22. Nov 16

Employment law: New rules for limitation periods from October 1, 2016

Employers are going to have to adjust to changes in employment contracts. Going forward, claims arising from exclusion clauses shall only be required to be in text form instead of written form.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: What are referred to as “Auschlussklauseln” or exclusion clauses often form an integral part of employment contracts. These typically stipulate that certain claims arising from the employment contract shall lapse if they are not asserted within an agreed timeframe. Written form is normally required if one is to assert these claims, i.e. the employee or employer must personally sign in their own name.

The new rules regulating general terms and conditions concern the field of employment law among others. The aforementioned requirement of written form will no longer apply as of October 1, 2016, after which time it shall be sufficient to make contractual claims in text form. This means, for instance, that it will also be possible to assert claims via email. A handwritten signature will thus no longer be necessary.

However, these new rules only affect employment contracts concluded from October 1, 2016 and onwards. The changes therefore do not effect older employment contracts; if written form was agreed to as a requirement in older contracts then it shall remain in force. Employers should nonetheless be careful. If an existing employment contract has specific provisions that are set to change after September 30, 2016, this can give rise to a new employment contract. Accordingly, it is also important to amend the exclusion clauses. Otherwise, there is a risk of old exclusion clauses in the agreed written form no longer being effective, which could result in significantly longer limitation periods and employees being able to assert their claims for much longer.

Employers therefore need to ensure that they replace written form with text form for each and every employment contract from October 1, 2016. If existing employment contracts are to be changed, the exclusion clauses should also be amended where appropriate.

Lawyers who are experienced in the field of employment law can advise employers on all matters pertaining to employment contracts as well as other issues relating to employment law.

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