Employment law for HR: a guide to human resources

Employment law for human resources
Liz is Head of Legal at twinwin.
As an expert in employment law, Liz enjoys sharing valuable legal knowledge with HR professionals, enabling them to avoid costly legal mistakes. Her mission at twinwin is to make employment law easy for HR.

What legal challenges do HR professionals face and what skills are required to do so?

HR managers are confronted with a variety of different employment law issues in their daily work. Every day, they have to make decisions that are relevant to employment law — and often without having a legal background themselves. Meawhile, German employment law is extremely complex and full of legal pitfalls. The challenge in HR work is, on the one hand, to be legally on the safe side in order to avoid legal disputes and unnecessary costs. On the other hand, it is important to ensure employee satisfaction so that they remain loyal to the company. In order to successfully master such challenges, HR professionals need certain skills, such as:

  • Employment law know-how: HR managers need knowledge in the area of employment law in order to be able to implement the applicable requirements professionally and legally, for example when drafting employment contracts, terminating or warning employees, or regulating working hours and overtime.
  • Analytical skills: Analytical expertise is important in order to understand complex legal issues or documents and to filter out the relevant information, for example when it comes to implementing regulations and guidelines on occupational safety and health protection in a legally compliant manner.
  • Negotiation skills: HR professionals must often represent the interests of the company and at the same time ensure fair working conditions for employees. Good negotiation skills help them reconcile these sometimes conflicting requirements. Negotiating skills are also important when it comes to negotiating employment contracts, compensation agreements or termination agreements or mediating in conflicts such as employment law disputes.
  • Communication skills: Good communication skills help, for example, to communicate legal aspects and their effects on daily work to employees and managers in an understandable way or to document processes that must withstand legal review, such as minutes of employee interviews or records of agreements reached.
  • Problem solving skills: Labor law conflicts can arise unexpectedly and usually require quick action. Good problem-solving skills help HR managers to react adequately and competently to conflicts, for example by finding solutions that meet legal requirements and satisfy all parties involved. However, it is also important for identifying and evaluating employment law challenges at an early stage, for example in connection with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the preparation of documents for personnel work.
  • Careful work: A detailed approach and a structured approach are important, for example, when it comes to documenting personnel-relevant information and drafting employment contracts in such a way that costly mistakes are avoided. But this is also of great importance when dealing with sensitive employee data.
  • Organizational skills: Good organizational skills help HR professionals structure HR processes in such a way that legal deadlines and requirements are met, and tasks are prioritized according to their urgency and importance.

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Which labor law laws are relevant for daily personnel work?

Employment law provides the legal framework for employment relationships in Germany and supports all phases of personnel work, from recruitment to departure of employees. It is therefore part of the daily business of every HR manager. This is because employment law deals with the guidelines and laws that regulate the legal relationships between employers and employees and their respective representatives. It primarily serves to protect employees vis-à-vis their employer, as it is generally assumed that the employee is in a weaker position.

 

Individual and collective employment law

Labor law can be roughly divided into two areas: individual employment law and collective employment law.

individual labor law regulates the legal relationship — the employment relationship — between individual employees and their employers and thus forms the basis for daily HR work. It therefore deals with the formation, content and termination of employment contracts.

 

The most important issues of individual employment law include:

  • Conclusion and content of the employment contract: What are the requirements for a legally secure employment contract?
  • Working hours and vacation entitlements: What regulations apply to working hours, overtime, vacation entitlements and special situations such as parental leave or illness?
  • Termination of employment contracts: What are the most important regulations regarding notice periods, severance payments and the rights and obligations of both parties during the termination process?
  • Protecting workers: What rights do employees have in a company and what must the employer do to protect these rights, including protection against discrimination, data protection and occupational safety?

Collective labor law on the other hand, deals with legal relationships between groups of workers (usually represented by works councils and/or trade unions) and their employers and their representatives. This is primarily about what trade unions and employers' associations negotiate. This area of law is particularly important for personnel managers in companies in which trade unions or works councils are active.

The most important elements of collective labor law include:

  • Drafting of collective agreements: HR professionals should know how such contracts are negotiated and how they affect employment conditions such as wages and working hours.
  • Participation in companies: Employment law expertise helps HR managers to work effectively with the works council as an elected employee representative body.

Industrial action: Knowledge of the legal aspects of strikes and lockouts ensures the legal security of HR processes.

Individual employment law collective employment law
regulates the legal relationship between individual employees and employers regulates the legal relationship beteen the respective representative organisations on the employer side and the employee side
covers the entirety of employment contract law such as the formation of the employment contract, working hours, wages, protection against dismissal, termination of employment contracts, vacation entitlements and maternity protection includes collective bargaining law, employment dispute law and the right to co-determination in companies and businesses

Employment law: An overview of the most important sources of employment laws

German employment law is complex and the regulations are spread across many sources of law. In addition to relevant (including freedom of association, which is important for trade unions and employers' associations), numerous individual labor laws and regulations form the legal framework.

An overview of these is crucial for effective personnel management and the legal security of HR processes.

The most important regulations that HR managers should know include:

Source of law Meaning
German Civil Code (BGB) forms the general legal framework for employment contracts in Germany, in particular section 611-630
Protection Against Dismissal Act (KSchG) regulates the conditions under which an employee can be lawfully dismissed; Comprehensive protection against dismissal applies in companies with more than ten employees
Works Constitution Act (BetrVG) contains the basics of the interaction between the employer and the works council and regulates in particular the participation and co-determination rights
Working Hours Act (ArbZG) regulates working and rest times and serves to protect the safety and health of employees
General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) aims to prevent discrimination based on ethnic origin, gender or religious affiliation; Since it came into force in 2006, the AGG has significantly strengthened the protection of employees against unequal treatment
Minimum Wage Act (MiLoG) sets a nationwide minimum wage, which has been at 12.41 EUR since January 1, 2024 and is to be increased to 12.82 EUR in 2025
Federal Holiday Act (BUrlG) regulates the entitlement to paid vacation: at least 24 working days (with a 6-day week) per year
Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG) outlines employers' responsibilities for the safety and health of their employees at work
Continued Payment of Wages Act (EntgFG) regulates the continued payment of wages on public holidays and in the event of illness

In addition, there are numerous other laws such as the Part-time and Fixed-Term Employment Act (TzBfG), the Maternity Protection Act (MuSchG) And that Federal Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act (BEEG).

Each of these laws has specific effects on the practice of human resource management. Knowing them not only ensures compliance with legal regulations, but also promotes a fair and productive working environment.

Reliable information, for example on current case law, and continuous training in employment law are therefore very important for HR professionals.

What rights and obligations do employees and employers have?

In short, this is the core issue of employment law. Both aspects usually complement each other. Which means: The duty of the employee is the right of the employer — and vice versa. The aim of the legal regulations of employment law is to balance the interests of both parties.

The employer's main duty consists of paying the remuneration agreed in the employment contract. In addition, there are numerous secondary obligations, such as ensuring health protection at work, non-discrimination in accordance with the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) and the protection of workers' personal data.

On the other hand, the employer has the right to instruct their employees within the framework of legal regulations (so-called management right). The employer's rights also include terminating an employment relationship. However, the statutory (in particular Protection Against Dismissal Act) and contractual notice periods and reasons must be complied with.

The employee is, in turn, obligated to carry out his work in accordance with the employment contract and to comply with the lawful instructions of his employer. The employee is also expected to be loyal to the employer. He is required to protect confidential information and to refrain from conduct that could harm the employer's interests.

For a legally compliant and harmonious working relationship, it is essential that both employers and employees are aware of these rights and obligations. HR managers play a crucial role in imparting knowledge on both sides.

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What is an employment contract and what should it contain?

An employment contract primarily serves to clearly define the rights and obligations of the employer and the employee for a specific case. A certain standardization of these employment contract agreements ensures that they comply with applicable law without having to look up the laws in detail for each individual case.

The employment contract therefore represents a legally binding agreement between an employer and an employee, which should contain certain elements. These regularly include:

The Contractual Parties full names and addresses of the employer and the employee
Job description a clear job title and description of the tasks the employee is expected to perform
Start of employment the exact date on which the employment relationship begins
Duration of employment Indication of whether the contract is permanent or fixed-term, including the end date for fixed-term contracts
Working hours refers to the number of working hours per week or per day and should also include an overtime regulation, i.e. the conditions under which overtime can be requested and how it is paid
Remuneration Amount and structure of payment of wages and salaries, including any bonuses, allowances or commissions
Holiday entitlement Number of vacation days per year
Notice periods must be adhered to upon termination of the employment relationship
Workplace where the employee will usually work, including any home office arrangements

By the way: There is no legal obligation to do conclude employment contracts in writing. Even though oral or digitally signed contracts are legally binding, the extended evidence law has been in force since August 2022. This requires employees to receive the main contractual provisions in writing. As a rule, the Nachweisgesetz is complied with by simply concluding an employment contract in writing.

What types of employment contracts are there?

Employment contracts may differ depending on employment conditions. The most common contractually regulated employment relationships are:

  • Permanent employment relationship: The permanent employment contract It is considered a standard form in Germany. It does not have a fixed end date, but can be terminated in compliance with legal requirements.
  • Fixed-term employment: Fixed-term employment contracts relate to a specific end date or the completion of a specific task. They are used, for example, for project work or for representatives during maternity leave or parental leave.
  • Minor employment: Minor employment contracts offer both employees and employers a high degree of flexibility and benefits when calculating social security contributions. However, they are subject to certain earnings limits. For so-called mini-jobs, there is a monthly income limit of 538 euros (2023:520 euros; from 2025:556 euros), for midi jobs a transition range of 538.01 to a maximum of 2,000 euros (2023:520.01 to 2,000 euros; from 2025:556.01 to 2,000 euros).
  • Apprenticeship relationship: The training contract is a contractual agreement that is concluded for the duration of vocational training. Details are regulated by the Vocational Training Act (BBiG).
  • Loan or temporary employment relationship: Loan or temporary employment contracts are concluded between the “lender” and the employee, who then works for a third party. Temporary work is strictly regulated in the Temporary Employment Act (AÜG).

It is important to know that the legally incorrect classification of an employment relationship, in particular when it comes to fixed-term employment or when working with freelancers (keyword: Fake self-employment), can quickly lead to legal problems. HR managers should therefore obtain comprehensive information in advance.

What are the tasks of HR managers in the area of employment law?

The work of HR professionals should always be based on a solid foundation of employment law, because good and effective HR work has a direct effect on the success of a company. So how can HR professionals implement employment law requirements in HR management in practice?

 

Advice to employees and employers on employment law issues

HR managers play a decisive role in advising on employment law issues in companies. This is because they bridge the gap between the legal framework and daily work practice. They ensure that employment law regulations are not only understood but also actively implemented within the company. Their tasks in this area are varied: By, for example, developing HR guidelines, offering training and workshops on employment law, resolving disputes and documenting all personnel-related information, they protect the company from legal risks and at the same time promote a corporate culture in which the requirements of employment law are met and observed.

In order to be able to fulfill this function as a personnel department, reliable information on employment law is essential.

 

Preparation and review of employment contracts

Employment contracts are drawn up on the basis of in-depth knowledge of the relevant legal bases, current case law and any applicable collective agreements. The challenge here is to reconcile employment law requirements with corporate policy requirements. Comprehensive legal knowledge is essential here to create legally secure contracts and documents.

HR managers therefore often use contract templates that are tailored to the various types of employment relationships (e.g. fixed-term or open-ended). They adapt these contract templates individually to the respective position and the selected applicant. Clarity and accuracy in contract language play a crucial role in preventing misunderstandings and ensuring that all details relating to the employee, their role and compensation are correct.

They must also ensure that these contract templates are regularly reviewed and updated, for example to adapt them to new employment law regulations or changes in company policy. In addition, contracts for similar positions and tasks should be consistent in content.

tip: In the twinwin template pool, you will find numerous employment law templates to make documents and contracts legally secure. The comments contained therein help you adapt the respective pattern to the specific requirements of your company.

Handling employment law disputes (example: termination procedure)

Employment law disputes occur again and again in operational practice. And tackling them can be challenging given the complexity of German employment law.

This is evident when it comes to termination, for example. The regulations on this are complicated and the protection against dismissal under the Protection Against Dismisal Act is comprehensive in international comparison.

First, the employer must prove a valid reason for terminating an employment relationship, which usually falls into one of the following three categories:

1.  personal reasons such as long-term illnesses

2.  behavioral reasons such as breach of contract (the topic warnings is very relevant here)

3.  operational reasons like restructurings in companies

Terminations are only valid in writing, i.e. with a personal signature. The employer must also comply with the statutory minimum notice periods, which depend on the length of the employee's service. If the employment contract provides for a longer period of notice than the legally required notice period, the employer must comply with this (exception: termination without notice, for example in the event of serious misconduct).

In companies with a works council, this must be heard before each dismissal. In the event of operational layoffs, employees may be entitled to a severance payment. There are special protective provisions for certain groups, such as pregnant women, works council members and severely disabled people.

Employees also have the right to sue against a dismissal before the labor court, usually within three weeks of receipt of the notice. If the court considers the dismissal to be unjustified, it may order continued employment or severance pay.

Whether it concerns terminations or other employment law disputes: HR managers are well advised to keep their legal knowledge up to date and, in case of doubt, seek expert assistance. In this way, they can better counteract an escalation of conflicts.

How can HR professionals keep themselves up to date on employment law issues?

Employment laws and regulations are not always clearly formulated for laypeople and the case law of the labor courts is often required to provide clarity. Violations of employment law, even unintentional, can lead to significant legal consequences, which may also mean a financial burden on the company. They can also damage a company's image and undermine employee trust — with negative consequences for recruiting and retaining personnel, for example. HR departments must therefore not only be familiar with applicable employment law regulations, such as on working hours, vacation entitlements and dismissal procedures, but also regularly inform themselves about changes in employment law in order to be able to act effectively.

In order to stay on track, HR managers can take various measures, for example:

Regular education: the available offerings are diverse and varied — from seminars, workshops and courses led by legal experts, to live webinars on employment law and structured self-study tools.

Online resources & legal literature: various online platforms provide up-to-date information on employment law issues and court decisions that are relevant to personnel work. There are also numerous specialist books, magazines and newsletters on employment law for HR.

networks: personal exchange with colleagues and experts, for example at industry meetings, is important in order to learn from the experiences of others and to gain new insights for implementing employment law guidelines in one's own HR work.

Tip: what twinwin offers comes into play when it comes to optimal knowledge transfer: Tailored and topic-specific modules on employment law issues provide you with a digital legal department that can be accessed ad-hoc at any time.

Further education in employment law for HR managers — What options are there?

Further education in employment law also makes a significant contribution to increasing competence and professionalism in the workplace. Workers learn to better understand their rights and obligations, which often leads to increased engagement. HR managers and management are enabled to effectively manage and resolve conflicts. Disputes about employment contracts, working conditions or workers' rights can thus be resolved before they escalate. And a deeper understanding of employment law issues with its comprehensive regulations is a key competence in itself.

Further education in employment law is therefore an effective tool for improving employee competence and promoting a culture of professionalism within an organization. Appropriate offerings cover a wide range of topics and formats and are available both online and face-to-face events

Further education in employment law through distance learning

Distance learning enables HR managers to continue their education flexibly and from anywhere and to obtain a certificate or academic degree in addition to their job. The following are three education opportunities in the area of employment law:

Further education in employment law at Quadriga University: As a private university with state accreditation, Quadriga in Berlin offers the E-learning course “Employment Law — How do you make your HR work legally secure? ”. In a total of eleven, approximately 90-minute webinars, topics of daily HR work are covered, from recruiting to drafting employment contracts and employee data protection. The course is usually conducted by employment law specialists.

duration: 2 months (see website for current dates)

costs: starting at 1090 euros (plus VAT; as of Feb. 2024)

Exams and certificates: After successfully completing a learning quiz, participants receive a certificate of completion.

Further education in employment law at Euro-FH: The European Distance University Hamburg (Euro-FH), which is also private, offers Certificate course “Labor Law” comprehensive expertise for operational practice on topics such as industrial constitutional, vocational training and employment protection law.

duration: 5 months (you can start at any time)

costs: 1,245 euros (if registered by 28.02.2024) or 249 euros per month (as of Feb. 2024)

Exams and certificates: After successful completion of 6 submissions and one exam, participants receive a university certificate with 8 credits, which are eligible for university studies.

 

Further education in employment law at the FernUniversität Hagen: The Master's program “Business and Labor Law” at the largest state distance university in Germany covers european and international business law as well as the entire spectrum of individual and collective employment law, including the application of european laws and guidelines in German employment law.

duration: 2 to 4 semesters full time and 4 to 8 semesters part time

costs: 300 euros per semester and 950 euros per module/master thesis (discount of 10% for people “in special circumstances”)

Exams and certificates: After successful completion, participants receive the academic title “Master of Laws (LL.M.)”.

Online employment law seminars and face-to-face events for HR professionals

Seminars and workshops — whether online or on site — can provide HR managers with practical employment law know-how in a compact form. The Course finder education portal provides a good overview of the range of courses in employment law. So that you don't have to fight your way through the jungle of offers alone,  a selection of suitable

BeckAkademie seminars

The employment law training at BeckAkademie Seminars cover various topics, such as employment law for employers, works constitution law, low performance, compliance in employment law, dealing with the works council or legal aspects of working from home and mobile working. The training courses are offered, among other things, as face-to-face seminars, live webinars and for self-study.

 

Haufe Academy

Haufe Academy's  seminar “Employment Law in a nutshell”— a one-day course that provides a comprehensive and practice-oriented overview of important employment law topics is tailored to the needs of HR managers and employees in HR departments Topics such as hiring new employees, working hours, vacation entitlement, continued payment of wages, part-time employment, employment irregularities and termination of employment contracts are covered. The seminar costs 960 euros (plus VAT).

 

IFM Institute for Management Consulting

The IFM Institute for Management Consulting's seminar “Labor Law for HR Managers”  provides a basic and practical overview of employment law topics that are relevant to daily HR work. Seminar content includes time limit, probationary period, minimum wage law, maternity protection, parental leave, proper warning and dismissal.

Herkert Academy

The Herkert Academy offers various employment law seminars, including a one-day seminar on updates in employment law , which discusses current and upcoming employment law changes and judgments. Participants receive specific recommendations for action and tips on how they can implement what they have learned in their professional practice. Both online and face-to-face appointments are offered.

 

Kommunales Bildungswerk e.V.

The seminars, courses and webinars in the area of employment law at Kommunalen Bildungswerk e.V. deal with various aspects of employment law, in particular collective bargaining law. In addition to principles of employment law or data protection in a work context, the continuing education program also focuses on dealing with difficult employees. The seminars are conducted by experienced experts and are tailored to the needs of professionals in municipal companies and public administration.

 

Manager Institute

The Manager Institute offers a wide range of seminars, also in the area of employment law. The seminar topics cover various aspects of employment law, such as the basics, works constitution law or the legally secure negotiation and drafting of works agreements. They are specially designed for specialists and managers within and outside the HR department and are offered as an online, face-to-face or even in-house event.

Mannheim Labor Law Day

The Mannheim Labor Law Day takes place once a year and gives expert lectures on current issues of employment law. For example, 2024 includes topics such as working from home, dealing with artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace, mass dismissal rights and whistleblowing. The participation fee is 400 euros (plus VAT).

Employment law for HR

Where can HR professionals find reliable information on employment law regulations and current decisions?

Specialized books and magazines

legal books and journals, such as:

Labor Laws (ArbG)

This collection contains the most important legal texts on various employment law topics, such as termination law, occupational safety law, vocational training law, collective bargaining law and is part of the basic equipment of every personnel worker. The 2023 version in the 103rd edition.

Basic labor law course

“Basic Labor Law Course” by Abbo Junker is a basic work that is easy to understand

provides an introduction to employment law and is therefore suitable for beginners, but also as a reference work in everyday working life.

Employment law — a crash course

“Employment Law — a Crash Course” by Uwe Ringel is a practice-oriented book that provides newcomers and career changers in human resources with a quick overview of employment law. In addition, the author provides working tools (including digital tools) to cope with the most important personnel tasks and digital work tools are ready.

NZA — New Journal in Employment Law

The NZA — Neue Zeitschrift im Arbeitsrecht — provides reliable information on current developments in all areas of employment law, from employment contract and collective agreement law to works constitution law and procedural law.

ZAU — Journal of Employment Law in Companies

The ZAU - Zeitschrift für Arbeitsrecht im Betrieb covers all practice-relevant topics of employment law, including works constitution, collective agreement and social security law.

Bund-Verlag

The Bund-Verlag provides comprehensive information and resources for works and staff councils as well as for experts in the fields of occupational safety and severely disabled law. The publishing offerings include specialist literature, magazines, online specialist modules and current news.

Online platforms and websites

Various online platforms provide up-to-date information on employment law issues and court decisions that are relevant to personnel work. Here is a selection:

Why does twinwin recommend this website?
Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) On the BMAS website, HR professionals can find official information about changes to the law, guidelines and initiatives of the federal government. A good place to go to find out about new legislative proposals, occupational safety regulations and other labor law topics.
Federal Labor Court (BAG) Current decisions of the labor courts are regularly published on the BAG website. It is important for HR managers to be aware of these decisions as they can have a direct impact on legal practices in HR work.
Federal Association of German Employers' Associations (BDA) On its website, the BDA provides information on a variety of topics that affect employers, including labor and collective bargaining law.
German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) The DGB provides information about labor law issues from the employee's perspective, but also offers relevant insights for the work in human resources departments. For example, the website provides information on current changes in the law and their impact on employees.
Haufe portal for HR managers and personnel specialists< /td> The Haufe portal offers its own section on the subject of labor law. There, HR professionals can find current information on individual and collective labor law as well as work aids on changes in labor law.
Human Resources(partly subject to a fee) “Personalwirtschaft” is a specialist magazine with an extensive online presence that reports on current trends and developments in the HR sector, including labor law. The website provides information, for example, about current judgments, temporary employment, equal treatment, termination and contract design.
Arbeitsrechte.de Arbeitsrechte.de offers a good overview of German labor law and also current changes. Complex legal issues are presented in an understandable manner and explained in a practical manner using additional examples. The website is a good source for obtaining basic information on an employment law matter.
The company The specialist medium “The Company” is also a recommended resource for human resources departments, even if it does not specialize exclusively in labor law. However, practical articles on labor law topics are regularly published on the online platform and current decisions and their effects on operational practice are commented on.
dejure.org dejure.org is an online portal that provides freely accessible (current) information on laws and case law. It has a comprehensive database of German laws and judgments, including German labor law. In many cases, links are provided to further comments, discussions and articles on the judgments of the labor courts, which make clear their importance for labor practice.
Beck-Online (paid) Beck-Online is also a specialist legal portal with its own HR legal portal, which presents many labor law topics that are relevant to daily HR work in a practical manner. You can also find out about social security and tax law issues here.

LinkedIn is also a good source for finding out about German employment law, for example by following employment law experts who regularly publish articles on the topic on the platform. You can also join LinkedIn groups that focus on employment law. Relevant recent articles, discussions and updates are frequently shared there. In addition, the platform regularly hosts webinars and online events, which can provide valuable insights and current debates on employment law decisions. The same applies to YouTube: Here, Bucerius Law School, among others, publishes a series of webinars on employment law. They cover topics including ordinary and extraordinary termination, employment contract and equal treatment.

Tip: The twinwin blog regularly publishes informative and practice-relevant articles on the employment law challenges of HR work.