Part-time bridging employment: what to watch out for

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Part-time bridging employment: what to watch out for


The law on temporary part-time employment has been in force since the start of the year

"Basically it is all about adapting work to life", explained the German Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil, on 13 July 2018, as he announced at a press conference that the law on part-time bridging employment had been passed. "It is about ensuring that people's desire to design their lives flexibly – particularly people who are in employment – can also be met in the workplace", continued Heil. "The legal right to part-time bridging employment is a great step forward."


In fact since 1 January 2019 the law has given many workers an opportunity to reduce their working hours temporarily – while maintaining their legal right to return to full-time employment. In this way, for instance, older workers can use temporary part-time work as a bridge towards retirement. Mothers and fathers will have an opportunity to extend their parental leave. For people caring for a family member, too, part-time bridging employment can bring considerable relief. Many people may want more time for social activities or for further training. However, no-one applying for part-time bridging employment needs to give a reason. If you just want to give yourself a breather, you have an equal right to do so. It must not be forgotten, though, that such a reduction in working hours naturally involves curtailment of salary and will also impact on the level of pension.      


Not everyone has a right to part-time bridging employment

Many employees, though, cannot automatically benefit from the availability of limited part-time work: if you work in a business with less than 45 staff, you have no entitlement per se. But part-time bridging employment may be agreed consensually, e.g. as a means of promoting staff loyalty. If the number of employees comes near the threshold figure of 46 staff, it will be necessary to check carefully how many people are actually being employed at the time when the application is made. For medium-sized companies with up to 200 workers a threshold of "reasonable expectation" applies: in such firms part-time bridging must be granted to only one in fifteen employees. If several applications are made which exceed the reasonable-expectation limit in aggregate, then things get complicated. Then the employer, using "reasonable discretion", must weigh the various applications against each other, taking all circumstances and interests into account.    


Making the application correctly is important

Employers now have a general duty to discuss the wish for part-time work with any employees making such an application. In large firms with more than 200 workers the rule is as follows: after six months of full-time employment a member of staff may already make an application for reduced working hours. To ensure that the company can maintain certainty of planning, such part-time bridging employment must always be at least one year and no more than five years long. Then the employee has a right to return to full-time work, but not any automatic entitlement to the same job. Nor are large firms free of restrictions: the form in which the application is to be made must be followed exactly and there must be no serious company-internal grounds militating against such part-time bridging employment. However, the applicant can obtain assistance from the Works Council.


You will find further detailed information for example here:


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by Martina Tangara


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