Working hours act: how long may an employed veterinarian work??

Working Hours Act: How long may an employed veterinarian work??

More than 48 hours per week? Correct recording of working hours is then a must. (Photo: © bpt / excerpt from working hours brochure)

Employed veterinarians complain that they work too much: 50, 60 hours per week and more; practice and clinic owners that they can hardly guarantee emergency services with the existing laws. The Swiss are therefore even changing their working hours law specifically for veterinary practices. But what is valid in Germany? What is allowed and not allowed by the Working Hours Act? An overview.

Notice: This is an informative journalistic overview of the applicable working time rules for employed veterinarians and not binding legal/contractual advice.

by Jorg Held

More flexible working hours – this was a topic in the Jamaica negotiations and is also a demand of the economic experts. However, the extension of daily working hours envisaged in Germany – with unchanged weekly working hours – is aimed more at the digital world of work.
Veterinary practices/clinics, on the other hand, struggle with the crediting of night, emergency and on-call services. You would rather be helped by the reduction – possible in human medicine – of mandatory rest periods between duty and the next work assignment: Instead of eleven hours now, nine hours are under discussion in the future. In Switzerland, exactly these nine hours were introduced by legal exception for employed veterinarians ( Report here ).

Example of a shortened rest period for night services (Switzerland): there must have been a continuous rest period of at least 4 hours and a total of 9 hours once between the "normal working hours.

Not without an employment contract

But until it is also in this country so far, the current Working Hours Act applies without restriction . Its implementation repeatedly causes conflicts in veterinary practices – also because, unlike in human medicine, there are no exemption rules under collective agreements.

Two important points therefore in advance:
Nowadays, a proper employment relationship includes a written employment contract. Even if it is not mandatory, this provides security for employees and employers alike. It should contain precise information about working hours, services, overtime and the corresponding remuneration.

In addition, the employee and employer should clarify how they will document the hours worked, especially possible overtime and services. Indeed, the latter is required by law.

Working Hours Act: How long may an employed veterinarian work??

60 hours maximum

The Working Hours Act (ArbZG) Establishes the following principles for the determination and organization of working hours:

  • Workday working time of employees shall not exceed 8 hours. This means with a Six-day week (Saturday is a working day): 48 hours per week.
  • The working hours can be (under conditions/next points) can be extended to up to 10 hours per day. From this limitation and the rest period regulation (see below) results: An employee may work a maximum of 60 hours per week.
  • On individual days, the employer is allowed to work "for exceptional cases" (§14 Working Hours Act) also order a working time of more than 10 hours.
  • The extension to ten or more hours is only possible if within 6 calendar months or within 24 weeks (through compensatory time off) an average working time of 8 hours per working day is not exceeded (§ 3 Working Hours Act).
  • Employees must be given a rest period after the end of the daily working hours (in this sense: even after the end of on-call duty)Provide an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours.

Rules for "Sunday work"

Employment on Sundays and public holidays during the week is permitted only in exceptional cases. However, the law explicitly mentions such an exception for "facilities for the treatment and care of animals". So in veterinary practices/clinics, Sunday and holiday work is allowed. However, each employee must have at least 15 Sundays a year off from work (through compensatory time off).
Employees who are on duty on a Sunday or a weekly holiday – regardless of how much time they work on that day – are entitled to a maximum of 10 hours per week Entitlement to a full day’s rest in lieu. The substitute rest day must be granted within 2 weeks for Sunday work and within 8 weeks for employment on a weekly holiday.

Employer must document overtime

Working hours can now be recorded via app and cell phone, both stationary and on the road.

According to § 16 of the Working Hours Act, the employer is obliged to compensate for the hours worked in excess of the contractually agreed working day(!) The employer must record any working time exceeding this period. Therefore, this applies to work on Sundays and holidays, including on-call time and overtime worked by an employee. A duty roster is not sufficient as a record. It is a matter of being able to track the actual hours worked. The employer may transfer the duty to record to the employee (time book o.a.). The employer must keep this evidence for at least two years.

As overtime hours worked on the order of the employer, "which exceed the working hours set within the framework of the regular working hours for the week in accordance with the duty roster or customary practice" – and which are not compensated by the end of the following calendar week.

No overtime for part-time employees?

Part-time employees cannot initially be required to work overtime as a matter of principle. This is due to the nature of a part-time employment relationship, that explicitly defines a limited number of hours. There are exceptions only if, for example, emergencies have to be taken care of beyond the agreed working hours.
Therefore, if a part-time employee is to work overtime and "duties" without precisely defined working hours, it is essential, (in the employment contract) the extent to which this is to be done in a certain reference period (as regulated by the (week, month u. a.) is to be performed and compensated.
(Payment for overtime – see last paragraph)

Difference between on-call duty and standby duty

For conflicts in veterinary practices provide again and again the emergency services – concretely the demarcation between Bereitschaftsdienst and Rufbereitschaft and their effect on the permissible working time. However, both are clearly defined by law:

An on-call duty is present if an employee is away from the practice for practice purposes in must stay in the practice or clinic. On-call duty is also considered to be when the employee has to be outside the practice at a place determined by the practice owner, so that he or she can carry out his or her work activity if necessary immediately can take up. Usually (this is regulated, for example, by the collective agreement for medical practitioners) an employer should only order on-call duties if it is to be expected that work will be required, but experience shows that this is not the case the time without work performance predominates. Otherwise, normal working time is to be applied, for example as night/shift work.
This standby time at a place determined by the employer is always considered as working time and as such fully counted towards the possible maximum weekly working time.

In the case of on-call duty If, on the other hand, the employed veterinarian is free to choose where he or she. He must only submit it to the practice owner (in advance) so that he/she can be notified by mobile phone/beeper/etc. if necessary. a. can be called up for work. The following applies here: The employer should only order on-call duty if experience shows that work only occurs in exceptional cases.
In the Working Hours Act, on-call time is considered "free time". Only the time during which the employee is actually called to work counts as working time. This must then also be counted towards the weekly working hours.

The "on-call duty issue" is particularly important for veterinary clinics if the clinic guidelines of the respective chamber explicitly stipulate a permanent duty to be present, i.e. short-term availability is not considered sufficient.

In the absence of a provision in a collective bargaining agreement, veterinarians must develop their own payment models for on-duty and overtime work. (Photo montage: © WiSiTiA/hh)

Payment for services

Although there is agreement in the relevant labor law literature that both services – on-call duty and on-call duty – are to be additionally remunerated in principle, there is no reason why you should not be given a reference. How high, however, is neither to be found in laws or regulations, nor as a legal recommendation in relevant publications, it says in the notes to the bpt model employment contract. Other industries regulate that in a collective agreement.

There are two legal principles:

  • An on-call duty must not be remunerated in the same amount as the work within the framework of the normal working hours.
  • However, the remuneration for ordered on-call time may be Not below the statutory minimum wage take place.

From this arithmetically at least a "lower limit" results, i.e. the offence against the minimum wage law: If one divides the remuneration sum agreed upon in the work contract by the added hours of the "normal" working time and the Bereitschaftsdienstzeiten, the hourly remuneration may not fall altogether under 8,84 ? (minimum wage level 1.1.2017) fall.
In the collective bargaining agreement for veterinary medical employees (§ 7) the on-call time pay is calculated as follows: 50 percent of the on-call time shall be paid, with surcharges, if necessary, to (night duty/holidays – see last paragraph below). Human medicine has agreed on a complex staggered remuneration in the collective agreement according to workload (§ 12 on-call pay).

For on-call duty there is no guideline for the amount of the remuneration. But it must be in some form, otherwise the employee would be worse off compared to "normal" time off. For orientation, the bpt refers to a regulation in an earlier collective agreement for veterinary assistants: There, the time of on-call duty was (without work assignment) valued at 20 percent as working time and remunerated in addition to the basic salary in. If a veterinarian is called to work from on-call duty, however, this time is then treated as normal working time (if necessary. with bonuses) to be paid.

With regard to payment In the case of on-call duty and standby duty, practice owners and employees can agree on various combinations of compensatory time off and additional (lump-sum) remuneration within the scope of their contractual freedom.
However, as far as the crediting of working time is concerned, both sides must fully comply with the Working Hours Act. Nothing to the contrary is possible here (e.g. payment of the hours instead of the obligatory time off in the half-year period) be agreed upon.

How must overtime be paid?

In the absence of a collective agreement, there is no regulation for employed veterinarians in this regard. However, overtime may only very rarely remain unpaid.
If one exceeds the 48-hour working week, they must be compensated by free time in the next six months, according to the Working Hours Act – regardless of any payment.
As orientation for a remuneration the rates in the Salary agreement for veterinary assistants (TFA) or from the collective bargaining agreement for human health professionals (Percentages in parentheses – base salaries significantly higher than in veterinary medicine) serve. The following supplements are specified there:

  • 25% (15%) for overtime
  • 50% for work on Sundays (25%) and holidays (35%)
  • 100% for work on New Year’s Day, 1. May as well as on Easter, Whitsun and Christmas holidays (35%)
  • 50% (15%) for night work (for TFAs defined as "between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.")

we-are-vets means:
Comply with laws – use examples from other sectors

(jh) – Every practice owner should know – and apply – the Working Hours Act! Otherwise it becomes expensive. Excuses do not apply. Authorities – as well as employees – are increasingly paying attention to.
For the intelligent design of duty rosters there are consultants, for (work) contracts there are templates and lawyers. Since veterinary surgeons must develop models for the organization and payment of services for lack of collective agreement themselves, they should throw a view of the collective agreements of the human medicine and the TFA. The basic (remuneration) structures should also be suitable for veterinarians.
Minimum salaries (as a lower limit!!) the professional associations for employed veterinary surgeons in the meantime quantified.
There are therefore more than enough sources of information for a fair structuring of employment relationships. You just have to (want to) use them.

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