As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working became a necessity. Despite the easing lockdowns, the trend is likely to stay, particularly with “workstations” being actively promoted by the travel industry; however, there are considerable tax consequences for international employers. In this International News article, McDermott’s Gero Burwitz and Isabella Denninger discuss the complexity of this new working order and how international businesses can navigate it.
In Germany, a Corona Alert App has been deployed. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, it’s entirely up to the user to share the test result via the app. Employees are at liberty to use the app voluntarily on their personal devices, but employers cannot oblige employees to use it on a private or company mobile phone outside of working hours.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany has introduced special occupational safety measures to protect the health of employees, restore economic activity and interrupt the chains of infection. On April 16, 2020, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesminister für Arbeit und Soziales) Hubertus Heil and the CEO of the German statutory accident insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung) Dr. Stefan Hussy presented a unified occupational health and safety standard for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic. The regulations took effect immediately.
Most major jurisdictions have pay equity laws, but their approach is far from uniform. Global companies need to evaluate compliance with these laws on a country-by-country basis whilst simultaneously addressing their compensation policies globally.
A sample of the rules across several countries helps to identify trends that can drive effective global policies.
The Australian Workplace Gender Equality Act of 2012 mandates equal pay for equivalent or comparable work. There are annual reporting requirements for employers with 100 or more employees. Those reports must include the following indicators: gender composition of the workforce, gender composition of governing bodies, and equal compensation between men and women.
Employers are penalised by being publicly named if they fail to lodge a public report on time, or inform employees or other stakeholders that a public report was lodged, or give the requested compliance data under the Act.
In Germany, the Burden of Proof Is on Employees if an Employee Wants to be Compensated for Requested Overtime
If a German employee claims special payment for overtime he has performed, it is the employee who has the burden of proof regarding the following requirements:
- the fact that he actually worked overtime; and
- the fact that the employer explicitly ordered to work overtime or at least has approved or tolerated the performed overtime.
In situations where there is a dispute regarding the payment of overtime, the second requirement is very difficult for the employee to prove. Nevertheless, in its decision dated 10 April 2013 – file number 5 AZR 122/12 – the German Federal Labor Court confirmed these legal principles, and strengthened the position of employers in disputed cases regarding employee overtime.
Where the disputed overtime was not expressly ordered by the employer, but was merely approved or tolerated by the employer, the German Federal Labor Court emphasized that the employee has to prove the employer’s knowledge of each single case of performed overtime and that the employer expressly or impliedly consented to it.
If the employee claims that the overtime order was given by way of implication, e.g., by assigning tasks that could not have been accomplished during regular working time, he has to prove that these tasks could not have been finished without working overtime.
Given these strict requirements and the modern working environment that generally does not have explicit or even written work orders, employees will likely have a very difficult time producing evidence to support a disputed overtime claim in Germany.