On-call duty

On-call duty / Bereitschaftsdienst

January 17, 2024

If an employee's contract includes on-call duty, this has an impact on the legally permitted daily working hours, rest periods and remuneration. The Working Hours Act (ArbZG) allows employers to deviate from the provisions of the ArbZG regarding maximum daily working hours and rest periods, e.g. if part of the working time is spent on standby or on-call duty.

Standby service (Arbeitsbereitschaft)

According to the ArbZG, standby duty includes the time during which the employee is on call at the workplace in order to be able to start work immediately. The time spent on standby is fully counted as working time, irrespective of whether the employer actually requires the employee to carry out the work.

On-call work presupposes that there is a qualitative shortfall compared to full-time work - i.e. work performed during normal working hours - i.e. the employee is subject to a lower workload. According to the Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht - BAG), readiness for work is a "state of alert attention in a state of relaxation".

In order to assess the degree of stress, and thus to distinguish between full-time work and readiness to work, the circumstances of each individual case are subject to an overall assessment. The criteria for this assessment are the frequency and duration of standby duty, the frequency of night and weekend standby duty, the degree of alertness required, the frequency and duration of full-time work during standby duty, the regularity or irregularity of interruptions, the responsibility for the seriousness of the consequences of failure to intervene in good time, and the degree of comfort or inconvenience during standby duty.

On-call time shall be remunerated in full, as it is fully counted as working time, but may be remunerated at a lower rate if there is a contractual agreement between the parties to the employment contract, as long as the legal limits of the minimum wage are respected.

On-call time (Bereitschaftsdienst)

On-call time is the time outside regular working hours during which the employee is at a place specified by the employer and is ready to start full work immediately on the employer's instructions. On-call time may immediately follow regular working hours.

The entire period of on-call time is counted as working time, regardless of whether the employee actually performs any work.

Unlike full-time work, on-call duty does not involve full-time work, but merely a restriction of the employee's whereabouts with an obligation to act immediately if required. This may also be the case if the employee is not required to be present at a particular place (workplace) but, depending on the circumstances of the individual case, is significantly impaired in some other way by the free organisation of on-call time during which he is not called upon by the employer. Criteria for such a significant impairment are, in particular, the expected response time of the employee, the frequency and duration of the assignments, as well as facilitations, e.g. the possibility of using a company car.

The time spent on standby duty is fully counted as working time towards the maximum working time under the ArbZG and must be remunerated in the same way as full-time work, although it is possible to agree a lower level of remuneration, which must, however, be above the statutory minimum wage.

On-call duty (Rufbereitschaft)

During on-call time, the employee can choose where to work, but must inform the employer. Unlike other forms of on-call time, the employee is not required to be present at the workplace or at a place specified by the employer. The employee must ensure that he/she can be contacted by the employer at all times.

In the context of on-call time, only the time during which the employee actually performs work is counted as working time.

In contrast to on-call duty, on-call workers are free to organise their on-call time as they wish, for example to attend to personal matters. However, care must be taken to ensure that the employee is available and, above all, able to work, which may limit the freedom to organise the time. Irrespective of whether the employee is required to be at a place specified by the employer, on-call time does not apply if the employee is restricted in the organisation of the time during which he or she is not on call to such an extent that it must be classified as working time.