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Current developments in labor law and labor market policy

Labor market policy innovations and decisions in labor law are of crucial importance for day-to-day practice in companies and play a central role in relations between employers and employees. For many small and medium-sized companies in particular, it is a challenge to keep track of the constant changes.

In order to inform the North Rhine-Westphalian mechanical and plant engineering industry about the latest developments in labour law and labour market policy, ProduktionNRW organized a virtual information event on 18 April 2024. The focus will be on current labor market policy developments and the latest case law in labor law that have a potential impact on the industry.

Current labor market policy decisions

Fabian Seus, lawyer from the VDMA Legal Department and Head of the Competence Center Labor Market, first addressed the latest developments in the Working Hours Act. It appears that this law is not a priority in the current legislative period, as the SPD and FDP in particular are unable to reach an agreement on its structure. A proposal by the CDU/CSU parliamentary group did not receive sufficient support.
The Pension Level Stabilization and Generation Capital Act aims to stabilize pension levels and build up generation capital for the statutory pension insurance scheme. By 2039, this law is intended to ensure that the pension level is at least 48% of the former wage. In order to support the pay-as-you-go system and avoid an increase in contributions, the government plans to make a financial contribution to the pension insurance scheme from the income from a capital stock from the mid-2030s. However, calculations by the Federal Ministry of Finance assume that the generational capital will only slightly reduce the contribution rate.
The “Job Turbo” is an initiative by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to help refugees effectively enter the labor market after completing their integration course. To this end, sector-specific “matching campaigns” are being intensified with industry and educational partners. So far, however, there have only been a few points of contact between the “Job Turbo” and the mechanical and plant engineering sector.

Current case law and effects on company practice

Dr. Christian Hess, a lawyer from the VDMA’s legal department, then turned his attention to employment law rulings. The rulings were varied and in some cases referred to earlier proceedings in which other courts had ruled in the past.

One example of this is the Munich Labor Court, which referred to the ruling of the Federal Labor Court (BAG) on equal pay for men and women. As the BAG emphasized, the better negotiating skills of a male colleague do not justify a difference in salary compared to comparable female employees. However, the Munich Labor Court found that salary bands in works agreements that only stipulate minimum and maximum salaries within remuneration groups and leave it up to the employer to determine individual salaries are permissible. In addition, the consideration of individual performance and soft factors such as fairness or teamwork leaves some room for maneuver.

Furthermore, the BAG ruled that there is no right to unavailability outside of working hours. According to the company rules, the employer is entitled to specify the work performance for the following day in terms of time and place. For employees, this results in a secondary obligation from the contractual relationship to take note of the instruction communicated by text message, even if it reaches employees during their free time.

During the subsequent discussion, participants from companies commented on individual legal rulings from their perspective. It became clear that the systematic preparation of the most important innovations is helpful in preparing the mechanical and plant engineering industry in North Rhine-Westphalia for possible changes.

Further information:
  • Information on the “Act to stabilize pension levels and build up generational capital for statutory pension insurance” can be found here.
  • Information on the “Job-Turbo” can be found here.

The event was organized by ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the cluster for mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is organized by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform for networking, informing and marketing companies, institutions and networks with each other and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.