Implementation of major restructurings in a time- and cost-effective manner involves a variety of challenges, not only under German employment law. If used correctly and structured in a creative and tailored way, voluntary
What is a Voluntary Leaver Program?
A voluntary leaver program is the implementation of headcount reductions by systematically concluding severance agreements whose terms are usually standardized and communicated in advance. Such a voluntary
Advantages of a Voluntary Leaver Program
Voluntary leaver programs offer quite a few advantages for employers compared to dismissals for operational reasons:
- No Social Selection Required
Perhaps the key advantage from an employer's point of view is that it is possible to avoid a social selection (Sozialauswahl) under the Termination Protection Act (Kündigungsschutzgesetz, KSchG). This means that it is also possible to terminate the employment of older employees and specially protected employees (e.g. severely disabled employees, employees on protected leave) and will facilitate keeping the "dream team" on board.
- Faster Results
Voluntary leaver programs often lead to considerably faster results than a unilateral reduction of staff. This applies, in particular, if the works council utilizes all the blocking options afforded by the German Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz, BetrVG). Although works council consultation and co-determination rights may also exist in the case of a voluntary
- Less Legal Risks
The conclusion of severance agreements in the context of a voluntary
Selection of Participants
To this end, selective offer procedures are often used in Germany. These involve limiting the potential group of participants to certain areas, positions or groups from the outset. It is also possible to exclude certain groups of employees (e.g. those with certain qualifications) or specifically named employees (e.g. by way of a blacklist, lists of key players) from the program from the outset.
A tried and tested and therefore recommended approach is that of "double voluntariness" (
Co-determination Rights of the Works Council?
If the voluntary leaver program reaches the collective redundancy thresholds, this triggers an obligation to issue a prior collective redundancy notice and to carry out a consultation procedure. Severance agreements are, after all, subject to the collective redundancy rules if they have been instigated by the employer. This is the case, for example, if employees are specifically approached.
It is not perfectly clear, however, whether a mere general announcement of a voluntary
At the same time, exceeding the collective redundancy thresholds typically also involves a change to the operation, triggering the employer's duty to conduct negotiations regarding
When planning and implementing major restructurings, voluntary