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Offshore Activity and German Employment Law

Offshore work in German territorial waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone has greatly grown in the last decade. Although Germany does not appear as an obvious area for offshore development, with approximately 1500 wind turbines (as of 2022), Germany is a considerable power in the field of wind energy. With the current government’s commitment to increased renewable energy, it is crucial for those involved with German off-shore employment to be aware of their legal requirements. As this area continues to develop, there are significant opportunities available but also greater legal risks

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our lawyers are ready to support your offshore company by providing comprehensive legal services. From advising your company regarding employment law best practice and relevant aspects of German contract law to overseeing all residence permit and visa requirements. Schlun & Elseven is a full-service law firm who advise across all areas of German law. If you require our assistance or would like to find out more about our services, please do not hesitate to contact us by using our details below.

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Working-Time for Employees in Offshore Activities under German Employment Law

In Germany, the Working Hours Act (“Arbeitszeitgesetz“) generally regulates how long employees in companies may work per day and per week. It covers blue and white-collar workers and apprentices. A typical working week consists of five days with eight hours per day, and generally, the Act allows for a maximum of ten hours of work per day. Company agreements or employment contracts can outline how the working hours are distributed. Under German law, working hours must not exceed an average of eight working hours per day – with Saturday included as a working day – therefore, 48 hours per week, over a period of six months or 24 weeks. However, these requirements are not the same for those working in offshore wind farms in the German exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The law considers the unique aspects of such demanding work and allows working hours to be extended to twelve hours per day. Employment activities are also permitted on Sundays and public holidays; however, 15 Sundays per year need to be free of work. Employees on offshore wind farms may work a maximum of 21 consecutive days or 14 days consecutive days if they work more than ten hours a day for seven consecutive days. Such provisions are considerably different to what is generally permitted under German employment and labour law.

There are some further issues around working time as factors such as working night shifts, activity through Sundays and public holidays, and travel times to get to the offshore wind farms need to be considered.

With Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our certified employment law experts will assist your company in maintaining compliance with German law. Our team is fully aware of best practice guidelines and will provide your team with comprehensive legal service.

Employer Responsibility for Offshore Activities

Due to the nature of the work, employers play a crucial role in taking responsibility for employees’ health care. Employers must ensure that employees receive regular occupational health care. The work environment must be safe. Employers need to maintain the appropriate ratio of working hours and days off for rest. Employees in offshore activities work longer hours, and therefore, they need to be compensated with additional time off, and the employer needs to ensure that such information is accurately documented. Up-to-date records and careful adherence to legal requirements are the best means of preventing costly legal disputes.

As many employees in this sector come from further afield, including non-EU countries, employers need to be aware of the necessity for the correct visas and residence permits. The appropriate visa will depend on the nature of the work, how long they will be on the project and where the person is coming from, as Germany provides several options for bringing in experts from third countries, including The German Skilled Immigration Act.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our team regularly works with companies to oversee their business immigration (including visa and residence permit application) requirements. As highly experienced professionals with a dedicated team of business immigration lawyers, our firm can be relied upon for all legal and bureaucratic activity relating to such applications.

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Practice Group: German Employment Law

Practice Group:
German Employment Law

Dr. Thomas Bichat

Certified Specialist Lawyer in Employment Law

Jens Schmidt

Certified Specialist Lawyer in Employment Law

Contact our Team of German Law Experts

Use the contact form to tell us about your concern regarding German law and offshore activities. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment based on the information provided and give you a cost estimation. You are then free to decide whether you want to instruct us.