In short: Unlimited employment contracts can be signed digitally and are legally valid. However, certain specified information must be provided to the employee and signed by hand from the employer (or an authorised person on behalf of the employer). In future, employers who do not provide such information in writing (wet ink) can be fined up to EUR 2,000 per case.
The Detailed Version
In Germany, the “NachweisG” (Documentation Act) has existed since 1995, according to which specific information of the employment relationship had to be handed over in writing (wet ink). The list of information has been extended with the update and has to be handed over in a shorter time period, valid as of 1st of August 2022.
What Are The Sections That Must Be In Written Form?
For example, the employee must be informed in writing (wet ink) of some of the following (please review the law to get the complete overview):
- Name and address of the contractual parties
- Start date of employment
- End date or expected end date of limited-term employment
- Short description of activities to be performed
- Information on workplace (or ability to freely chose it)
- Composition of remuneration, including premiums and supplementary payments
- Information on agreed working time
- Annual holiday entitlement(s)
- Information on additionally applicable provisions, such as collective bargaining or works agreement
- Term of agreed probationary period (if any)
- Information on on-call working per § 12 TzBfG
- Information on ability to assign overtime working
- Entitlement to professional trainings
- Information on occupational pension scheme carrier(s)
- Deadlines for terminating the employment relationship
- Information on procedure in case of termination
Okay, Does This Mean You Can No Longer Have Digital HR Contracts?
You can still have digital contracts with eSignatures and they continue to be valid. The conditions specified in the NachwG can be made available to the employee in a written (wet ink signed) employment contract OR an additional document (e.g. separate paper with “information according to the NachwG” + employer’s wet ink signature), to be handed out on the first or 7th working day at the latest (which time period applies depends on the information to be provided). A separate document (wet ink signed) can be provided unilaterally by the employer, whereas the employment contract must always be signed by both parties.
Wait..What About Contracts Signed Before This Law? Do They Become Invalid?
No, they do not. Electronically signed employment contracts still remain valid. Employees who are already employed in a company before 01 August 2022 only have to be informed in writing (wet ink) about their essential working conditions if they request the employer do so within a period of seven days or one month (depending on the information to be provided).
Please note that the final law has not yet been passed by the “Bundesrat” and the German Legislation and the German legislator are expected to decide on a final version of the law in early July.
We hope this gave you enough information about the update on the German Documentation Act. Please get in touch with your legal counsel to know how this applies to you and what steps you need to take to remain compliant.
We draw your attention to the fact that our website is for non-binding information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice in the strict sense. The content of this blog is not, cannot and should not replace individual and binding legal advice that addresses your specific situation. In this respect, all information provided is without guarantee for correctness and completeness.
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