Showering in the workplace is a private matter: the employer only has to pay for changing time

Which activities are treated as working time and must be paid by the employer? The Higher Labour Court Düsseldorf (Landesarbeitsgericht/LAG) was called  to decide whether the owner of a car workshop owes his employees remuneration for changing clothes (five minutes before and after shift) and washing time (ten minutes after shift) (settlement dated 3 August 2015, docket number 9 Sa 425/15). In its considerations, the court distinguished between the times for changing and washing, as different activities may serve different interests. The case was settled.

Regarding the clothes changing time, the Higher Labour Court referred to the Federal Labour Court which had already ruled upon this subject: Employees must always be compensated by the employer if changing clothes is in the employer’s interest. This applies when wearing work clothes is required on the employer’s instructions and, additionally, its private use is excluded, ie the employees are allowed to get changed at work and most do so at the employer’s premises.

Regarding the washing time, there has not been any established jurisprudence so far. In this context, according to the court,  it also could be relevant if showering is in the employer’s interest. This must be looked at on a case by case basis. Washing time may possibly need to be paid if it is hygienically required. In the court’s opinion, this is generally not the case when the work is performed in work clothes supplied by the employer. As a consequence, the court led the parties into a settlement stating that the employee’s personal hygiene does not form part of the activities serving the employer´s interests and, therefore, the employer only has to pay the employees for the changing time. The settlement’s underlying considerations will probably have a significant effect on legal disputes arising in other working relationships.