Minus hours: What is the employer allowed to do and what is not?

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Minus hours can arise quickly – a well-known example of this is leaving the company earlier due to an appointment. Generally, those employees who can currently work less than stipulated in their contract receive minus hours. But what rights does the employer have in such cases – and what is he not allowed to do? 

Definition and recording of minus hours 

Time and Attendance play a major role here. 

Minus hours, also called shortfall hours or absenteeism – occur when the employee works fewer hours than specified in that employment contract. 

An example to illustrate this: The weekly working time is 40 hours according to the contract. However, the employee only works 37 hours per week in May. This means that he has three missing hours or minus hours on his working time account. 

The minus hours are only credited to the employee if he is responsible for the missing hours. 

In other words, the employee has worked too few hours, even though he or she would theoretically have been able to do so. 

Practical examples are as follows: 

  1. Late start of work 
  1. Longer lunch breaks (than the regulation/contract states) 
  1. Private organizations and errands during working hours. 
  1. Early end of the shift or earlier end of the working day. 

If there is no special working time account in the company or if the working hours are regulated under “trust”, the minus can be compensated independently by the employee simply making up the time on another day. 

However, minus hours do not expire – they must be made up in any case! 

In this way, the time account can be balanced again. 

Illegally credited minus hours 

The employer may NOT credit the following minus hours: 

  1. in case of illness: if you are ill, you cannot work. The employee may not suffer any disadvantages, provided that he/she has duly reported sick. 
  1. in case of vacation: Vacation is not absenteeism. Every employee is entitled to statutory vacation. 
  1. on public holidays: a public holiday usually means a day off for the employee. 

If the employee nevertheless has to work on the holiday, he or she may benefit from a salary supplement. 

Unfortunately, the situation with regard to training courses is not clear-cut and must be examined in each individual case. 

If there is any ambiguity, the right contact is the company’s HR department. 

Permissible minus hours 

There is no general legal regulation regarding the number of permitted minus hours. 

The regulations of the respective employment or collective agreement apply here. 

Note: It is one of the employee’s duties to work the agreed weekly working hours. 

Failure to do so may result in a warning or a reduction in salary in certain cases. 

Offsetting the minus hours against vacation 

It is not possible to offset absences against vacation – even if the employer offers to do so on his own initiative. 

The following applies: vacation can only be taken for a period in the future and NOT retroactively. 

Remaining minus hours after a dismissal 

Often the employer wants to deduct the remaining minus hours from the last salary. This often leads to a dispute. Does the boss have the right to do this? The following factors must be considered: 

  1. Who is the cause of the minus hours? 
  1. Does the company have a working time account? 
  1. Have contractual agreements been made in this regard? 

If certain conditions are met, deducting the minus hours from the salary is permitted. 

Finally, the contractual agreements must also be taken into account. 

It must be explicitly stated in the contract that a time account is maintained and that this can also slip into the minus. 

The deduction of salary is also only permitted in cases where the minus hours were caused by the employee himself/herself. 

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