Fine feathers make fine birds

Many companies set up standards for work clothes. In these cases, it is a question of law whether changing into mandatory work clothes is part of the employees’ working time. According to the German Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht, BAG), the time required to change into work clothes at the work place counts as working time if the clothes are particularly eye-catching and thus do not need to be worn on the way to work (e.g. judgment dated November 12, 2013, docket number: 1 ABR 59/12).

In a recent judgment, the Federal Labour Court ruled that not only the time for changing into the clothes but also the time required to pick up work clothes at an external issuing office will count as working time (judgment dated March 19, 2014, docket number: 5 AZR 954/12). The plaintiff worked as a tram driver in Berlin. According to an internal agreement, the employees were obliged to pick up their work clothes at an issuing office outside their working hours. Until 2007, the employees received credit in their flextime wage record for picking up their clothes. As of 2008, this policy changed and employees were no longer compensated. The plaintiff claimed that he was entitled to receive such credit. Alternatively, he claimed compensation for the time spent picking up the clothes. Due to the size of Berlin, the return trip to the issuing office took him 130 minutes. The Federal Labour Court held that the employer was obliged to pay the employees for picking up his work clothes at an external issuing office. According to the court, the employer is obliged to pay the employee for the entire time needed to pick up the work clothes, taking into consideration the particular circumstances such as public transport and the individual employee’s abilities.