Employer obligation to provide individual target agreements to safety authority

Employers may be required to provide safety authorities with information on individual target agreements with their employees. In a judgment dated 28 February 2018, the Dusseldorf administrative court confirmed a corresponding order by the local safety authority (docket number 29 K 4191/16).

In the case at hand, the employer offers consulting services. It is bound by a local collective bargaining agreement which provides for a regular weekly working time of 38 hours. Under the CBA, overtime of up to 3 hours per week can be agreed individually. Employees and their supervisors agree on annual individual targets (“Personal Business Commitments”). The procedure pertaining thereto is governed by a works council agreement. In the areas where consulting services are provided, productivity is measured by employee utilization, which describes employee billable hours compared to their working time. The maximum utilization possible under observance of working time limits, vacation entitlements etc. is set at 86,5%. In 2015, the target productivity was set at 80% utilization.

The works council argued that the individual targets could only be reached by employees if they considerably exceeded their working time, and it raised a complaint with the relevant safety authority responsible for health and safety in the workplace. As part of the enquiry, the authority requested further information regarding individual target agreements and asked the employer to review whether the targets were realistic and achievable. The employer provided only general information, stated that the target agreements had nothing to do with the employees’ working time and that only a small number of employees raised complaints against their target agreements. Subsequently, the authority issued an order to provide further specific information regarding the target agreements, including the number of target agreements, the achievement ratio and several sample agreements. The employer refused, arguing that the authority had no right to potentially influence target agreements and that this information was not necessary to determine compliance with health and safety standards.

The administrative court Dusseldorf upheld the order. According to the court, the request was covered by the authority’s powers to monitor compliance with regard to health and safety at the workplace. Dangers and risks to the employees’ health could arise not only from technical or environmental issues, but also from working conditions, organizational measures and work intensity. The court held that individual targets could increase pressure on employees, thereby increasing stress and psychological effects. Even though targets were part of an entrepreneurial strategy, the employer is also obliged to comply with health and safety standards, and the authority is allowed to monitor such compliance.