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Unfortunately, we cannot provide English language versions of all our pages. On this page, you will find all English language articles from our PR-Info booklet. If you have any questions or issues that are not covered here, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or email!

Please keep in mind that older articles may contain obsolete and outdated information. If you have any questions, please ask us!

Inhalte auf dieser Seite
  1. The Academic Fixed-Term Contracts Act – German Universities and Their Limited Employment Practices
  2. Working on the (Digital) Clock
  3. Home or Office?
  4. Ergonomics
  5. Barriers
  6. Still fresh - Educational Leave
  7. Home Office, Teleworking, Mobile Working
  8. Is Additional Work Experience a Valid Reason for Fixed-term Contracts on the Basis of FTCAA?
  9. Working While Ill?
  10. New Regulations on Using E-Mail and Private Mobile Devices
  11. Still fresh - Precarious Science!
  12. IT Security when Working from Home
  13. General Reduced Expenditure - Globale Minderausgabe
  14. Corona and Young Academics
  15. This is Your new Staff Council 2020
  16. No More Blurred Boundaries? The EJC on Recording Working Hours
  17. Precarious Science?! - Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Fixed-Term Contract in Academia Act
  18. Mobile Working or Teleworking?
  19. Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence
  20. Caution: Contracts with Marginal Work Hours
  21. Keep a Record! - First-Aid Log
  22. General Permit for Short Business Trips
  23. Leave of Absence in Case of Bereavement
  24. Advance Reimbursement for Business Trips
  25. Annual Staff Meeting 2018
  26. New Sports Courses for Staff Members
  27. Too Hot to Work?
  28. GDPR - General Data Protection Regulation
  29. What to Do When You Are Overworked?
  30. Indirect Management
  31. Conflict at Work? We offer Support
  32. Staff Council Practice: Counselling Interviews
  33. Statutory Accident Insurance in the Workplace - What is covered by it?
  34. 2017 Collective Bargaining Results
  35. Hate Speech
  36. Staff Council Practice - Operating Agreements
  37. Doctoral Agreement - Why should you have one
  38. Educational Leave
  39. Woken up ill - What now?
  40. Staff Council Practice - Personnel Measures
  41. New Laws Concerning Academic Staff
  42. This Is Your New Staff Council

The Academic Fixed-Term Contracts Act – German Universities and Their Limited Employment Practices

Edition 35 - December 2022

Most junior scientists working at German universities are employed under the Academic Fixed-Term Contracts Act (AFTCA). The German name for this law is Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG). It allows universities to employ most of their academic staff on a fixed-term basis. Working on a limited contract like that makes it hard for young scientists to plan their life and their career with any security. Due to pressure put on policy makers by initiatives speaking for mid-level academic staff and trade unions, the AFTCA is now about to be amended. The amendment offers a chance to improve the working and living conditions of mid-level academic staff, but this will only work if they work together and make their demands heard.

Hanna and Her World

When she was writing her master’s thesis, Hanna was asked by her professor whether she could imagine working at the professor’s department. The professor had just secured a new project paid for by third-party funds which suited Hanna’s area of expertise. Naturally, the contract she could offer was limited and covered 65% of regular weekly working hours, but she said this would be a great start to an academic career for Hanna, and a PhD would be an asset even if Hanna decided to work outside the university later on. Hanna was happy to receive recognition for her work, and the prospect of working at the university excited her. She said yes. Since then, she works not only the 26-hour-week her contract demands, but a lot more, often even at the weekend. Even so, there is little time for working on her own qualification because most of her time is taken up with teaching, supervising course work and bachelor and master theses, committee work and project handling for the department.

Five years and many work contracts later, Hanna finishes her PhD. She is happy about that because it means she can stay employed at the university for longer than six years, and she would like to continue working in academia. Hanna is now almost thirty years old, and she knows she must remain flexible. At the moment, she shares a flat with other young professionals, where she owns just a few pieces of furniture which she could move easily and quickly to another city if necessary. It is important that she lives someplace she could still afford if she earned less than she does or even became unemployed for a short time. Hanna knows that after twelve years of limited employment at the university, if she fails to secure a professorship or one of the other, extremely rare unlimited employment contracts in her field, her chances to continue working at the university are very slim indeed – and if so, employment would be on a fixed-term basis again. In fact, she is fairly sure that she will probably not receive a permanent work contract until she is in her early forties. She would like to have children someday, but she does not know how her employment chances will ever allow for that. At the moment, she is happy if she can spend some time on her hobby once or twice a week.

Hanna is not an exception – working and living conditions like hers are all too common among junior academic staff in Germany.

#IchbinHanna – I am Hanna

In a video explaining the AFTCA (link to video on YouTube – German only), the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministeriums für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)) stated that the AFTCA and the high turnover rate among mid-level academic staff that results from it was a boon for academia and for young scientists, too, because it made sure the university system did not get “choked” by too many permanently employed people. Following that, a wave of outrage swept through Twitter and other social media outlets using the hashtag #IchbinHanna (I am Hanna). Soon, a second video showed the realities of working in a mid-level academic position at German universities from Hanna’s point of view (link to video on zdf.de – German only). More and more junior academic staff described their living conditions, the pressure they are under, their fears and the physical and mental illnesses they had developed from the constant stress and insecurity of working on a limited contract. Widely shared experiences like these conform to the findings of studies into the massive negative consequences fixed-term employment has on staff.   No other field of employment allows for such long periods of limited contracts, indeed even limited employment on a continuing basis.
Current Developments

The AFTCA entered into force in 2007 and has since been amended twice (the last amendment was due to the corona crisis). Still, the situation of mid-level academic staff has not significantly improved in that time. Why is the subject on the agenda again now?

During the period of establishment of the new federal government and the accompanying coalition negotiations, trade unions ver.di and GEW put pressure on the politicians, emphatically pointing out the problems of AFTCA. Consequently, a plan to amend AFTCA was written into the coalition agreement. But that will not be enough since firstly, not everything written into a coalition agreement is later put into practice, and secondly, it is not enough simply to amend the act regardless of the contents of the amendment, as the history of the law clearly shows. In order for the amendment to work, the right parameters must be changed. The question of which parameters are the right ones must be the subject of a wide-ranging discussion between trade unions, university leadership, experts and, most importantly, employees affected by changes to AFTCA.

Discussion across the Federal State

In order to kickstart such a discussion, ver.di and ver.di Bildungswerk (educational facility) together with the Network of Cooperation Hubs between Universities and Trade Unions in Lower Saxony (Netzwerk der Kooperationsstellen Hochschulen und Gewerkschaften in Niedersachsen) organised a discussion event on July 7, 2022 at four universities in Lower Saxony and Bremen. During the event, talks by two experts were broadcast to the four event sites first, followed by local discussions about what to do and how to organise and coordinate protests.

During the first talk, Sonja Staack from ver.di, department for education, science & research, explained why the 2016 amendment of AFTCA did not succeed either in lowering the rate of fixed-term contracts or in ensuring that contracts are fixed for an adequate period of time. She presented the findings of an evaluation of the act and gave her reasons for her assessment.

During the second talk, Dr Mathias Kuhnt (TU Dresden) presented the findings of an alternative evaluation of AFTCA .  The alternative evaluation was commissioned by the Network for Good Work in Science (Netzwerk für Gute Arbeit in der Wissenschaft (NGAWiss)) in order to examine not only limited employment, but also working conditions in general.

During the discussions here in Hannover and elsewhere, many questions were raised and discussed animatedly, which shows just much need there is for action.

What Is the Way Forward?

Precarious working conditions, dependence on the goodwill of professors and superior staff and uncertainty of career prospects make it difficult for junior academic staff to organise themselves and advocate their own interests.  Nevertheless, #IchbinHanna showed that dissatisfaction with the status quo is wide-spread and demands immediate action – and that these are not singular cases. Therefore, it is crucial that we define demands for universities and research facilities now and together develop recommendations that can be taken up and put into action by policy makers.

That is why ver.di continues to organise discussion and networking events, supported by the Cooperation Hub between Universities and Trade Unions Hannover-Hildesheim. You do not have to a union member to take part in this process. Feel free to contact us!

Contact Details:
ver.di Bezirk Hannover-Heide-Weser
Bereich Gesundheit, Soziale Dienste, Bildung und Wissenschaft
Goseriede 12, 30159 Hannover

Kooperationsstelle Hochschulen und Gewerkschaften Hannover-Hildesheim
Dr. Petra F. Köster
Blumhardtstraße 2, 30625 Hannover

 

 

 

Working on the (Digital) Clock

Edition 35  -  Dezember 2022

In edition 27 of the PR-Info, we reported on a ground-breaking decision the European Court of Justice (ECJ) took in May 2019 about the duty to record daily working hours (link to the report).

Since then, all member states of the European Union are called upon to reform their national legislation in order to make it conform to the ruling. In the beginning, nothing much happened in Germany. But now, a different ruling by the Federal Labour Court (FLC) (Bundesarbeitsgericht) fired up the discussion about the duty to record working hours again. The federal government is already working on a reform of German law in this matter.

On September 13, 2022, the FLC issued a press release about the ruling. In a nutshell, it says that following article 3 section 2 number 1 of the German Occupational Safety Act (OSA) (Arbeitsschutzgesetz), employers have a duty to establish a system which employees can use to record the hours they have worked.


What was the ruling of the ECJ about?

The ECJ ruling concerned itself mostly with the interpretation of two pieces of legislation: article 31 section 2 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and articles 3, 5 and 6 of the EU guideline on working hours 2003/88/EG.

The European Charter of Fundamental Rights states that “every  worker  has  the  right  to  limitation  of  maximum  working  hours,  to  daily  and  weekly  rest periods  and  to  an  annual  period  of  paid  leave”. This right is substantiated by the EU guideline on working hours 2003/88/EG.

Both pieces of legislation aim to improve living and working conditions of employees. They do not specify any particular measures, but put a duty on all member states of the EU to introduce measures to ensure that employees can exercise their rights according to the Charter and the guideline.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice found that this duty can only be effectively discharged if member states oblige employers to establish accessible systems that record daily working hours objectively and reliably.

The words “objectively” and “reliably” imply that such a system must also be proof against tampering and forgery, which pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet definitely are not. However, the ECJ ruling only concerns itself with the “if” of recording working hours, not with the “how”.

Why was the action brought before the Federal Labour Court?

The staff council of a residential home for in-patients tried to negotiate an operating agreement with their management, according to which working hours would be recorded electronically. When negotiations failed, the staff council brought a suit before the higher labour court of the federal state in order to determine whether they had a right to demand the establishment of an electronic system for recording working hours. The higher labour court ruled that they did, but the management committee appealed to the Federal Labour Court, which ruled that the staff council had such a right only in cases in which the matter is not sufficiently regulated by legislation already. In effect, this means that the staff council cannot demand that a system for recording working hours be established because all employers in Germany are already obliged to do so by article 3 section 2 number 1 of the Occupational Safety Act.
The FLC ruling makes it clear that employers already have a duty to provide a legally compliant system of recording working hours. But again, it is not about the “how” – as long as there is no clear legislation on this, every company and government department must find their own solution.

What the FLC ruling really entails will depend on the penalties and exemptions contained in the federal legislation on the subject that is now being prepared by the federal government. However, one thing is certain: this landmark ruling is bound to change the working life of many employees, especially those that have been working unpaid overtime.

What does the FLC ruling mean for LUH?

A fact that is, unfortunately, far too unknown is that at LUH, flexible work time is not the predominant system. In fact, many more than 80 % of LUH institutes and departments officially have fixed working hours. For these institutes and departments, no regulation for flexible work time has been agreed between the university’s presidential committee and staff council. Therefore, they have fixed working hours according to regulations set down in LUH A-circular (Rundschreiben A) No. 33/2007 (link to download circular as PDF – German only). When working hours are fixed, there is no need to record working hours because it is not permitted to work outside of the fixed working hours – except when official overtime has been ordered by management and agreed upon by staff council.

However, many institutes and departments practice an unregulated version of flexible work time although no agreement exists for it – maybe because they do not know better. Such behaviour is not legally compliant and can have dire consequences for management and staff. That is why staff council has been negotiating with the presidential committee for some time now about a new operating agreement on flexible work time and electronic recording of working hours for the whole LUH.

An electronic system of recording working hours that complies with all technical and legal requirements is already in use at LUH. It is the aim of the new operating agreement on flexible work time to offer all LUH institutes and departments a chance to successively take part in it.

 

Home or Office?

Edition 34 - July 2022

After a long period of preparation and discussion, the new operating agreement (Dienstvereinbarung) regarding home office and mobile working at LUH has finally come into effect on April 1, 2022. At first glance, the new regulation seems to be quite complex. This is due to the fact that it aims to combine the security of the old regulation with the flexibility of the emergency mode due to the Corona pandemic, also including best practices found during the last two years. Staff council has offered two online information events, in which more than 1000 employees took part. Questions posed during these events and the answers given by the panel can be found online on the staff council website. (Link: https://www.personalrat.uni-hannover.de/en/infothek/pr-unterwegs/homeoffice/). In addition, we will try to summarise the new rules and regulations here.

What Is New, What Is Important?

All employees are entitled to apply for home office and/or mobile working. There is no fixed number of available places, and you do not need a specific reason for applying such as, for example, care work at home. However, please be aware that this can only work when superiors and their teams communicate openly and in a timely fashion about everybody’s wishes and needs to ensure that nobody gets left behind. We recommend that teams start by determining together which tasks must be done in the university buildings, then look at the question which tasks can be done at home or on the move, and then decide which technical scenario is suited to these tasks and environments.

Home office and mobile working can also be combined, but even then employees must spend at least 20 % of their regular weekly working hours in the university. Both home office and mobile working can be used relatively flexibly: you do not need to set a fixed day for your home office anymore, and mobile working is granted for three years and then agreed upon on a day-to-day basis with your superior. That means more freedom, but also a greater need to communicate within the team and with your superior about sharing the work load in a way that is fair for everybody.

The Basics

Home Office (Formerly Teleworking)

  • Extent/Range: minimum 20 %, maximum 80 % of individual regular weekly working time
  • Period: 3 years
  • Condition: Work contract with at least 50 % regular weekly working time, availability by phone during working hours
  • Location: private residence (your own or somebody else’s)
  • Tasks: must be suitable to home office and cover the hours applied for
  • Application procedure:
  • Employees apply to the personnel department.
  • Superiors assess the risk of the tasks planned for home office and decide on the suitable technical scenario.
  • The personnel department issues an additional agreement to the work contract and
  • decides on the application (in case of a planned rejection, they involve staff council).
  • If necessary, the home office workplace is set-up with furniture and technical equipment by LUH.
  • The department for workplace safety (Arbeitssicherheit) surveys the home office workplace.

Mobile Working

  • Extent/Range: maximum 30 % of individual regular working time in half a calendar year
  • Period: 3 years
  • Condition: availability by phone during working hours
  • Location: can be chosen freely (e.g. at home, on a train, at a friend’s, in a café)
  • Tasks: must be suitable to mobile working (higher security level because of the environmental risks)
  • Application procedure:
  • Employees apply to their superior.
  • Superiors assess the risk of the tasks planned for home office and decide on the suitable technical scenario.
  • Superiors decide on the application (in case of a planned rejection, they involve the personnel department, who then involve staff council).
  • Superiors send a copy of the approved application to the personnel department.

Transitional Arrangement

In order to allow enough time for a large amount of applications to be submitted and processed and home offices to be set-up, the operating agreement contains a transitional period. Until September 30, 2022, it is possible to practice mobile working for more than 30 % of individual regular working time by mutual agreement between employee and superior. After that date, home office and mobile working will only be possible under the terms of the operating agreement.

Ergonomics

Edition 34 - July 2022

Would you be surprised if we told you that the standard office computer workstation is probably the most dangerous workplace at LUH? Fortunately, there is a way to make it less dangerous: ergonomics.

Simply put, ergonomics means the optimal adjustment between the workplace and the human being working there. This means that ergonomics looks at the individual person and their individual working environment. Rules and regulations for the computer workstation are set down in the Workplace Ordinance (Arbeitsstättenverordnung). They cover the computer device itself, hardware and software, but also the workplace furniture, the surroundings and the work organisation, i.e. the framework in which a person works. Health and safety of the employee are of the highest priority here.

At LUH, we have three basic modes in which to work at a computer workstation: in the offices inside LUH buildings, in a fixed private residence (home office) or on the move (mobile working). All three modes carry their own specific risks of short-term or long-term damage, and it is the duty of the employer to avert as many of these risks as possible before anything happens. This is done using risk assessment forms (Gefährdungsbeurteilung) to determine the risk and, if possible, remove it. If not, the employee must be made aware of the risk and instructed in how to avoid it most effectively. For example, in order to prevent long-term eye damage due to excessive screen work, the employer must offer the employee a regular medical eye exam and an instruction in how to relax the eyes and protect them from damage.

When it comes to the set-up of the workstation, the same rules regarding furniture, lighting conditions, risk-free surroundings, hard- and software apply both in LUH offices and in the home office. In the home office, the workstation is reviewed by a person from the department for workplace safety (Arbeitssicherheit), who can give tips on how to improve the workplace set-up and ergonomically adjust it to the employee. Any equipment that is missing for a healthy work environment is provided by the employer.

Which health risks does working at a computer workstation carry?

  • Risk of bodily damage
  • Risk of damage to eyes and sight
  • Risk of psychological damage

All of the above can be caused by inappropriate posture, one-sided pressure, insufficient work equipment or work organisation:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Insufficiently adjusted ergonomical design of the workstation
  • Lack of or wrong glasses
  • Unsuitable software and user interface
  • Insufficient lighting conditions, dazzling or glare effects
  • Working atmosphere, psychological pressure

Often, the damaging effects work gradually so that employees notice their impact only when the damage is done. Surveys of German health insurance companies regularly find that damages to the musculoskeletal system as well as psychological and behavioural disorders are the most common illnesses among computer workstation workers.

The health and safety officers from the department for workplace safety are experts in ensuring optimal workplace safety and ergonomics. They can instruct groups of employees in the general principles of workplace safety and advise individual employees on how to optimally adjust their workstation. More information can be found online here: (Link) (German only). But not every risk can be eliminated by optimising the set-up of the workstation. Employees must do their part as well, changing posture regularly and incorporating regular breaks into their workday.

Ensuring a healthy workplace takes a lot of preparation and discipline, but there are regulations and supporting structures in place to help employees with it. Unfortunately, most of these do not apply to mobile working: here, the responsibility for ensuring a healthy workplace rests solely on the shoulders of the employee. That is why staff council holds home office to be the preferable mode of work. We know that employees like the flexibility mobile working offers them. However, since maintaining your health should be of the highest priority in the workplace, we think that home office should be the mode of choice when working outside LUH offices whenever possible.

Barriers

Edition 34 - July 2022

In order to make LUH accessible to everyone, a task group “Accessible University” (“Barrierefreie Universität”) was launched in 2019. The group was tasked with identifying physical and digital barriers at LUH and formulate a plan to overcome them. It issued a plan of action that was adopted by the presidential committee in 2020 (Link: https://www.chancenvielfalt.uni-hannover.de/fileadmin/chancenvielfalt/pdf/Aktionsplan_Barrierefreie_Leibniz_Universitaet_Web_2021.pdf, German only). Some fields of action in the plan are more difficult to tackle than others, for example providing accessibility for all of LUH’s older buildings. Digital accessibility, however, is something all LUH departments can and should work towards: the “Accessible University Plan” calls for all online documents at Leibniz University Hannover to be made fully accessible in the future. This means not only pdf files, but also graphic art, videos, texts, pictures and colour choices.

What is digital accessibility?

Basically, digital accessibility means that online information and applications should be accessible to all users. The basis for this are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) (Link: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/ (in English)) and, in German law, the IT Accessibility By-law (Barrierefreie-Informationstechnik-Verordnung) (Link: https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bitv_2_0/BJNR184300011.html (German only)).

For most people, digital accessibility means resources and devices for blind and partially sighted persons. This is not a bad idea because more than a million visually impaired people live in Germany. Also, in about 50 percent of all cases, visual impairment is age-related, and therefore the number of affected persons increases with the rise in mean age. In this respect, digital accessibility means providing access for devices such as screen readers and Braille displays, but also through clear structures and readability.

There are, however, other groups with different needs in the digital realm, for example people who struggle with complicated texts, intricately structured websites or complex digital procedures. These people need texts to be written in a clear and simple language and websites structured intuitively. Other people struggle with colourful graphics and overstimulation: they need sensory calm in order to be able to access digital information. Partially hearing and deaf persons can encounter barriers on websites that provide crucial information in video or audio files without subtitles or transcripts.

Staff council also aims to provide accessibility to all our information online. However, our PR-Info is not accessible yet to any of the groups mentioned above. We would like to change that, and therefore we will in future issue a separate accessible edition that will, we hope, be truly accessible to all our employees. You can download it on our website. (Link: https://www.personalrat.uni-hannover.de/fileadmin/personalrat/PDF/PR-Info/PR-Info_34_07-2022_barrierefrei.pdf)

Who can help me provide digital accessibility?

If you need help making your online information accessible, there are several resources at Leibniz University Hannover and beyond you can use. There is also help available for making your teaching materials digitally accessible.

Still fresh - Educational Leave

Edition 33 - January 2022
last published in PR-Info edition 19 - January 2017

This information is still valid.

Home Office, Teleworking, Mobile Working

Edition 33 - January 2022

Remote Working at LUH: Where do we go from here?

Due to the corona pandemic, many employees and management level staff have recently encountered new forms of remote working. Many different forms of splitting work between home and workplace have been discovered in order to deal with the rapidly changing situation. Many things that seemed impossible before suddenly became possible. Staff council and university management agreed to suspend the application procedure and restrictions for mobile working until March 2022 in order to be able to react to changing circumstances in a flexible manner. Everybody learned to sum up all of the developments of the last two years under the title “home office”.

It is clear that things cannot go back to the way they were before. The established forms of remote working at LUH do not offer the freedom and flexibility in choosing the place of work that many employees now wish for. New forms and new rules will have to be established without endangering the achievements and securities for employees contained in the old forms.

At the end of 2018, staff council and university management first agreed on regulations for a mobile working trial period of 24 months in order to offer more flexibility to employees. At the time, that was the only regulation of its kind in Lower Saxony’s federal administration. Meanwhile, the federal state of Lower Saxony has recognised the need for more flexibility and made a new agreement with the trade unions’ head organisations about teleworking and mobile working in Lower Saxony’s federal administration. Since agreements like this one are concluded according to article 81 of the Lower Saxony Staff Representation Act (Niedersächsisches Personalvertretungsgesetz, NPersVG), we call them 81 agreements (81er-Vereinbarungen) for short. They are binding for all departments of Lower Saxony’s federal administration, and they form the basis of our in-house operating agreements (Dienstvereinbarungen).

Staff council has now drafted a new operating agreement on teleworking and mobile working at LUH. This draft includes both regulations set down in the new 81 agreement and experiences, wishes and needs of employees formed during the time of the “home office”. When drafting new regulations, staff council first gathers important and critical information on all levels. We are members of many committees, networks and task forces in which we collect impulses and wishes. During our many counselling sessions, we learn about misunderstandings and sticking points that arise from the practice of “home office” during the pandemic. We receive feedback from employees via reactions to our Personalratsinfo, conversations and emails, all of which we then incorporate in our drafts.

This process is time-consuming, but it leads to solutions that are as good and as fair as possible for everybody. It also ensures that the new operating agreement does not deviate from the higher-ranking 81 agreement to the disadvantage of employees.

We have now entered into negotiations with university management regarding our new operating agreement draft. The personnel department, LUIS, the data security office, the occupational health and safety office and the office of the chief information officer are all parties to these negotiations.

One thing has become clear already: neither can things remain as they are now while the pandemic is ongoing. During the pandemic, the prevention of risks to IT security took a back seat to the prevention of health risks. When the pandemic is over, it is high time to focus on the prevention of hacking and malware attacks again. Additionally, it is immensely important to staff council that responsibility for a healthy workplace is not shifted on to employees by enormously increasing the quota of mobile working. We favour teleworking because it is safer and more protected for our employees.

We will have to wait and see how negotiations develop. As soon as there is anything concrete to report, we will inform you about it.

Is Additional Work Experience a Valid Reason for Fixed-term Contracts on the Basis of FTCAA?

Edition 32 - July 2021

This question was discussed by the higher labour court (Landesarbeitsgericht) in Cologne last autumn. In its verdict of October 7, 2020 (5 Sa 451/20), the court ruled on the interpretation of article 2 section 1 sentence 1 of the Fixed-Term Contracts in Academia Act (Wissenschaftszeitsvertragsgesetz, FTCAA) which defines fixed-term contracts on the basis of further academic qualification. According to the ruling, the article is to be interpreted as follows: contracts may only be closed for a fixed term on the basis of this article if the further academic qualification amounts to more than gaining additional work experience.

According to the court, the further qualification does not necessarily have to be a formal qualification like a PhD. However, the mere performance of academic tasks and the subsequent increase in experience and competence are not sufficient for a further academic qualification under the act. The act requires an active promotion of academic qualification, not just the accumulation of work experience.

An appeal has been lodged against the ruling at the Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht, 7 AZR 573/20 (pending)). That means it is not legally binding yet. If, however, the federal court confirms the ruling, there will be far-reaching consequences for the way FTCAA is used to put a time limit on contracts. In such a case, employers such as LUH will be forced to think much more carefully about which further academic qualification according to Art. 2 Sec. 1 Sent. 1 FTCAA an employee will gain through their work.

Working While Ill?

Edition 32 - July 2021

Especially during the colder months of the year, employees sometimes come to work with colds or other illnesses. Looking for praise, recognition and appreciation, or anticipating an important deadline, experiencing work peaks or because there is simply too much work for them to do, they keep on working although they feel unwell.

Is that the right way to go? What do employer and health insurance company have to say about the practice? What about workplace insurance? What rights and duties do employees have when they fall ill?

Most people do not know that a certificate of incapacity for work (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung) does not prohibit an employee from working; it is simply a document stating a doctor‘s prediction on how long an illness will last. Employees may decide themselves to take up work earlier than predicted if they feel up to it again. If they start working and then realise they are too ill to go on after all, they may stay home again until the certificate runs out. Therefore, employees are still insured when they decide to go to work anyway.

Please think very carefully before returning to work early because you feel well enough. If you drag yourself into the office or lab, but are only able to work with half capacity and put colleagues and students at risk of contagion, neither they nor your employer will benefit from the situation. As the pandemic has shown us, infections can distribute rapidly and widely. In addition, you will harm your chances of recovery and ultimately your health if you go in to work ill.

If you draw on health insurance services like daily sickness benefits, but then return to work anyway, you might become liable to pay back what you received.

In general, employees must inform their employer if they decide to return to work early. That way, there will not be any disagreements in case of, for example, a workplace accident. However, the information is also important in order for the employer to exercise their duty of care towards the employee. Employees are incapable of work if either they are objectively unable to complete the tasks set for them or if they are at risk of worsening their condition through work. If an employer accepts the labour supply of an employee who is objectively incapable of work, they risk violating their duty of care towards the employee. If an employer has doubts about an employee’s capacity for work, they can ask the medical officer for their assessment. That means that your superior can and should send you back home if they have reasonable doubts about your restored capacity for work.

The same is true, of course, for management level staff who fall ill: they would do well to remember that their duty of care includes leading by example.

Incidentally, employees must not hide their incapacity for work from their employer! A certificate of incapacity for work must always be presented to the employer. It is a prerequisite to organising work processes and substitutions. At LUH, a certificate of incapacity for work must generally be presented by the fourth calendar day of incapacity for work. For more information, please read the article „Woken up ill - what now?“ from PR-Info edition 19.

Please take care of yourself and your work-life balance. If you are ill, go to see a doctor, do not go to work. If you fall ill due to workplace-related reasons (e.g. chronic overwork, deficits in workplace facilities or equipment, etc.), please contact staff council or the workplace rehabilitation management (Betriebliches Eingliederungsmanagement). Your health is very dear to us!

As an Italian saying puts it: “Good health is just like salt: you only notice it when it’s missing.”

New Regulations on Using E-Mail and Private Mobile Devices

Edition 32 - July 2021

In light of the ever-increasing threat of cyber attacks, LUH has issued two new regulations regarding the use of e-mail and private mobile devices at work. The aim of these regulations is to contain possible threats and protect LUH from digital attacks that could have serious consequences.

E-mail

Using private e-mail addresses for work is prohibited. In addition, work e-mails may not be indiscriminately and automatically forwarded to private e-mail addresses. Private mail domain companies are popular targets of and meeting places for organised crime, and e-mails sent from private mail domains do not carry the same authority as those sent from official LUH accounts.

Everything you send from and receive at your LUH account counts as work-related. Naturally, you may still use your LUH account for a private chat with your colleagues. Your privacy remains protected: third parties may read messages in your account only if there is a serious work-related reason for this and the data security officer and staff council consent. E-mails sent to confidential counselling services like the psychological counselling service, the medical service or staff council may not be read by third parties under any circumstances.

A useful tool for making your work e-mails more secure is the so-called “digital signature”, a user certificate offered by Leibniz University IT Services (LUIS). This certificate ensures that your account cannot be used to send fake emails containing malware. The digital signature must be applied for in person at LUIS and then embedded in your e-mail software. More information (German only): https://www.luis.uni-hannover.de/de/services/it-sicherheit/zertifikate-der-luh-ca/nutzerzertifikate/

Attachments containing active elements, e.g. word documents with macros, are blocked. LUIS cloud services should be used for sharing (large) files.

Most importantly, if you fall victim to a cyber attack because you clicked the wrong link or opened the wrong attachment, disconnect the device from the LUH network immediately and inform your administrator right away in order to prevent further damage.

Mobile Devices

Your superior must not order you to use your private devices; if you prefer to use LUH devices, you may do so. If you prefer to use your private mobile devices for work, that must be approved by your superior, and you must take additional steps to ensure digital safety. This includes keeping the device updated, using an account without admin privileges for work, encrypting storage devices, installing a malware scanner, using an effective password. Naturally, you must not leave the device unattended or let third parties use it. LUH cannot access your private device remotely.

Think about which data absolutely must be stored on your private device and which data might be prohibited from storing on a private device. If in doubt, use LUIS cloud services to store your data.

This article only covers a few important aspects of the new regulations. The full text can be read in Verkündungsblatt 40/2021 (German only).

Still fresh - Precarious Science!

Edition 31 - March 2021
last published in PR-Info edition 25 - April 2019

This information is still valid.

IT Security when Working from Home

Edition 31 - March 2021

The Corona pandemic made possible what was long held to be unthinkable at LUH. The urgent need to make it possible for staff members to work from home has been accompanied by an explicit or implicit suspension of rules regarding requirements for an adequate workplace at home. Many staff members feel freed by this development, experiencing a more flexible way of working and more freedom in combining work and family duties. However, there is also a downside to this development since questions of IT security, health and safety and the blurring of boundaries between work and leisure hours remain unanswered.

In terms of IT security, the current situation has many pitfalls for unsuspecting staff members. In the absence of proper regulation, the use of private electronic devices at home can carry a severe risk, even if private devices are often more efficient and better suited to the work. Pressure towards constant accessibility can lead to far-reaching casual mistakes when clicking on the wrong link or attachment. Storing and working with confidential files or protected data at home and moving it between home and office increases the danger of security risks. Meanwhile, responsibilities and duties regarding IT and data security remain the same for staff members: all LUH regulations have to be observed, whether working from home or in the office.

In order to organise your work at home in a way that complies with LUH regulations, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it strictly necessary for me to work with protected and personal data at home?
  • Do I use only LUH devices at home?
  • If using my private phone, do I make sure data of incoming calls is deleted regularly? Can I talk on the phone without anybody listening in at home?
  • Have I suppressed my private phone number when calling third parties from my private phone in work-related matters?
  • Am I using secure passwords?
  • Is up-to-date security and firmware installed on all devices in my private network at home?
  • Does my private wireless LAN have a secure password and the highest possible encryption?
  • Do I use applications with end-to-end encryption for all communication?
  • Are work-related and private matters strictly segregated on my devices?
  • Where do I save my work results to (USB flash drive, laptop computer, network drive)?
  • Are all external data storage devices I use encrypted?
  • In video conference calls, does my camera see any personal data (pictures, folder labelling, neighbours in front of my window)?

In order to protect yourself and your health while working from home, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I work at home only during official working hours?
  • Is there a clear boundary between work time and leisure time and am I able to keep it?
  • Do I have enough contact with my work colleagues?
  • Do I stand up from my computer from time to time?
  • Do I eat and drink healthily?

On the surface, working from home sounds like a great idea. Our experience during counselling shows that those staff members whose work prohibits them from working at home are often envious of this presumed freedom. However, working from home bears a lot of personal responsibility regarding both technical security and health and safety.

Take care, even – and especially – when working from home!

General Reduced Expenditure - Globale Minderausgabe

Edition 29 - September 2020

Recently, staff members may have come across this innocent-sounding term in the media or during committee meetings at LUH. But what exactly does it mean?

“General reduced expenditures are a fiscal instrument used to consolidate budgets. They are listed as negatively estimated costs in a budget that must be balanced by expenditure cuts during the execution of the budget.” [Source: translated from a German language quote from wikipedia.de]

In other words: the federal state of Lower Saxony charges its departments with cutting expenditure and also leaves the decision where cuts should be made to them. For the 21 universities and colleges in Lower Saxony, this means that they will receive 24 million euros less from the federal state this year. This amounts to 2.8 million euros less for Leibniz University of Hannover, to which is added 1.7 million euros in additional energy costs. Furthermore, the list of Leibniz University of Hannover’s buildings and facilities in need of refurbishment grows ever longer and amounts to a triple-digit million euro sum which neither state nor federal state are willing to contribute to.

In late 2019, the Conference of Lower Saxony University Staff Councils (Landeshochschulpersonalrätekonferenz, LHPRK) wrote the following letter about this issue to (most of) the chairpersons of the parliamentary groups in the Lower Saxony state parliament.

“Dear Chairperson!

The recent update of the University Development Treaty (Hochschulentwicklungsvertrag) was aimed at creating attractive conditions and long-term planning security. Furthermore, it endeavoured to give additional incentives towards a sustainable positive development. However, now universities and colleges are expected to shoulder the federal state‘s expenditure cut duties for the first time amounting to 24 million euros.

Several cost-cutting rounds have left the basic state funding of Lower Saxony’s universities and colleges frozen for two decades which if considered in the context of general inflation is equivalent to a constant reduction of state funds. Refurbishment and maintenance costs are rising through the roof continually and can no longer be met through the universities‘ own resources. At the same time, universities and colleges are forced into permanent competition with each other and are expected to increase student numbers, increase quality of studies, improve employment conditions and fulfil other political and societal demands regarding digitisation, climate protection, inclusivity, third mission and diversity.

Our staff have in the past always been willing to meet these challenges despite ever-tightening financial constraints. However, the congestion of work at universities and colleges has by now increased dramatically. The university is no longer an attractive workplace, neither for mid-level academic staff nor for technical and administrative support staff.

A reduction of staff – such as is unavoidable following the General Reduced Expenditure – is not acceptable.

It is impossible to explain to our staff why the federal state is willing to find billions in order to save a federal state bank again, but simultaneously repeatedly cuts the basic funding of universities and colleges.

As representatives of Lower Saxony’s university staff councils, we strongly urge you as chairperson not to allow this additional burden to be put on the universities and colleges and to exempt universities and colleges from the General Reduced Expenditure!”

The Conference of Lower Saxony Universities and Colleges (Landeshochschulkonferenz, LHK), the executive committees of Lower Saxony’s universities and colleges and the Conference of Lower Saxony General Student Councils (LandesAstenKonferenz) also positioned themselves firmly against the expenditure cuts. A truly unprecedented unity between the different representative bodies, but to no avail.

Then, the corona pandemic hit. The amounts being paid by the state and the federal states in terms of bailout packages and financial aid dwarf the 24 million euros of the General Reduced Expenditure. In this light, it seems hopeless to expect financial support from the federal state. We will have no choice but to swallow this bitter pill.

Corona and Young Academics

Edition 29 - September 2020

Information on Changes to the Fixed-Term Contract in Academia Act (FTCAA1)

The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on the academic staff of universities and colleges. Online lectures had to be organised in an instant. Setting up and executing a lecture plan for the upcoming winter semester remains a challenge for all involved. Additionally, research is severely affected when workshops, laboratories and libraries remain closed or cannot be used in the usual way.

For staff members whose private duties involve caring for children or other dependants, the effects of the pandemic on social support structures present an additional problem. Many find that juggling work and private duties has become much harder than before.

The effects of the pandemic doubly hit young academics – those staff members working towards their next academic qualification (doctorate, habilitation). Firstly, there are all of the additional tasks mentioned above, and secondly, the impact of the pandemic can delay the progress of work on the academic qualification itself. Between the demands of online lectures and family duties, work on your doctorate can easily fall by the wayside. Simultaneously, the clock is ticking on the maximum time limit the law allows for fixed-term contracts for academic qualifications (six years before the PhD and six years after; see article 2 paragraph 1 FTCAA).

Political leadership has correctly identified this problem and found a solution that seems deceptively simple on first glance. The maximum time limit for fixed-term contracts for academic qualifications has been raised for all academic staff who were or are employed at a German university or college between March 1 and September 30, 2020 (see article 7 paragraph 3 FTCAA).

However, the solution does have a few drawbacks:

  • Since nobody can say definitively how long the pandemic and its impact on academic staff will last, the maximum time limit was raised by one semester for now. If the pandemic lasts longer than that (which seems likely), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research can raise the maximum time limit by another six months by decree.
  • The maximum time limit, as its name suggests, only limits the maximum amount of time academic staff can be employed on a fixed-term basis for. However, this does not lead to a right to be employed for the maximum amount of time allowed under the act.
  • The changes made to FTCAA do not specify how additional costs of longer employment times should be met.

Some departments of LUH have already made use of the changes to FTCAA and extended contracts of academic staff for six months or longer. This is especially true in cases when the contract is funded by federal funding, but other cases exist in which third-party funding has been increased accordingly, or in which there was enough money left in a project budget.

There are, however, other examples. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) does indeed allow self-financing extensions of work contracts with doctoral candidates in graduate schools. However, if the money runs out at the end of the alloted time for the graduate school, the DFG possibly only provides further funds for a maximum of three months. It follows that work contracts for staff members in these situations are usually only extended by three months.

It seems likely that private enterprises may be even less inclined to increase funds in order to pay for the extension of contracts, especially since private enterprises are themselves suffering from severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this way, whether or not the extension of the maximum time limit is granted is largely dependent on how an individual work contract is funded.

1 FTCAA in German: Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG)

This is Your new Staff Council 2020

Edition 29 - September 2020

The election took place on April 10 and 11, 2020 - shortly before the lockdown of the university due to COVID-19. Staff council will represent all staff members of Leibniz University and safeguard their interests for the next four years. If you have any questions about your rights as a staff member or experience any work-related problems, feel free to contact us!

This is the new staff:
Bettina Aichinger, Malgorzata Baniecka, Sabrina Beckmann, Katja Bohne, Marc André Brinkforth-Peiser, Regina Garcia, Oliver Gorden, Elli Grube, Ulrike Hepperle, André Hruschka, Andree Klann, Arne Wolf Kösling, Anh-Vu Phan, Norbert Pyttlik, Jörg Schollbach, Uwe Spillebeen, Sarah Steiding, Ewgenij Stepa, Martin Volkmann

No More Blurred Boundaries? The EJC on Recording Working Hours

Edition 27 - October 2019

In May 2019, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that, following EU guideline 2003/88/EG, employers have a duty to record daily working hours. Before the court’s finding the guideline only defined the maximum boundaries of working hours, but did not specify how to record them or ensure boundaries are kept.

The European Charter of Fundamental Rights states that “every  worker  has  the  right  to  limitation  of  maximum  working  hours,  to  daily  and  weekly  rest periods  and  to  an  annual  period  of  paid  leave” (chapter IV article 31). However, it can be hard or even impossible to assert these rights without an objective and dependable recording of working hours.

What are the regulations concerning working hours in Germany?

In addition to the EU guideline 2003/88/EG and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Law on Working Hours (Arbeitszeitgesetz) primarily regulates working hours in Germany. It states that employees have a right to

  • a minimum rest period of 11 hours within 24 hours,
  • a minimum rest period of 24 hours within seven days,
  • a maximum working time of 48 hours within seven days, and
  • a break of at least 30 minutes when working more than six hours in a day.

It also sets the maximum of daily working hours to eight hours on average and states that any working time in excess of that must be recorded.

Another regulation concerning working hours is the Law on Minimum Wage (Mindestlohngesetz) which obligates employers generally to record working time for specific groups of employees. In the university context, this primarily concerns academic assistants (Wissenschaftliche Hilfskräfte) and student assistants (Studentische Hilfskräfte).

How does the ECJ ruling affect German employment law?

The ruling does not automatically change German employment law. All member states of the European Union must now introduce legislation in accordance with the ruling, but no specific time frame for this has been set by the ECJ. However, employees can refer to the ruling in court cases from now on.

Why should working hours be regulated like this?

Rules and regulations on working hours protect employees’ health and guarantee their right to fair working conditions. They protect employees from exploitation by employers or even by themselves. In court, they strengthen employees’ positions.

Unpaid overtime equals theft of time and money, and permanently keeping employees in stand-by mode seriously risks their health. The ECJ ruling can help in the fight against these societal developments.

The ruling provides a firm base for flexible working arrangements, e.g. within flexitime, and constitutes an important step towards a better work-life-balance.


Precarious Science?! - Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Fixed-Term Contract in Academia Act

Edition 25 - April 2019

Most fixed-term work contracts for academic staff at German universities are covered by the Fixed-Term Contract in Academia Act (FTCAA) (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz). Recently, staff council invited academic staff with fixed-term contracts to a short talk about the regulations of FTCAA and an open discussion about any questions staff members had about this subject. Here are our answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Which kinds of work contracts are closed according to the regulations of FTCAA?

Generally speaking, all academic staff who are employed for a fixed period of time are covered by FTCAA. This usually means contracts with academic personnel (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter*innen) as well as academic assistants (wissenschaftliche Hilfskräfte).  Since the law defines academic staff as employees who conduct their own scientific research, teaching assistants (Lehrkräfte für besondere Aufgaben) as well as technical and administrative staff are not counted as academic staff, and therefore their contracts are not covered by FTCAA.

How long can I be employed for the purpose of my academic qualification as a scientist on a fixed-term contract according to FTCAA?

According to article 2 paragraph 1 of FTCAA, academic staff who are employed in order to obtain an individual academic qualification can be employed on a fixed-term contract for a maximum of six years before completing the PhD and for another six years after completing the PhD. This regulation is the so-called “maximum time limit for the qualification limitation” (Höchstbefristungsrahmen der Qualifikationsbefristung). It is important to note, however, that this is only a maximum time frame and that the university is free to issue contracts of whatever length it chooses within this time frame.  Staff can only be employed under this regulation if the main goal of their employment is to obtain an academic qualification. However, the nature and also the duration of this qualification are not clearly defined by the law. The maximum time limit can be extended for child care duties etc. (see below).

Which kinds of contracts count towards the maximum time limit for the qualification limitation?

According to article 2 paragraph 3 of FTCAA, all fixed-term contracts with German universities, polytechnic colleges, universities of applied sciences and other research facilities will be counted towards the maximum time limit. This includes contracts with academic assistants, contracts with less than 25 % of regular full-time weekly working hours (i.e. less than roughly 10 hours per week) and contracts that were closed according to other laws than FTCAA. Contracts outside of Germany, open-ended contracts and contracts with student assistants (studentische Hilfskräfte) are not counted towards the time limit.

What if it takes me less than six years to complete my PhD? Will I then be able to extend the time limit after the PhD?

The time limit after completing the PhD is extended by the amount of time not used up before the PhD by one of the contracts mentioned above or by time spent working on the PhD without a working contract. In theory, this means that if you complete your PhD in four years, you can be employed on a fixed-term contract for eight years (6+2) after the PhD. However, it is often not easy to clearly define a start day for the PhD. And again, the university is not required by FTCAA to exhaust this time limit; the law only states the possibility to do so.

I have a chronic illness / a disability / child care duties. Will my time limit be extended?

For every child whose care falls into your duty, your time limit is extended by two years. This includes not only children of your own body, but also foster children, stepchildren and children that have entered your household in order to be adopted by you. Similarly, if you have a severe chronic illness or disability, your time limit is extended by two years. However, this only extends the time limit, i.e. the maximum possible length of time you can be employed on a fixed-term contract. It does not mean that your contract will be automatically extended. For legally required contract extensions in case of child care or illness, see below.

Will my contract be automatically extended because of my care duties / my chronic or extended illness / my disability? Will any such extension be counted towards my time limit?

If you are employed on a fixed-term contract according to article 2 paragraph 1 FTCAA (qualification limitation; see above), your contract will be extended by the amount of time you

  • are on leave or have reduced your regular weekly working hours by at least 1/5 in order to care for one or several children (see above) or for any other dependants in need of care;
  • are unable to work because of an extended period of illness in which you are no longer entitled to continued remuneration by law or labour agreement (usually after six continual weeks of illness);
  • are on leave in order to take up a scientific engagement elsewhere (e.g. as a guest lecturer / researcher);
  • are exempted from work for at least 1/5 of your regular weekly working hours in order to take up duties as a member of staff council or of the representative body for disabled employees

These extensions do not count towards your time limit and you are legally entitled to them. However, it is important to note that LUH only grants these extensions if you apply for them, not automatically! These extensions do not apply to contracts closed according to article 2 paragraph 2 FTCAA (see below).

Do I have a legal right to be employed for six years before and six years after my PhD?

No. There exists no legal right to a work contract, and accordingly, there is no legal right to be employed for the maximum duration of the time limit for the qualification limitation. According to article 2 paragraph 1 clause 3 FTCAA, the duration of the contract must be adequate to obtaining the individual academic qualification that is the main goal of the employment. However, the law does not specify which durations are adequate to obtaining which academic qualifications.

Can academic staff be employed on a fixed-term basis at LUH after the time limit has been exhausted?

Yes. If the employment is predominantly financed by third-party funds (not state funds) which were granted for a specific task or timeframe, and if the person employed is predominantly working towards the assigned purpose of that task, they can be employed on a fixed-term basis according to article 2 paragraph 2 FTCAA. This is called „project-based limitation“ (Projektbefristung).

After I exhausted my time limit for the qualification limitation at LUH, can I still be employed on a fixed-term basis in order to obtain an academic qualification (i.e. according to article 2 paragraph 1 FTCAA) at another German university?

The maximum time limit for the qualification limitation applies to all universities, polytechnic colleges, universities of applied sciences and state-run research facilities in Germany. That means that once you have reached the end of your time limit, you cannot be employed on a fixed-term basis in order to obtain academic qualification at any other German university (or college or research facility). From that point onwards, you can only be employed on a fixed-term contract according to article 2 paragraph 2 FTCAA, the project-based limitation (see above) or, of course, on an open-ended contract.

Mobile Working or Teleworking?

Edition 25 - April 2019

As of late, the Leibniz University offers its employees the possibility to work from home not only on a regular basis (teleworking), but also at short notice in exceptional circumstances (mobile working).

A newly agreed operating agreement (Dienstvereinbarung) to introduce so-called mobile working (Mobile Arbeit) for a trial period of 24 months offers employees the possibility to work outside of LUH premises for up to 12 days a year and up to three consecutive days in exceptional circumstances which require employees to be elsewhere, but still allow them to work. Cases in which employees work at a fixed place outside LUH premises on a regular basis are covered by the operating agreement on teleworking (Telearbeit) which has also just been re-negotiated and agreed upon. Both agreements can be found online on staff council’s pages and in Vademecum (only in German).

What are the main differences between mobile working and teleworking? Staff council hopes that you’ll find the following comparison useful in order to decide which is the best solution for your individual situation.

Since mobile working has been introduced on a trial basis and will be evaluated at the end of two years, staff council keeps a record of all applications for mobile working for evaluation purposes. We are also interested in hearing about your experiences with both mobile working and teleworking. Please write to buero@personalrat.uni-hannover.de

MOBILE WORKING

  • Only in exceptional circumstances
  • Employee and superior together decide which tasks can be done outside LUH premises. Employees work using their own devices or devices provided by the employer.
  • Employee can freely choose the place of work outside LUH premises.
  • Up to 12 days a year
  • Up to 3 days in one month
  • Flexible
  • Employee pays for supplies and furniture.
  • Employee is solely responsible for data protection and data security

Procedure:

  • Employee applies for mobile working on a specific day or period of time to superior (application form)
  • If approved, application form is faxed to staff council (3075)
  • If denied, application form is faxed to personnel department (5309) which then takes a final decision
  • Then: mobile working on the requested day

TELEWORKING

  • On a regular basis
  • Tasks to be done outside LUH premises are listed.
  • LUH provides employee’s workplace outside LUH with all equipment, furniture and infrastructure needed to work outside LUH premises.
  • The workplace outside the LUH is fixed and its suitability checked by LUH.
  • At least 20% of regular working hours outside LUH
  • At least 20% of regular working hours inside LUH
  • Days are fixed.
  • LUH ensures data protection

Procedure:

  • Employee applies for a limited time period (usually 3 years) via application form to personnel department
  • Application is checked and decided on by several LUH departments
  • If approved, workplace outside LUH is set up and then checked by LUH
  • An addition to the existing work contract covering teleworking agreement is signed
  • Then: teleworking period starts

Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence

Edition 24 - November 2018

No Means No! - What's Not to Understand?

Sexual harassment and sexual violence have no place in the work environment. But how exactly are they defined and what is the difference between the two?

Actions like assault, coercion and rape constitute sexual violence. These actions are criminally relevant and perpetrators can be prosecuted for them.

Sexual harassment is defined as a one-sided, unwanted and often unexpected approach. It can be verbal or physical and is experienced as offending, hurtful, demeaning and/or threatening by the victim. It is important to note that whether an action constitutes sexual harassment or not is entirely dependent on the perspective of the person on whom it is inflicted. Studies show that generally, men and women are in agreement about what is harmless flirtation and what constitutes harassment.

In the workplace, sexual harassment not only concerns the perpetrator and the victim, but also touches on the duty of the university as an employer towards its employees. Superiors, team leaders and supervisors are obliged to shield their staff from harassment. They are required to create an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and openness, in which employees feel free to talk to their superior about any harassment they experience and in which harassing behaviour is immediately put an end to.

If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, make sure to record all details in writing as soon as possible after the incident. This account should include the date, time and place of the incident, the persons involved, detailed descriptions of what was said and done (using direct quotes wherever possible) and, if possible, names of witnesses. Further evidence such as emails, letters or chats (WhatsApp, Facebook) should also be secured immediately.

In this situation, it can be helpful to talk to an uninvolved third person about the incident and possible courses of action to deal with it. Several counselling services are available within the university and outside. Contact details can be found in the box below.

Counselling Services at the Leibniz University Hannover:

  • Staff Council / Personalrat, phone (0511) 762 30 74
  • Equal Opportunities Office / Hochschulbüro für ChancenVielfalt, phone (0511) 762 37 74
  • Psychological and Therapeutic Counselling for Students and Staff /
    Psychologisch-Therapeutische Beratung für Studierende (und Beschäftigte), phone (0511) 762 37 99

Further Counselling Services in Hannover:

  • Social Advice Department of the Student Services Organisation Hanover / Sozialberatung des Studentenwerks Hannover, phone (0511) 76 88 919
  • Emergency Hotline for Women / Frauennotruf Hannover, phone (0511) 33 21 12
  • bff - Women Against Violence / Frauen gegen Gewalt, www.frauen-gegen-gewalt.de/en/
  • Women‘s Counselling Hannover / Frauenberatung Hannover, phone (0511) 32 32 33

Caution: Contracts with Marginal Work Hours

Edition 24 - November 2018

If you are an academic employee with a fixed-term contract currently working less than 40 hours a month, you might be endangering your chances to complete a PhD later on.

The Fixed-term Contract in Academia Act (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz, WissZeitVG) allows the temporary employment of academic staff of up to six years before the completion of the PhD and then another six years as a post doc. A necessary prerequisite for this is that staff are employed for the purpose of their own academic qualification. Since, according to the Act, working 40 hours or less per month does not allow enough time to pursue academic qualification, contracts with such marginal work hours should not be counted towards the six year limit of employment.

However, the LUH’s personnel department do count even such marginal contracts into your six years maximum employment on a fixed-term contract. They do so because there is a slight chance that staff members on fixed-term contracts might successfully sue for permanent employment once their six years are up and they are still being employed.

The result of this is that your time remaining might be too short to complete a PhD when you’ve already worked on a marginal contract for some years. So you might be better advised to take a side job outside the university until you start your PhD.

Keep a Record! - First-Aid Log

Edition 24 - November 2018

Have you ever cut your finger or suffered a similarly minor injury while at work? Did you then make a note of your injury in the first-aid log (Verbandbuch) or fill in an accident report form (Unfallanzeige)?

Even though German law only requires you to report work accidents that lead to an absence of three or more days, you should make a record of an accident using both of the methods mentioned above even if your injury seems insignificant or it seems like you didn’t suffer any injury at all. The reason for this is that it is often not possible to tell whether an accident will have long-term consequences that only become apparent later on. These can be severe and lead to debilitating health problems that require expensive care. The costs for this can be immense, but they will be paid by the state’s accident insurance (Landesunfallkasse) if you can prove that the accident or injury that caused your illness was suffered during work. Since both first-aid logs and accident report forms are kept for five years, both can be used if such proof is needed.

Another reason to report an accident even if you were lucky enough not to get hurt is that the next person might not be so lucky. Every reported accident is followed by an examination of the cause of the accident, so you can help by making you workplace safer for yourself and your colleagues.

General Permit for Short Business Trips

Edition 24 - November 2018

Generally speaking, all business trips, however short, require an official permit which staff members have to formally apply for in writing ahead of time. This means that you would have to apply for a permit even if you only wanted to travel from the city of Hannover to the city of Garbsen on work business. Considering the frequency of trips of this nature, this regulation might cause a lot of unnecessary paperwork.

In order to simplify things, the university has therefore issued a general permit for such business trips for all employees (see Rundschreiben 36/2018 https://www.intern.uni-hannover.de/nocache/de/vademecum/detail/749/). If you need to visit another part of the university or another place inside the cities of Hannover or Garbsen on work business, you only need verbal permission in advance from your superior to do so as long as you use public transport. Using a private vehicle requires additional verbal permission from your superior and also needs to be justified in the application for travelling expenses which you need to hand in after your trip.

Things like taking part in on-the-job training courses, visiting the university’s health practitioner, attending the annual staff meeting or consulting staff council also count as work business and are covered by this general permit.

Leave of Absence in Case of Bereavement

Edition 23 - June 2018

If your biological or adoptive parent, your spouse or legal partner or your biological or adopted child passes away and you need time off from work in order to deal with organisational matters regarding your bereavement, you can apply for a leave of absence of up to two days due to mourning. This regulation does not apply in the case of the decease of your unmarried partner.

These paid leave days can be taken separately, but must be taken inside of approximately four weeks after the bereavement. If you need more time than that, or the deceased person was not related to you in one of the degrees mentioned above (e.g. grandparents), you can apply for further leave without pay. Both applications should be made directly to the clerk responsible for you in the personnel department (Dezernat 2) in written form.

However, if you are unable to work because of psychological stress due to your bereavement, you should go to your doctor and have them issue a certificate of incapacity for work.

Advance Reimbursement for Business Trips

Edition 23 - June 2018

If the costs of your business trip exceed 200 euros and you cannot comfortably front such an amount yourself until after the trip, you can apply for an advance of up to 80 % of the costs to be paid to you before the trip. You can even apply for a 100 % reimbursement in advance for plane or train tickets already booked.

However, if you choose this option, you need to hand in a final account of all costs of your business trip no later than six months after the end of the trip. Otherwise, the advance must be paid back to the university in full and you will not be reimbursed for any additional costs of your trip.

Annual Staff Meeting 2018

Edition 23 - June 2018

Once a year, staff council invites all university employees to the annual staff meeting. All staff members have the right to attend the annual staff meeting. During the meeting, current issues are discussed and questions posed to the university’s president and the presidential committee. Staff council usually prepares a specific topic concerning university staff for an in-depth look. Meetings are usually held in German.

This year, the annual staff meeting was held on two dates for the first time in order to accommodate more staff members. Here is a summary of all subjects discussed which concern international and academic staff.

Presidential Committee‘s Report

The presidential committee – usually represented by the president Prof. Dr. Epping or the full-time vice president Dr. Strutz – customarily make a report about important developments during the past year and current issues at the annual staff meeting. Here’s what they spoke about this year.

The LUH gained 21 new professorships through the federally funded tenure track programme for the advancement of young academics (in German, this is usually called Nachwuchspakt).

During the current round of applications for excellency clusters (German: Exzellenzcluster, another  federally funded programme for the advancement of cutting edge science), the LUH is part of four cluster applications.

On January 1, 2019, the LUH will take over control of its properties and building projects from the city of Hanover. The new campus or the Faculty of Civil Engineering in Garbsen will be finished in time for the faculty’s move there in 2019. Reuse of the buildings then vacated as well as several new buildings are being  planned now.

The German Council of Science and Humanities (German: Wissenschaftsrat) will hold a meeting in the Lichthof in the LUH’s main building during the first week of the winter semester lecture period. The Lichthof will be closed for this purpose, and all first-year students’ events have been rescheduled to the end of the week before. Although the meeting’s date is highly inconvenient for the university, it cannot be changed, and having the meeting at the LUH represents a great honour for the university.

After the report, questions can be put directly to the presidential committee. Their answers to these questions included the following.

Contrary to common belief, an analysis of the booking times of the LUH’s big lecture halls showed that they are usually free very early or late in the day or on Saturdays which is, according to the state government, also a lecture day. These times would need to be filled before additional lecture halls can be built.

If you or your students experience problems while using the new LUH website, please give feedback to the website editorial office (German: Webredaktion), webredaktionzuv.uni-hannover.de. As the relaunch is an ongoing process, the websites can still be improved.

The university has appointed two new staff members the task of translating the university website and official documents into English. Important documents that need to be translated can be given to the International Office.

In-Depth Look at: Congestion of Work for Non-Academic Staff

This year, staff council focussed on the topic of changes in the working conditions of non-academic university staff and resulting overwork. For that purpose, we had invited Dr Ulf Banscherus from TU Berlin to present a study about this subject he took part in. The study is the first of its kind in Germany and can be read in full here: www.boeckler.de/pdf/p_study_hbs_362.pdf (German only). The study’s findings were then contrasted with developments at the LUH in the years from 1995 until 2017.

Both study and situation at the LUH show that working conditions of non-academic staff have changed dramatically during the last twenty years. While numbers of academic staff and students go up, numbers of non-academic staff remain broadly the same. At the same time, more and more non-academic employees are working on fixed-term contracts funded through third-party funds. Meanwhile, work tasks become ever more complex and demanding, new IT systems are constantly introduced and multi-tasking and continual interruptions have become daily routine. As a result, stress levels increase and people feel chronically overworked.

In order to cope with this case of chronic overwork, staff council has proposed a number of short- and long-term measures to be implicated by the university leadership. We hope to enter into a fruitful dialogue about these propositions with the presidential committee soon.

New Sports Courses for Staff Members

Edition 23 - June 2018

The University Sports Department (Zentrum für Hochschulsport, ZfH) offers new courses especially designed for the needs of LUH staff members. This service is called BeschäftigtenSport. Please note that courses do not count as work hours. All courses and information can be found online: https://www.hochschulsport-hannover.de/de/sportangebote/sport-fuer-beschaeftigte/

Too Hot to Work?

Edition 23 - June 2018

Even in Northern Germany, we get days that feel too hot to work. On these days, you might hear your German colleagues talking just a little jealously about “Hitzefrei”, a rule following which German schools cancel classes for the day when temperatures rise beyond a certain point. Unfortunately, that rule does not apply to the university or the workplace.

Nevertheless, extreme heat can be detrimental to one’s health beyond causing drowsiness and lapses in concentration. The cardiovascular and respiratory systems may also be affected, and there is a risk of causing further complications and illnesses. So what can you do when the thermometer keeps climbing? This is a question staff council gets asked a lot during the summer months.

In Germany, the basis for the definition of good working conditions is the German Occupational Health and Safety Act (Arbeitsschutzgesetz). However, this law only defines general principles of health and safety at work including duties of both employer and employees. Specific requirements and procedures regarding work safety are set down in the workplaces ordinance (Arbeitsstättenverordnung) which also recognises wellbeing as an admissible goal of work safety procedures. On the subject of room temperatures, it states that they must be conducive to employees’ health according to the nature of the work and the way the room is used.

Since this is still rather vague, further specification can be found in so-called technical guidelines (Technische Regeln), additional work safety tools which offer precise standards and procedures for specific work areas. These guidelines are developed and set down by expert committees in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

The technical guideline ASR A3.5 Room Temperatures contains precise information regarding minimum temperatures for workplaces as well as help with determining and assessing the temperature in one’s workplace. Furthermore, it states that temperatures in work spaces and break rooms should not exceed +26°C. If temperatures go beyond +30°C, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent any harm due to exposure to heat. These measures, for which the employer is responsible, can include sunscreen, airing the room in the mornings, shifting working hours or providing free beverages. Naturally, the appropriateness of measures depends on the specific conditions of the workplace and the work as well as the requirements of employees and other factors, and this decision should preferably be taken in agreement with all parties involved.

If temperatures rise above +35°C, the technical guideline considers the room unfit for work. Temperature spikes upwards of +30°C and measures taken to deal with them should be documented in the risk assessment sheet (Gefährdungsbeurteilung), which is a clear indication of the danger excessive heat poses to our health.

GDPR - General Data Protection Regulation

Edition 23 - June 2018

  • The GDPR (German: Datenschutzgrundverordnung, DSGVO) is a regulation in European law that took effect on May 25, 2018.

  • The regulation applies to every person that works with personal data, i.e. data that can be directly linked to a person such as name, student ID number, IP address etc.

  • It is permissible to record and retain such data as long as the data is mandatory for your work.

  • As soon as the data is not needed anymore it must be erased immediately (as long as no other law or regulation requires it to be further retained).

Further duties are regulated in the GDPR such as extensive obligations to give information about which data is retained about a person and how this data is used.
If you have any questions about how the GDPR applies to you in your workplace, contact the LUH’s Data Protection: https://www.intern.uni-hannover.de/de/themenbereiche/it/it-sicherheit-datenschutz/datenschutz/

What to Do When You Are Overworked?

Edition 22 - February 2018

Wherever you look people in all kinds of different jobs at this university suffer from overwork. This is a problem that has steadily been getting worse during the last 20 years and that has now been scientifically proven by a study conducted by the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung.1

Constant overwork can have serious consequences for an employee’s personal health: problems like inability to concentrate, insomnia and various physical and mental illnesses have been linked to constant stress. Even serious work accidents are a possible consequence of overwork. Furthermore, if tasks are not completed on time because there is just too much work to do, that can also have negative financial consequences for the university as a whole.

Although it is the responsibility of an employee’s superior to ensure work-loads are manageable, most overworked employees try to get on top of the situation themselves by constantly doing (unpaid) overtime or trying to prioritise tasks. This coping mechanism puts further pressure on the employee because it rests the responsibility for any uncompleted tasks on the shoulders of the employee when it is really the superior person’s duty to decide which tasks should have priority. However, in order for the superior person to assume this responsibility, they first need to be informed about the employee’s overwork.

The most effective way to inform your superior that you are overworked and cannot correctly complete all tasks assigned to you is by giving official notice of overwork (German = Überlastungsanzeige). The goal of a notice of overwork is to improve one’s own working conditions and to avert negative consequences for oneself and others.  The notice of overwork does not have to take a specific form, but it should be done in writing (letter or email) and only after you have personally spoken to your superior about your overwork. It should contain a concrete and detailed description of your workplace, the tasks assigned to you and the precise nature of your overwork, and it should be written in a way that people outside of your specific area of expertise can understand. Causes and (possible) consequences of the overwork should be explained in it as well as any measures already taken to put an end to the overwork. Lastly, it should contain a request for immediate relief from your superior.

A notice of overwork is always directed at your immediate superior. Persons higher up the hierarchy should only be involved if your immediate superior has not reacted to your notice of overwork. In any case, it is highly recommended to seek assistance from staff council before giving notice of overwork and to send a copy of your notice of overwork to staff council.

If you are in a superior position and receive notice of overwork from an employee, the first thing to do is to confirm the receipt of it in writing and then personally speak to the employee about their situation. If you think the notice of overwork is warranted, you need to consider possibilities of relieving the situation and, if you cannot effectively help yourself, ask your own superior for assistance.

If, on the other hand, you don’t think there is sufficient cause for a notice of overwork, talk to the employee and explain your point of view to them. Make sure to always keep the employee informed in writing about any steps you are taking.

If you have any questions, whether you are an employee or a superior person, staff council is happy to help you.

1 Ulf Banscherus et al., Wandel der Arbeit in wissenschaftsunterstützenden Bereichen an Hochschulen, Hochschulreform und Verwaltungsmodernisierung aus Sicht der Beschäftigten, in Study No. 362, August 2017, Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Düsseldorf 2017.

Indirect Management

Edition 21 - October 2017

Management is defined as the influence a superior exercises towards their employees in a structured work environment in order to reach specific goals. This can be done using different methods.

The authoritarian approach in which the superior person has absolute control over their staff used to be the most common method. It has since widely been replaced by the so-called co-operative management model. The co-operative or direct approach is defined by face-to-face communication, clearly defined tasks, commendation and criticism and rests on a foundation of trust and cooperation between superior and individual subordinate. This management method affords a much needed level of security to employees that is now under threat from a new management approach: indirect management.

The indirect management method only defines overall goals and sets the time frame in which these goals should be reached – it therefore falls to the employee to find a way to reach the pre-set goals and to do so in time. On the positive side, this approach can include more flexibility and independence for employees, but it also promotes pressure, stress and congestion of work. Since individual tasks and working conditions are no longer defined, the responsibility for producing the right results in time rests on the shoulders of a group of employees who then start pressuring each other – a process that can be further enhanced by the use of control mechanisms and bonuses.

In order to achieve positive results, employees need a work environment in which they feel taken care of and are encouraged to respect their personal boundaries. It is the responsibility of the superior person to establish such an environment.

Do you have experienced indirect management or other management methods? How did you cope with it? Please write to us!

Conflict at Work? We offer Support

Edition 21 - October 2017

Since May 2017, Leibniz University offers additional support in the event of a conflict in the workplace. If you are personally involved in a conflict at work or feel affected by a conflict between others, you can seek help from the confidential Conflict Counselling and Support Service (Vertrauensstelle für Konflikte).

A conflict is defined as a misunderstanding, disagreement or other form of tension between two or more people that arises from differences in opinion, perception or needs. Such conflicts can negatively impact those directly involved in it as well as the whole team or work environment. Resolving them usually is a challenge for everybody involved.
The new Conflict Counselling and Support Service offers support and guidance by trained counsellors. All interviews and counselling sessions are completely confidential. All sharing of information and initiation of measures to resolve a conflict require prior consent of the person seeking help.

Contact: https://www.intern.uni-hannover.de/de/themenbereiche/personal-arbeitsalltag/zusammenarbeit/hilfe-bei-konflikten/

This new service is an addition to the various counselling services already existing at Leibniz University which can, of course, still be contacted directly. If you are experiencing a conflict at work and would like to speak directly to staff council about it, please  find our contact details here.

Staff Council Practice: Counselling Interviews

Edition 21 - October 2017

Once in a while during the course of a working life, you will come across a problem you can’t solve on your own. This could be a conflict between colleagues or with a superior, a feeling of discontent towards a particular situation in the workplace or simply a question about German labour law or collective labour agreement. Staff council can help you with all of these difficulties.

All employees have the right to ask for assistance from staff council. Talking things through with a non-involved person and dipping into the treasure trove of experience staff council offers often helps, even if yours is not a big problem. However, in our role as employee representatives, staff council can act as an intermediary even in apparently unsolvable conflicts.

Whether staff council is contacted personally or via email, the first thing we do is obtain the support of another staff council member. Counselling interviews are jointly conducted by two members of staff council whenever possible – provided the person seeking help agrees. That way, the two members can rely on each other’s expertise and knowledge, and inexperienced members of staff council can learn from the more experienced staff council members. However, interviews will remain strictly confidential in any case – even between staff council members information will only be shared with the express permission of the person being counselled.

During the counselling interview, the staff council members will develop a plan of action together with the person seeking help if the problem cannot be solved immediately. Depending on the nature of the problem, this can mean everything from further research, arranging a second interview with all parties concerned in the conflict up to transfer of the matter to another counselling service (Psychological-therapeutic Counselling Office, Occupational Rehabilitation Management etc.).

In many cases, an intervention by staff council can lead to solutions both sides can agree to. So if you have a work-related question or problem, staff council is here to help you. Please call us or write us an email. If you wish, counselling interviews can be conducted in English.

Call us! Telephone numbers for all staff council members can be found here.

Statutory Accident Insurance in the Workplace - What is covered by it?

Edition 21 - October 2017

Via the university as your employer, you are insured against work-related accidents. This means both accidents occurring while at work and so-called commuting accidents that occur on the way to or from work. However, whether this insurance actually covers an accident or not is dependent on the circumstances of the accident.

A prominent example of this is an accident occurring while on the way to or in the lavatory. If you stumble and fall on your way to the bathroom in a hotel room at night while on a business trip, you might not be insured. Should the accident occur in the workplace during your usual working hours, a court of law will be more inclined to rule in your favour.

Verdicts largely depend on the question of what is official business and what is private. During your lunch break, you are insured on the way to the cafeteria or lunchroom, but once you step inside, insurance coverage ends. This is also true if you eat lunch in a restaurant off campus.

Shopping during work hours is not covered by insurance as a rule unless you buy foodstuffs that you plan to consume at work, i.e. a sandwich for your lunch break from the bakery around the corner. However, squeezing in some private shopping during your lunch break will almost certainly mean loss of insurance coverage.

2017 Collective Bargaining Results

Edition 20 - May 2017

Every few years, individual conditions of the collective labour agreement for the civil service of Germany’s federal states are re-negotiated in order to achieve better working conditions for employees in the civil service. These negotiations are conducted between organisations of employers on one side and trade unions on the other side. Of the many positive results of this year’s round of collective bargaining – as the negotiations are called – those that affect academic staff at the Leibniz University of Hannover are as follows:

Salary Increase

Retroactively starting from 1 January 2017, all employees will receive a 2 % increase in their salary with a guaranteed increase of at least € 75 for employees under a pay grade chart salary of € 3200 per month (before taxes). Starting from 1 January 2018, salaries for employees in all pay grades will increase by 2.35 %.

Introduction of stage 6 in pay grades 9-15

Starting from 1 January 2018, a sixth pay grade stage with a salary increase of 1.5 % vis-à-vis stage 5 will be added to pay grades E 9-E 15. On 1 October 2018, the salary increase in this stage will be raised another 1.5 %.

Duration of Validity

The terms of this agreement remain in effect for two years from 1 January 2017 until 31 December 2018.

Hate Speech

Edition 20 - May 2017

Hate speech is a phenomenon that runs rampant in social networks, comment sections and other internet spaces in recent years. Increasingly, its effects also impact societal developments in the offline world.

Hate speech is defined as an attack on a social group rather than an individual. Although individuals are often victims of hate speech, they are attacked because of their (suspected) membership of a particular social group. Hate speech is therefore a structural problem of our society in which comments and actions of a racist, sexist, homo- and transphobic, anti-Semitic or similar nature become more and more acceptable. The perceived anonymity and lack of social control mechanisms in online spaces support the development and spread of the phenomenon. Attacks range from ostensibly well-meaning condescension to direct or indirect marginalisation and serious attacks and threats. Since in online spaces, extreme and bullying behaviour often takes up a larger part of the conversation than in “real life”, perpetrators feel validated and supported by followers while victims often feel left alone and helpless.

The consequences for victims can be severe, ranging from withdrawal from digital public spaces to psychological trauma and suicidal tendencies. Societal consequences are more subtle, but cannot be ignored: since hate speech has spread from social networks and bulletin boards to the comment sections of serious news outlets, opinions that were previously considered unthinkable are becoming acceptable offline in ordinary society as well as in national and international politics. For that reason, it is important not to stay silent in the face of hate speech.

If you find yourself a victim of hate speech or witness others being attacked, there are several things you can do to help, protect yourself and others and re-establish a safe online environment. Some instances of hate speech can be considered criminal offences; if you suspect that might be the case, it is a good idea to involve the police and possibly file charges. There are several independent victims’ counselling services which offer help and information. The internet pages of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation (https://www.amadeu-antonio-stiftung.de/en/)  and of the No Hate Speech Movement (https://www.coe.int/en/web/no-hate-campaign) are excellent online sources of information. In addition, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has published a guidebook on hate speech against refugees on social media and how to respond to it (https://www.amadeu-antonio-stiftung.de/w/files/pdfs/eng_hetze-gegen-fluechtlinge.pdf).

When confronting perpetrators of hate speech – engaging in so-called counter speech – it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • Only engage if the comment was really meant as an attack and the perpetrator is not just trolling (i.e. trying to upset and provoke).
  • Be clear and objective, cite facts and verified sources.
  • Aim to support victims and establish a safe space for them, not convince the perpetrator.
  • Report hate speech and block perpetrators.

However, the most important thing when dealing with hate speech is self-protection. Always make sure your privacy is protected by secure passwords and consider setting up a Google Alert for your own name in order to keep track of the information about yourself that is available online. And if you feel that you are unable to cope with a particular situation, do not hesitate to withdraw from it and get help.

Staff Council Practice - Operating Agreements

Edition 19 - January 2017

An operating agreement is a public law contract jointly agreed upon by staff council and presidential committee of the Leibniz University. It regulates interior issues which touch upon the working conditions of staff without being part of an individual work contract. This means that previously enacted operating agreements are also valid for staff who are hired after the fact.

Operating agreements are regulated under § 78 of the Lower Saxony Staff Representation Act (Niedersächsisches Personalvertretungsgesetz, NPersVG) and may only rule on issues that are not controlled by other laws, collective labour agreements or agreements between trade unions and state government (§ 81 NPersVG) such as wages, for example.

If an operating agreement is enacted for a limited time frame, it ends automatically once its time frame has ended. This is usually done in order to try out new methods – for instance the procedure of simplified participation concerning personnel measures for academic staff – or to accomplish a specific task – for instance the test run of the research information system.

Usually, a small team of staff council members prepares a draft of a new or revised operating agreement by researching the legal background and looking at similar agreements from other institutions. Details of the new agreement are developed and written out by the team and presented to the whole staff council which then starts negotiating the new agreement with the presidential committee. Once a consensus has been reached, the new operating agreement is enacted by the staff council.

A new operating agreement takes effect when it is signed by both parties. It is then published by the presidential committee in the promulgation leaflet (Verkündungsblatt). Thereafter, the university is legally bound to abide by the terms of the operating agreement, and it is the staff council’s job to monitor this abidance.

A recent example is the operating agreement about the procedure of simplified participation concerning personnel measures for academic staff which was finalised towards the end of October 2016. On the one hand, its aim is to reduce the work-load for personnel department, staff council and secretarial staff which had increased considerably since state law was changed early in 2016. On the other hand, it tries to achieve better terms concerning working hours and duration of contract for our academic staff. It hopes to do so by setting standards which contracts for academic staff must meet in order to take part in the simplified participation procedure. Contracts that do not meet these criteria can still be closed, but cannot take part in the simplified participation procedure.

Criteria of the Operating Agreement About the Procedure of Simplified Participation in Detail:

Academic Staff (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter):

Contracts mainly funded through budgetary funds:
- First employment: min. 3 years duration, min. 50 % hours
- Extension contracts: min. 1 year duration, min. 50 % hours

Contracts mainly funded through third-party and project funds:
- Contract duration must be at least as long as the duration of the allowance of funds, min. 50 % hours

Contracts mainly funded through special state funds HSP and SQM:
- First employment: min. 2 years duration, min. 50 % hours
- Extension contracts: min. 1 year duration, min. 50 % hours

Academic Assistants (Wissenschaftliche Hilfskräfte):

- min. 6 months duration, min. 43 hours per month

Doctoral Agreement - Why should you have one

Edition 19 - January 2017

A doctoral agreement is a written contract between the doctoral candidate and his/her supervisor in which they agree on terms for the doctoral period. This should include:

• the exact subject matter of the doctoral thesis,
• the supervisor’s agreement to oversee the doctoral candidate’s work,
• an exact work schedule and expected timeline,
• regular scheduled discussions about the status of the doctoral thesis,
• opportunities of further professional training and
• what to do in case of disagreement between doctoral candidate and supervisor.

The purpose of the doctoral agreement is to clearly define the subject and timeline of the Ph. D. process and the roles of both doctoral candidate and supervisor. It ensures a clear framework of cooperation between both parties during development and execution of the doctoral thesis, so that the work can be completed with high-quality results and in an appropriate timeframe. Without the doctoral agreement, experience shows that uncertainties about the subject matter, a lack of proper supervision or timeframe can lead to complication or even abandonment of the Ph. D. process.

Further information can be found on the respective faculties’ web pages.

In case of conflict, the Graduiertenakademie offers a neutral arbitration body for all faculties: https://www.graduiertenakademie.uni-hannover.de/en/about-us/organisation-and-bodies/arbitration-board/

Alternatively, your staff council is always happy to help.

Educational Leave

Edition 19 - January 2017

In addition to paid holiday time for purposes of recuperation, employees in Lower Saxony have the right to take one week’s paid educational leave per year (usually five working days – less if you regularly work less than five days a week). In German, this is called Bildungsurlaub. The educational leave has to be spent taking part in an activity officially approved as an educational leave programme in Lower Saxony. It does not have to have anything to do with your regular line of work as long as it is officially approved. Suitable programmes can be found on www.bildungsurlaub.de. If you have found a programme that interests you, make sure that the activity is approved as a Bildungsurlaub in Lower Saxony. If you are unsure about this, just ask the organizing institution; contact details will be provided in the description of the activity.

Once you have found the right programme, reserve a spot right away since participation is granted on a first come first served basis, and inform your superior about the time of your planned educational leave. The organizing educational institution will then send you a confirmation of registration as well as a certificate of the programme’s official approval as educational leave. Now you can officially apply for educational leave to the head of the personnel department (Dezernat 2), Dr. Neuvians, handing in these documents, and the department will then decide on your application. After your educational leave programme is completed, you will get an official confirmation of participation which you will then hand in to the personnel department. All expenses of the educational leave programme have to be borne by the employee.

The benefits of educational leave are several for both employee and employer. The employee gets a chance to learn something new or try something they always wanted to do, a chance to escape the same old work routine and challenge the brain. The employer gets an employee who is inspired, refreshed and highly motivated to return to work with new vigour. Therefore, staff council highly recommends exercising your right to educational leave.

Woken up ill - What now?

Submission of a Doctor's Certificate of Incapacity for Work

Edition 19 - January 2017

If you wake up ill, the first thing to do is to notify your superior that you are not able to come in to work. However, German law requires employees to hand in a doctor’s certificate of incapacity for work only if they are ill for longer than three running days (Saturday and Sunday are also counted). The certificate has to be handed in at the latest on the first working day following the third day of the illness (Saturday and Sunday are not working days). This means that if you are ill on Friday and Monday, you will need to hand in a doctor’s certificate on Monday. However, if you are ill on Friday, but come back to work on Monday, you don’t need a certificate from your doctor. Even if you are ill Wednesday through Friday and come back to work on Monday, you don’t need a certificate since you are considered to have been recovered on Saturday. However, please be aware that employers have the right to ask for a doctor’s certificate earlier than this three-day-rule. The chart indicates in which cases you are required to hand in a doctor’s certificate (reprinted with permission of the University of Ulm staff council).

Staff Council Practice - Personnel Measures

Edition 18 - September 2016

Have you ever wondered how members of staff council spend their time? In this new serial, we attempt to answer that question. Today’s topic is personnel measures.

According to the Lower Saxony University Act (Niedersächsisches Hochschulgesetz, NHG), staff council has a say in all decisions concerning the employment of staff at university. This can mean employment, forgoing of advertisement of a vacancy, extension of a contract, payment of bonuses, transfer of superior duties etc.

In case of employment of a new staff member, staff council is involved early on with the advertisement of the vacancy. Once all job applications have arrived, staff council is invited to take part in the interviews. In preparation of that, a staff council member reviews the application documents and checks the selection of applicants for interviewing according to whether applicants are in-house or external, whether in-house applicants have fixed-term or unlimited contracts and other social criteria. During the interviews, a staff council member makes sure that requirements for the position according to the job advertisement stay the same and monitors whether all applicants are treated the same and are asked the same questions. He/she helps with questions about pay scale grouping and with ordering applicants according to their suitability for the position. If all staff council members are prevented from taking part in job interviews due to other commitments, the hiring institution is required to provide a detailed statement of the reasons for their selection.

Once a candidate has been selected, the hiring institution applies for employment of that person to the personnel department (Dezernat 2). From there, a file containing all relevant information about the position, the desired applicant and the intended contract is sent to staff council which now has two weeks to examine the case and to reach a decision. Staff council does not evaluate the application on the basis of specific skills required for the position in question, but makes sure the whole process has been conducted in accordance with the law. In order to do that, a member of staff council checks the advertisement of the vacancy, the pay scale grouping on the basis of a description of duties, the reasons for a possible limitation of contract including, if necessary, the period for which funds are granted, the selection of the applicant, the pay scale level according to the applicant’s work history etc. This may require making further enquiries at the personnel department or the hiring institution directly.

Finally, the case is presented to the staff council committee which discusses it and votes on whether to agree with the proposed personnel measure or whether to reject it. Since the inclusion of personnel measures concerning academic staff into the responsibility of staff council in 2016, staff council handles 60-70 measures in this way during each session, plus 60-70 more which are treated using the procedure of simplified participation (more on this in the next issue).

New Laws Concerning Academic Staff

Edition 18 - September 2016

In March of 2016, changes to the Fixed-term Contract in Academia Act (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz, WissZeitVG) and the Lower Saxony University Act (Niedersächsisches Hochschulgesetz, NHG) were passed by German Federal and State Parliaments in order to put a stop to the improper use of short-term contracts in academia. Both acts set boundaries for the limitation of work contracts according to their funding: contracts that are mostly funded through third-party funds should be closed with the same duration as that for which funds are granted (WissZeitVG § 2 (2), NHG § 31 (4)). Contracts that are mostly funded through state funds should be closed with a duration that permits the target qualification to be attained (WissZeitVG § 2 (1), NHG § 31 (4)). Furthermore, NHG adds new regulations regarding working hours: those academic staff who are employed in order to obtain a specific academic qualification are to be employed with at least 50 % of regular full-time working hours, and at least 1/3 of these working hours is to be allowed for immersed work towards this academic qualification (NHG § 31 (4)).

Both acts do not define the nature of possible academic qualifications or set average durations for them. According to German Federal Parliament, the reason for this oversight is the wide variety of academic qualifications that can be obtained in preparation of a career in academia on the one hand and the necessity to simultaneously prepare a majority of academic staff for a career outside the university system on the other hand. However, these shortcomings create the need for every university to find their own definitions for qualifications and their average duration.

Hitherto existing regulations of the presidential committee of the Leibniz University Hannover (Rundschreiben 51/2015) call for contract periods of three years for the first contract plus one year for extensions for PhD candidates as well as for contracts of one year in the postdoc period. As these regulations fall far short of the new changes to WissZeitVG and NHG, a university-wide discussion involving all parties concerned about possible academic qualifications and their duration is needed.

This Is Your New Staff Council

Edition 18 - September 2016

In April 2016, the new staff council has been elected. The election takes place every four years. Voter participation was at a low 25 %.

The new staff council consists of 19 members from two electoral lists. 13 members belong to the list of the trade union ver.di, 6 belong to the “independent” list (“Die Unabhängigen”). Elli (Elvira) Grube has been elected as the new chairperson, the former chair Jörg Schollbach has been elected as deputy chairperson.

The new election period brings a few significant changes: since the start of 2016, staff council’s responsibility was expanded to include all academic staff beneath the professorial level. Furthermore, since the election there are no more divisional staff councils and no general staff council. There is now just one staff council for all employees of the Leibniz University Hannover. Both of these developments mean a lot more work for every staff council member, but we are very much looking forward to the task. We will do our best to achieve better working conditions at the LUH and are open to your questions and concerns any time.

We would like to thank the election board and the many election workers who made the execution of the election possible. Also we would like to thank everybody who voted for us and placed their confidence in us. But whether or not you found your way to the ballot box, we are here for you. If you have any questions, ideas or criticism, please contact us!