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According to Sec. 9 para 1 of the Working Time Act, employees are not allowed to work on Sundays and public holidays. However, the law provides for a number of exceptions, for example for employees in emergency and rescue services and hospitals or the public transport sector but also in restaurants, theatres or other leisure establishments. Furthermore, “to avoid substantial damage” the German Federal Governments may issue a regulation with further exceptions for operations in which work on Sunday is necessary “in order to meet the needs of the population which arise on a daily basis or particularly on such days” (Sec. 13 of the Working Hours Act). The Federal State of Hesse adopted such a regulation and allowed work on Sundays in video stores, libraries, call-centres, lottery companies, as well as in breweries, operations producing alcoholic beverages and operations producing ice and ice cream.

In a recent judgment dated 26 November 2014 (docket number: 6 CN 1.13) the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) decided that the regulation in the Federal State of Hesse is partially invalid. The court stated that it does not cause “substantial damage” in the meaning of the Working Hours Act if videos or books cannot be borrowed on Sundays. With regard to call-centres the regulation is invalid since it allows work on Sundays in every call-centre without any distinction between different branches or business activities. For companies in the beverage and the ice cream sector work on Sunday will be allowed if the demand cannot be covered by production on working days.

Since most German Federal States have adopted comparable regulations this judgment affects not only companies located in Hesse but companies everywhere in Germany. The governments of the Federal States have not yet given a statement regarding how to deal with this judgment, but it is hoped that they will quickly adapt the regulations in the light of this case law.

We will keep you posted!