The variable working time condition is defined as an arrangement in which working hours are determined according to the hours offered by the employer, between a minimum and maximum amount (e.g., 0-40 hours or 10-20 hours per week). The concept of variable working time also covers workers who are called to work if necessary.
Variable working time can no longer be agreed at the employer’s initiative if the employer has a fixed need for labour. In practice, this means, for example, that a worker cannot agree to work between 0 and 20 hours per week if the employer knows that he or she needs the employee regularly, such as for 20 hours per week. In this case, a part-time, 20-hours per week contract must be made with the employee.
However, if the need for labour genuinely varies, variable working time contracts can still be used. In this case, the lower limit of the working time condition must not be lower than the actual need for labour. The employer’s labour needs and use of the working time condition therefore depend on each other. If the need for labour varies, for example, from 10 to 30 hours per week, the employee must be guaranteed contractual working time of 10 to 30 hours per week instead of 0 to 30 hours.
When using variable working time contracts, employees must be informed of the situations that lead to, and the extent of, the employer’s labour needs. However, this is not sufficient if working times from the last six months show that the agreed working hours do not reflect the employer’s true need for labour. In such situations, the employer must negotiate a change in the working time condition to reflect their true labour needs if an employee so requests. Negotiations should normally take place within 1-2 weeks of the request. An employee is also entitled to use an assistant in the negotiations. However, if no agreed minimum working time is reached, the employer must provide written reasons for how the current working time condition still corresponds to their labour need. The occupational health and safety authority may ultimately impose a penalty payment to enforce the obligation.