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Germany – Federal labour court reinforces agency worker rights

19 November 2012

The Federal Labour Court last week reinforced the rights of temporary agency workers. It ruled in favour of an agency worker who had challenged a previous ruling on whether a reduction in working hours was legitimate.

The agency worker was employed at a client company since 2008 and, on two occasions in 2009, he had asked to reduce his weekly working hours from 18 to 10 hours.

The employer, i.e. the staffing company, did not grant permission of the request because it had arranged with the client company (the staffing buyer) to only send out agency staff who were able to work a minimum of 18 hours a week. The staffing firm argued that, on these grounds, the supply agreement would not allow a reduction in working hours.

The regional labour court in Hesse had at first ruled in favour of the employer, with the agency worker appealing the decision.

The Federal Labour Court now decided that the agency worker should have been allowed to reduce his working hours. It said that part-time workers have the right to reduce their working time and disagreed with the reasoning brought forward by the staffing company.

The federal labour court said that the supply agreement alone does not justify denying the worker a reduction in working hours while “corporate reasons” would do so. However, the staffing company could not explain their stance by such corporate reasons and also did not give the agency worker an opportunity to simply work at a different client company, where the 18-hour rule would not have applied.

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