German labour law promotes diversity in the world of employment through various regulations, such as labour and social laws on the equality of women and men, of part-time and full-time employees, and of people with and without disabilities.
Equal treatment laws
- The principle of equal treatment is anchored in the German constitution.
- Based on Article 3 of the Constitution, there is the principle of equal treatment under labour law. The principle of equal treatment under labour law states that the employer may not treat any individual employee less favorably than comparable employees for arbitrary reasons when taking favorable measures towards its employees, unless there is an objective reason.
- There are certain special equal treatment or discrimination prohibitions in German labour law, for example for part-time employees.
- In addition, there has been implemented the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz), which is the uniform and central set of regulations in Germany for implementing the four European anti-discrimination directives.
- The aim of the law is to prevent or eliminate discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity. Any form of discrimination is covered by the law: direct and also indirect discrimination, harassment and the instruction to discriminate.
- Legal consequences of violations can include claims for compensation.
Rights of disabled employees
- Germany’s social law regulates many rights of severely disabled employees in the 9th Social Code (9. Sozialgesetzbuch).
- Among other things, the employer must organise the employment of disabled persons in such a way that they can use and develop their skills and knowledge as much as possible. This affects for example working hours, working overtime and additional leave.
A notice of termination requires a prior approval of an authority in case of disabled employees.
- To make it easier for severely disabled people to participate in working life, employers who have 20 or more workplaces are obliged to fulfill a certain quota. The exact quota depends on the size of the business. Alternatively, companies can pay a so-called compensation charge if they fail to meet their quota.
- In areas where female or male employees are strongly underrepresented, there has been a discussion whether a quota could help to improve the gender balance. However, as of today, there is no general quota for employers to employ a certain number of women in Germany. Companies including EON, BMW, Daimler, Bosch and Siemens have, however, adopted voluntary quotas aimed at increasing the number of women in leading positions.
- Supervisory boards of companies that are both listed and subject to equal codetermination must meet a gender quota of 30%.
- Since 2021, new measures are in place to increase the proportion of women on the management bodies of listed companies. For listed stock companies with equal codetermination and a board of more than three people, there is an obligation to fill at least one board seat with a person of the underrepresented sex.
- The Pay Transparency Act aims at equal pay for women and men for the same work or work of equal value and to prevent women and men from being paid differently.
- In summary, the law contains:
- An employee's right to information
- A reporting obligation on the status of equal pay for certain businesses (depending on the company’s size)
- A call for employers to voluntarily establish company procedures for reviewing pay structures
- In addition, the works council is involved in the fulfillment of this right to information and its rights in connection with the review of pay structures are emphasised.