In many companies, there is an expectation that employees will have to receive and heed business messages in their free time or on vacation.

There are no reliable rosters in the healthcare sector, but also in other sectors such as security services at airports.

The practice has a strong influence on leisure activities.

Even planning a visit to the doctor becomes a challenge in such companies.

The State Labor Court (LAG) Schleswig-Holstein had to decide whether an emergency paramedic had to take note of a change in the duty roster in his free time (1 Sa 39 öD/22).

He received a warning because he did not show up for work on time and at the right place.

The paramedic was assigned to work as a paramedic on the work day in question and called at 7.30 a.m. and was ready to call as required.

The roster had been changed a few days earlier and the paramedic was scheduled to be on duty at 6:30 am.

An SMS may be overlooked

The employer informed the employee of this change by text message because the latter had free time at the time of the change.

However, the employee did not take note of the SMS.

Rightly so, said the LAG, because employees have the right to be unavailable in their free time.

They do not have to be available to the employer.

Employees have the right to decide what they want to do in their free time.

Reading an SMS from the employer represents work performance, even if it only takes a short time.

The employee only has to accept instructions regarding working hours during his working hours.

The warning was therefore to be removed from the personnel file.

Regina Steiner

is a partner in the law firm Steiner Mittländer Fischer in Frankfurt am Main.