The German NAP does not make direct reference to ‘workers’ rights’, but includes multiple reference to relevant human rights treaties, ILO instruments, and indirect reference to workers’ right throughout the NAP.
1.1 Basic rules of economic policy [page 14-16]
Protection within states’ own territory – challenges within Germany
The current situation
Germany has ratified major strategic international instruments codifying the protection of human rights, including labour rights, thereby incorporating them into national law. The same applies to the particularly important ILO instruments known as the Core Labour Standards. The instruments that are now binding in Germany include, for example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, most of the conventions of the International Labour Organization and major European agreements such as the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the European Social Charter.
People in vulnerable situations pose a particular challenge in Germany as elsewhere. These include migrants and, in general, employees in precarious work. These groups of people are exposed to a high risk of labour exploitation. The introduction of a general statutory minimum wage in Germany has established an effective instrument against excessively low wages. Since 1 January 2015, a minimum hourly wage of €8.50 has been payable, and its rate is to be adjusted every two years by an independent commission. The minimum wage has increased the earnings of four million people, whose income has risen by an average of 18%.
People who are affected by or at risk of labour exploitation need information about their rights and assistance in enforcing them. In recent years, advice and contact centres have been created in various parts of Germany, some with national and some with regional funding. With support from the Federal Government and the European Social Fund (ESF), for example, the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), through a project called “Faire Mobilität” (fair mobility), provides such advice to employees, especially those from the EU Member States in Central and Eastern Europe. There is no permanent nationwide advisory structure yet for employees from all geographical origins and occupational sectors. In the fight against human trafficking and exploitative employment, Germany is also bound by EU Directive 2011/36/EU and has ratified both the Council of Europe Convention of 2005 on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. To coordinate the diverse activities designed to combat human trafficking, the Federal Government established the Federal Working Group on Trafficking in Human Beings in 1997, whose members include representatives of non-governmental organisations.
The protection of whistleblowers is a highly valuable accompanying measure in the detection of exploitative employment. General provisions in the field of labour law (sections 612a and 626 of the German Civil Code and section 1 of the Protection against Unfair Dismissal Act) and in constitutional law (Articles 2(1), 5 and 20(3) of the Basic Law) provide the legal basis for such protection.
There are also numerous provisions of special legislation which supplement the protection of whistleblowers guaranteed by the aforementioned provisions in particular areas of activity, examples being section 13 of the Money Laundering Act and section 17(2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The Federal Government is currently preparing for the incorporation of numerous international legal instruments into German law. These include the Protocol to the ILO Forced Labour Convention (No 29). The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is planning the examination prior to ratification of the ILO Minimum Wage Fixing Convention (No 131) and Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No 169) as well as of the Optional Protocol of 2008 to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the revised Social Charter.
- “To supplement the existing structures, the Federal Government has shifted the focal point of its efforts towards the fight against human trafficking for the purpose of exploitative employment. A joint federal level-state level working group is currently developing a strategic approach designed to reinforce prevention, establish advisory structures and improve criminal prosecution and the data situation.
- The Federal Government has reached agreement on a bill designed to combat abuses of temporary agency work and work and services contracts. This means that there will be clear rules in future to prevent abuses and the circumvention of employment standards.
- As part of the transposition of European Directive 2016/943/EU on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets), the protection of whistleblowers in German law is being further developed. The purpose of this legislation is to make it clear that the disclosure of trade secrets is lawful if its purpose is to expose professional or other misconduct or illegal activity in order to protect the general public interest.”
2.1 Ensuring the protection of human rights in supply and value chains [page 28]
“Throughout the world, the expectations of consumers, civil society and trade unions in terms of product quality and transparency of production are rising. Their attention is increasingly focused on factors such as environmental protectionand social and employment standards along manufacturers’ supply chains. …
The fact is that every enterprise, through its business activity, has an influence on the living and working conditions of its employees, on its customers and suppliers, on the environment and on the wider economic context.”