Germany: Employment Germany: New Legislation In Germany

Last Updated: 6 October 2016
Article by Marcus Iske and Marcus Kamp

Gesetzesänderung mit Folgen für Standard-Arbeitsverträge

Eine zum 1. Oktober 2016 in Kraft tretende Gesetzesänderung kann einen erheblichen Einfluss auf die Standard-Arbeitsverträge vieler Unternehmen in Deutschland haben. Insbesondere die häufig in Standard-Arbeitsverträgen enthaltenen sog. Verfallklauseln sind von dieser Gesetzesänderung betroffen.


Standard-Arbeitsverträge enthalten oftmals Verfallklauseln, nach denen alle gegenseitigen Ansprüche aus dem Arbeitsvertrag verfallen sollen, sofern sie nicht innerhalb einer bestimmten Frist schriftlich gegenüber der anderen Partei geltend gemacht werden.

Änderung ab dem 1. Oktober 2016

Aufgrund der Gesetzesänderung darf in Standard-Arbeitsverträgen an die Geltendmachung von Rechten für die Arbeitnehmer keine strengere Form als die Textform vereinbart werden. Zur Wahrung der Textform reichen z.B. auch Emails und Telefaxe ohne eine eigenhändige Unterschrift aus. Dies hat insbesondere bei den Verfallklauseln die Konsequenz, dass die gesamte Klausel unwirksam ist, sofern Ansprüche nur dann verfallen sollen, wenn sie auch schriftlich geltend gemacht werden. Im Falle der Unwirksamkeit würde dann wieder die normale dreijährige Verjährungsfrist für die Ansprüche aus dem Arbeitsvertrag gelten. Auf tarifvertragliche Verfallklauseln hat die Gesetzesänderung hingegen keine Auswirkungen.

Was zu tun ist

Arbeitgeber sollten ihre Standard-Arbeitsverträge überprüfen und die entsprechenden Regelungen in etwaigen Verfallklauseln anpassen. Es besteht hingegen keine Notwendigkeit, bereits bestehende Arbeitsverträge anzupassen, da diese Gesetzesänderung nur für Standard-Arbeitsverträge gilt, die ab dem 1. Oktober 2016 in Kraft treten. Allerdings sollte bei jeder Vertragsänderung eines bestehenden Arbeitsvertrages nach dem 1. Oktober 2016 vorsorglich auch gleichzeitig eine etwaige Verfallklausel an die neue Rechtslage angepasst werden. Denn nach der Rechtsprechung des Bundesarbeitsgerichts kann eine Vertragsänderung auch als Neuabschluss gewertet werden, so dass dann die geänderte Rechtslage auf die Vertragsänderung Anwendung finden würde.

New Legislation in Germany and its impact on standard employment contracts

A change in legislation taking effect on 1 October 2016 will have an impact on the standard employment contracts of many companies with employees working in Germany. Especially so-called exclusion clauses (Verfallklauseln) will be affected by the upcoming legislative change.

Current legal situation

So far, standard employment contracts often provide for exclusion clauses according to which all mutual claims arising under the contract shall be deemed excluded unless they are asserted in writing vis-à-vis the other party within a certain period after the claim arose.

Legal situation as of 1 October 2016

Under the new legislation, provisions in standard employment contracts shall be invalid if they require a form that is more stringent than the text form for any notices or declarations of employees when exercising their rights. For complying with the text form requirement it is sufficient to send an email or fax without a handwritten signature. This means that exclusion clauses providing for the stringent "written form requirement" will become invalid and the normal statutory limitation period of three years will apply for the claims arising from the employment contract. This new legislation will not apply to exclusion clauses in collective bargaining agreements.

What to do

Employers should double-check and if necessary adjust the contractual provisions in their standard employment contracts for Germany. This is especially true for standard employment contracts containing exclusion clauses. The good news is that existing employment contracts are generally not affected as the new legislation only applies to employment contracts coming into force on 1 October 2016 or later. However, employers should be careful when it comes to changes or amendments of existing employment contracts on 1 October 2016 or later. According to the Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht), those modifications may convert an existing employment contract into a new contract with the effect that the new legislation will apply. The respective exclusion clauses should therefore also be adjusted in any amendment of an existing employment contract as a precaution.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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