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Germany – Agency workers can claim back higher wages if they are not too late

14 March 2013

Agency workers in Germany have won the right to retrospectively claim higher wages, the federal labour court (BAG) ruled on Wednesday. The court decision impacts agency workers who had received lower pay due to illicit bargaining contracts.

These contracts, signed mainly between small-sized staffing companies and the former Christian Unions (CGZP), were previously rendered void by the BAG in 2010 and 2012. Under these agreements, staffing firms were able to significantly underpay temporary workers.

The BAG ruled that agency workers have the right to now claim back equal pay and receive the same wages as direct hires. But it is unlikely that many agency workers will actually benefit from the ruling because claims have to be made within a certain period of time, usually within three months. If this time-limit was not included in an employment contract, then the statutory period of three years applies, the court said.

Legal experts have already said that the chances of successfully claiming back retrospective pay are slim because of the statutory deadlines. Many companies had also included a three-month limit in employment contracts to protect themselves from claims, lawyers said in response to the BAG ruling.

A former agency worker failed to claim back retrospective pay of €16,285 after receiving an hourly gross pay of just €6.15 while working on a CGZP contract between May 2009 and June 2010. Her claim was rejected by the BAG on Wednesday because of the three-month time limit.

It is estimated that around 200,000 agency workers were impacted by the illegitimate CGZP contracts but courts are only handling around 1,500 claims – 0.75% of the total potential claims. 

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