The Power of QES in the Courts: Labor Case in Germany

A labor court in Berlin, Germany, has determined that, in order to be valid, an online work contract (that according to German legislation requires to be written) can only be signed by the parts in a valid manner by following the protocols and issuing a qualified certificate with the signature. 

The Qualified Electronic Signature (QES) was made possible first by the EU Regulation N° 910 of 2014 (eIDAS Regulation). In simple terms, the QES aims to be the online legal equivalent to a written signature, establishing for it all the necessary identification and authorizations protocols defined in the European regulation and assumed by EU states. Nevertheless, use cases of it are still arising, and the possibilities for business relationships are being still unveiled as new technology, like the one developed by SignD, continue to bring innovations to the ways of signing.

The introduction and usage of the QES are, of course, bringing with it justice resolutions that come to mediate and impose the rule of law in legal disputes. After all, the eIDAS Regulation and the EU commitment behind it have as immediate purpose to offer legal validity (and, thus, protection) to the users of electronic signatures within the EU territory.

ISSUE

A mechanic technician (employee) was to be hired by an employer for a limited period of time (fixed term contract). Both parts signed the contract using an advanced electronic signature (a kind of electronic signature established in the eIDAS Regulation, but issued with less requirements and that counts with less legal validity)

COURT DECISION

The missing certification of a Qualified Electronic Signature leads to a violation of form that makes invalid the contract. Therefore, according to German labor regulations, the invalid fixed-term employment contract is converted into a permanent employment relationship (permanent contract)

VIOLATION OF FORM?

Indeed. The German “Part-time and Fixed-term Employment Act” (TzBfG for its name in German) establishes clearly in its section 14 “Admissibility of the fixed-term contract” that “The duration (i.e. time limit, duration of the contract) of a employment contract needs to be done in written form in order to be effective”

Despite theres still some debate about if the duration of an employment contract can be agreed between the parts electronically, the Berlin Labor Court has ruled in favor of the principle that QES are as valid as written signatures, even in this context.

Standing in front of a court is probably not what people have in mind when agreeing on something remotely by using a Qualified Electronic Signature. We aim at a service that is user friendly, friendly for our customers and their teams and fast. A way of securing agreements online that ensures and maximizes compliance and conversion.

But when things doesn’t go as planned, you might be in front of the need or the possibility of defending your right. And the endorsement of European courts, in different levels and cases, of the principle that QES is as legally binding as a written signature, means certainty and security for your business and transactions.

 

Information source: https://www.berlin.de/gerichte/arbeitsgericht/presse/pressemitteilungen/2021/pressemitteilung.1139258.php