W as in Written Form Requirement

Do all agreements with my employer have to be in writing?

An employment relationship is established by an employment contract. This can usually be concluded in written form, but in principle a verbal agreement is also sufficient. In this case, however, it is more difficult to prove what has been agreed if a dispute arises in the employment relationship. An employment contract concluded by e-mail or by digitally signed PDF is also effective. Employers are obliged – regardless of the form in which the employment contract was concluded – to record the essential terms of the employment contract, to sign this record and to hand it over to the employee. If the employer does not fulfill this obligation, he may be liable for damages to the employee.

Can I conclude a fixed-term employment contract by e-mail?

In some special cases, the written form is required by law: Fixed-term employment contracts or non-competition agreements can only be effectively agreed if both parties to the contract have signed on one sheet of paper. Contracts that violate this written form requirement are invalid. A fixed-term employment contract that violates the written form requirement is deemed to be for an indefinite period.

Can I be terminated via a WhatsApp message?

By contrast, the written form is always required by law for termination – both on the part of the employer and on the part of the employee. This also applies to termination agreements. A digital signature does not fulfill the requirements of the written form.

Employment contracts often contain a so-called written form clause, according to which changes to the contract are only valid if they have been agreed in writing. These clauses are often invalid; individually agreed changes to working conditions are generally effective regardless of the form.

Please note: This is a very general overview on german labor law. If you need help in your particular case, please do not hestitate to contact me or book your appointment. I’m happy to help.