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Working time

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Good to know

The Directive on the Implementation of Rehabilitation and Participation of People with Disabilities (SGB IX) in the Public Sector in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia includes regulations that are intended to ensure equal active participation in working life for severely disabled employees and employees with equal rights.

The directive explicitly provides that employees with a simple disability (GdB 30 or 40) who do not have equal rights may be subject to the provisions of the directive (cf. Art. 2.1). In individual cases, special welfare measures in the sense of the directive can be taken which are appropriate to the respective disability.
This can, for example, concern individual agreements on working hours and break regulations and is to be examined in each individual case.

Bielefeld University has committed itself to the full application of the guideline in the contract on good employment conditions for university staff.

Old clockworks on a table
© ZAB - Bielefeld University

The organization of working hours is also part of a workplace that is suitable for people with disabilities or suffering. Irrespective of the respective service agreement, various adjustments to working hours may be necessary in individual cases in order to individually reduce barriers, enable participation in working life and maintain the ability to work in the long term.

Severely disabled employees and employees with equal rights can make use of various Disadvantage compensations in order to agree on disability-related requirements and the contractually stipulated weekly working hours.

Regular weekly working hours

The regular average weekly working time of a full-time position differs for salaried and civil servant employees in the public service of the State of NRW. According to TV-L West, salaried employees in NRW currently have an average weekly working time of 39 hours and 50 minutes.

The regular weekly working hours of civil servants are staggered according to age. Up to the age of 55, regular weekly working hours are based on 41 hours. From the age of 55, the regular working time is reduced to 40 hours and from the age of 60 to 39 hours.

Severely disabled employees are entitled to a reduction in their weekly working hours depending on their degree of disability. The legislator takes this entitlement into account with the so-called 39-hour rule: in this case, the average weekly working time for a full-time position is set at 39 hours without any loss of salary. The 39-hour rule is also used as the basis for calculating the regular weekly working hours of eligible part-time employees.

The 39-hour rule comes into effect on the day the severely disabled person's ID card is valid and can be claimed as soon as employees submit their severely disabled person's ID card to the relevant assistant in the HR department, thereby proving their legal entitlement.

Disability is often determined retroactively. In this case, the 39-hour rule is granted retroactively for a maximum of five weeks after submission of the severely disabled ID.

All eligible employees are required to immediately display changes in their legal entitlement to the university, e.g. if the established GdB is reduced.

Who is eligible?

Severely disabled salaried employees with a GdB of at least 80 can claim the 39-hour rule.

In contrast to salaried employees, severely disabled civil servants with a GdB of 50 or more are entitled to have their target working hours adjusted to 39 hours and 50 minutes. From a GdB of 80, civil servants are then entitled to a reduction to 39 hours for a full-time position.

Part-time employment

The Part-Time and Fixed-term Employment Act (TzBfG) regulates the basic provisions for reducing weekly working hours. The legal entitlement to part-time work for severely disabled employees or employees with equal rights goes beyond the TzBfG. If the nature or severity of an employee makes it necessary to reduce the contractually agreed working hours, the person concerned can apply for a reduction in working hours.

The reduction in working hours shall take effect upon submission of the application. Contrary to the provisions of the TzBfG, employees do not have to observe a lead time of three months. A timely discussion with the supervisor can nevertheless be useful in order to avoid straining the working atmosphere.

As a rule, the employer may only reject the part-time claim if organizational or financial consequences would be unreasonable for the university. It may be supported in the establishment of part-time jobs by the responsible Inclusion Office, e.g. through wage subsidies.

Employees also have the right to be restored to the contractually agreed working hours if part-time employment is no longer necessary due to the disability.

Who is eligible?

Severely disabled employees and employees with equal rights have a statutory right to part-time employment if reduced working hours are necessary due to the disability. The employment relationship must have existed for at least six months.

Extension of the fixed-term period according to the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (German Act on Fixed-term Scientific Contracts)

Young researchers in the qualification phase for doctorate/Phd studies have a legal right to a blanket extension of their permissible fixed-term contract by two years. This also applies to employment contracts financed by third-party funds.

Sickness phases in which there is no continued payment of remuneration, e.g. due to exceeding the six-week continued payment of remuneration in the case of incapacity to work due to illness, may also result in an extension of the contract. Sickness phases of this kind are not counted towards the flat-rate extension period of two years.

Who is eligible?

The provisions of the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts) apply to employed junior scientists with officially recognized (severe) disabilities, equal treatment or severe chronic illnesses in accordance with the Chronic Illness Guideline.

Working hours and breaks

An individual arrangement for flexitime or flexible break arrangements can help to maintain the ability to work in the long term in the case of some illnesses. Depending on the individual performance and the respective needs, it is permissible to make flexible arrangements deviating from the working time regulations.

Flexible break arrangements can be used, for example, to check the state of health (e.g. blood sugar measurement in the case of diabetes mellitus) or to take short recovery breaks after appointments that are demanding due to the disability (e.g. in the case of hearing impairment after Zoom meetings). Necessary supply walks of assistance dogs are not considered breaks, but working time.

Individual regulations on working hours can also be agreed with the supervisor if necessary, e.g. by moving the regular start of work forward or backward or making it more flexible in the case of illnesses with fluctuating performance status.
With all flexibilization, the regular weekly working time must not be reduced. In addition, the arrangements must be discussed with the supervisor and should not be implemented by the person concerned on his or her own.

Who is eligible?

Severely disabled employees and employees or trainees who are treated as such have a claim against the university to the individual organization of working hours and breaks in accordance with their individual performance and their disability-related needs.

Release from overtime

Both pay-scale and civil servant employees may be exempted from overtime upon request . This must not result in any disadvantage for the employees, e.g. with regard to their chances of promotion, future task assignments and responsibilities, etc.

As a rule, exemption is also possible for on-call duty or standby duty and can only be refused in individual cases for official reasons. The SBC must be heard if a request for time off is rejected.

The option of taking time off for overtime serves to protect employees from excessive stress and to maintain their ability to work in the long term. Overtime is generally defined as working time that exceeds the project duration of eight hours per working day. Overtime that remains below the eight-hour threshold does not fall under overtime.

Employees may exercise their right to exemption by informally displaying their exemption from overtime in writing to the University. In the absence of such notification, overtime may be ordered by the University.

Who is eligible?

Severely disabled employees and employees of equal status in science, technology and administration may display an exemption from overtime to the employer upon request.

Leave of absence and additional teleworking

In the event of exceptional external influences, employees may be released from work or granted additional mobile work to an appropriate extent. This includes extreme weather conditions or other external influences. For example, if an employee with impaired mobility is unable to make the journey to campus due to icy conditions and the work cannot be completed from home, the employee may be released from work.

Who is eligible?

Severely disabled employees and employees on an equal footing with them who are particularly affected by the event in question are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off from work.

Special leave and time off from work

Special leave and time off from work should be granted generously if the respective reason concerns the interests of severely disabled persons or persons with equal rights. This applies in particular if there is an additional official interest in the purpose of the leave. This includes, for example, occasions that serve to maintain health and thus the ability to work, such as sports for the disabled, mobility training or medical or assessment appointments during working hours that are necessary due to the disability.

Special leave or time off work can also be granted if there are operational breakdowns at the workplace, e.g. prolonged power outage or similar.

Who is eligible?

Employees with a severe disability or equal status can apply for special leave and time off work on an occasion-specific basis.

Additional leave

Employees with severe disabilities have a legal right to one working week of paid additional leave.

The actual amount of additional leave depends on the distribution of regular working hours. In the case of a 5-day week, employees receive five additional vacation days; in the case of a 4-day week, the additional vacation is four days. In the case of part-time employment, the distribution of working hours over the weekdays is also decisive for the calculation of additional leave.

The entitlement to additional leave applies from the day the severe disability is determined and exists regardless of whether the employer is already aware of the severe disability. The severely disabled person's ID card can be presented as proof.

Additional leave must be granted on a mandatory basis in addition to basic leave, even without this being specifically stated in the employment contract.

Additional leave may be forfeited if the respective carryover period into the new calendar year has expired. However, this applies to both basic and additional leave only if the university has informed the employee of the imminent end of the carryover period without being asked to do so. Further special cases regarding additional leave are explained by Rehadat.

Who is eligible?

The entitlement to additional leave is reserved for employees with a recognized severe disability (from GdB 50). Equated and disabled employees with a GdB below 50 do not have this entitlement.

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