Jobs in Germany are no longer for life - they might not even be for a year. Sacha Grosjean, of German law firm Velten Franz Jakoby, looks at how traditional collective agreements are applied to modern methods of recruitment and contracts of employment
The "job for life" was a common feature in the post-Second World War German economy, as was employee loyalty. However, in recent years, in the wake of the re-unification of Germany and the recession of the 1990s, the German employment market has become increasingly flexible. As a result, the average duration of employment relationships is diminishing.
German employment law is unusual because while the legal system is based mainly on legislation, it also relies on binding law made by the courts, thereby facilitating greater flexibility. Below are some of the key issues employers have to consider when recruiting and engaging new employees.
An employer must not advertise a position, either publicly or internally, as exclusively for men or exclusively for women. The only exception is when a particular gender is an essential prerequisite for the job at hand - for example, an advertisement for the role of a male actor. Discrimination against sex may give rise to a claim for damages against the employer.
Employer’s "right to question"
When invited to an interview, the applicant is obliged to answer truthfully any questions asked by the employer. However, the answers to these questions should be in the employer’s rightful and provable interest, and require an answer because of their relevance to the job. The applicant need not answer inadmissible questions.
The applicant should be allowed to answer inadmissible questions without adhering to the truth if their refusal to answer - or a truthful answer - could have negative consequences for them. Only a false answer to a perfectly valid question can entitle the employer to contest the contract of employment.
The employer is entitled to ask questions about professional skills, attachment of wages by creditors of the employee,
physical disability, non-compete obligations under previous employment, state of health and previous convictions, if any connection with the employment exists. The employer may not ask for information regarding union membership, previous remuneration, pregnancy or an employee’s financial circumstances.