i.e., a hard copy signed in wet ink). An electronic signature is not sufficient. This led to criticism of the draft bill, which, however, was adopted unchanged nonetheless.
The mandatory content of employment agreement includes:
Under the current law there was already an obligation to provide employees with a written version of key terms of the employment agreement, but there were no actual sanctions in case of violations. The new sanctions in case of non-compliance now open a new chapter for employers:
Employers failing to lay down one of the essential terms of employment correctly, completely and in the prescribed manner (i.e., in a wet-ink signed hard copy), or in a timely manner, can be punished with a fine of up to EUR 2,000 per violation. This can quickly become expensive in case of repeated and systematic non-compliance.
The new law has one final catch: All current employees will be entitled to request a written document (read: not an electronic document, but wet ink on paper) containing all the information above. The employer will then have seven days to comply and hand over these documents. This will be especially burdensome for employers without any HR staff on the ground.
However, there will be no fine for employers for violations of this obligation, if they fail to comply with the seven day deadline.
If you want to retain a (mostly) paperless office, there might still be some wiggle room. Please get in touch with our employment law team in Germany if you want to know more.