Employers are required by a variety of laws to inform their employees. Occupational safety and health should be promoted and employees should be informed about their rights and obligations via a display or a notice. Those who do not comply with these posting duties risk fines and in some cases are also liable if, for example, accidents are caused or abetted by missing or inadequate information. If collective agreements or company agreements are affected, there is a risk of problems with the works or staff council. Employers can also voluntarily provide information beyond the legal requirements; and not just the canteen’s menu of the day.
What is at issue?
The number of laws and regulations about which employers must inform their employees is extensive. Some posting requirements generally apply to all businesses and jobs; others are industry-specific or result from the size and structure of the company:
- Occupational health and safety regulations (industry-specific, e.g. Workplace Ordinance, Organic Substances Ordinance, Hazardous Substances Ordinance, escape and rescue plans, X-ray Ordinance, Radiation Protection Ordinance)
- Working Hours Act
- Labour Court Act
- Equality Regulations (General Equal Treatment Act (AGG))
- Accident Prevention Regulations (UVV)
Depending on the character of the company and the employment of its employees, the following documents must also be made available to employees:
- Bargaining agreements
- Youth Employment Protection Act (companies with at least one minor employee))
- Maternity Protection Act (companies that regularly employ more than three women, including homeworkers)
- Homework Act
- Regulations for the Formation of Employee Assets
- Part-Time Work and Fixed-Term Employment Contracts Law (where employees are not permanent
- Collective agreements (in the case of a collective bargaining agreement)
- Election regulations for the works council, for the representation of disabled persons or for the speaker committee
In addition to the legal notice requirements that are aimed at employees, there are also others aimed at both employees and customers or to underage persons and their adult accompaniment in restaurants, discos, cinemas and other places potentially harmful to minors. The German Youth Protection Act stipulates: “(1) Event and business operators shall be obliged to put up clearly visible notices of the legal provisions applicable to their facilities and events, according to §§ 4 through 13, and, in case of public films, shall add age ratings and quality codes in compliance with § 14, Para. 7.”
Points of sale open on Sundays and public holidays in North Rhine – Westphalia must inform their customers about the legal basis by posting in accordance with §5 Para. 5 NRW Shop Opening Act.
Further information and the opportunity to clarify questions can be obtained from the relevant Chambers of Industry and Trade.
Employers must inform their employees about certain laws, regulations and accident prevention regulations. If they do not do so, they commit an administrative offense that can be punished with a fine. In addition, there may be a duty to pay damages if, due to a lack of appropriate notices, employees or other persons are harmed. Employees and their representatives may also file complaint concerning the publication of information by the employer if, for example, not properly informed about works council elections.
The individual statutory provisions require the employer to provide information about certain texts, such as relevant health and safety regulations, to its employees in a “suitable manner”. How this is to be done in detail is not prescribed in most cases. The usual formulation here is “by posting or displaying”. Although the term “posting obligations” is often shortened, the term “posting or displaying obligation” is more appropriate.
Whether a posting or display makes more sense is decided on the basis of practical considerations: a comprehensive law or a complex regulation does not necessarily have to be displayed – a copy that is offered to employees for inspection in the secretariat or in another freely accessible room is sufficient. The posting of the Youth Protection Act is obligatory at all “places potentially harmful to youth”.
Accident and fire safety regulations, first aid instructions, escape plans and the like should always be published by posting. Depending on the size of the business and adapted to the spatial conditions, it is necessary to attach notices several times; in multi-storey administrative rooms also on different floors.
Employers can also comply with information obligations by “using standard information and communication technologies”. This can also be an intranet. However, this requires that all employees always have access to it; only in the least companies is that likely to be the case. Fire safety regulations and escape plans show that it is not possible to completely do without notice boards.
Be it a notice board, a display or intranet: employers should also make sure that the information for their employees and customers is always up-to-date.
What employers can do
Legal posting and display obligations must be followed by employers and, in their own interest, should be done in order to avoid accidents or property damage and to support the corporate culture. House rules, building plans and organisational charts with contacts also serve well by providing guidance to employees, customers and visitors.
In many cases, posted notices are very well suited for corporate communication and supplement employee and customer magazines or the intranet. For example, joint events and anniversaries can be announced and incentives can be advertised and much more. The “bulletin board” has become a household name, even if bulletin boards have long been replaced by displays.
Important information however, and this is likely to apply to most of the obligatory documents, should be housed in display cases. Here they are protected against contamination, manipulation or theft. Modern display case systems are available in practical document formats, for wall or stand mounting and in many different depths. They are easy to open and can be locked securely.