Germany: The employee’s participation in a yoga course can constitute educational leave that justifies paid absence from the workplace
An employee wanted to participate in a five-day yoga course during his regular working hours. The course was held under the slogan: “Successful and relaxed at work with yoga and meditation”. In order to participate in the course, the employee applied for educational leave for the five-day period, during which the course was supposed to take place. The employer rejected the employee’s application for educational leave. However, the Berlin-Brandenburg State Labour Court now ruled that this rejection was unlawful, i.e. the employer was obliged to grant the employee five days of paid educational leave for the participation in the yoga course.
Educational leave is a special entitlement to paid leave, which has to be used to participate in recognised job-related trainings. All German states except for Bavaria and Saxony have laws regulating a claim for employees to take such educational leave. The requirements are not identical, but similar in all states. Most state laws provide that an employee is entitled to a total of ten days of educational leave over two consecutive calendar years. Educational leave allows an employee to attend job-related trainings during regular working hours, which intend to provide the employee with further political or professional education. The period of educational leave must be remunerated as regular working hours despite the employee’s absence. This applies both to public service employees and to private sector employees.
In the case before the Berlin-Brandenburg State Labour Court , the employee was seeking to enforce his educational leave entitlement. The decisive question was whether a yoga course provides an employee with further professional education or not and, therefore, the participation in such course can justify the request for paid educational leave. The Berlin-Brandenburg State Labour Court has ruled in favor of the employee and confirmed his entitlement to educational leave. In order to be entitled to educational leave, the employee must attend an event during working hours, which intends to provide the employee with further political or professional education. Events provide further job-related education if they impart knowledge for the exercised profession or at least impart knowledge, which can be used in the employee’s profession or the activities he exercises at work. Courses that only serve the personal qualification of the employee are not sufficient to justify a request for educational leave.
According to the ruling by the Court, the meaning of the term “further professional education” has to be understood broadly. Among other things, the adaptability and self-assertiveness of employees should be encouraged in times of continuous and accelerating technical and social change. This can also be done through a certified yoga course, even if such course is only indirectly related to the employee’s profession. The Court confirmed that a yoga course with a suitable work-related didactic concept can provide further professional education and, therefore, can entitle the employee to educational leave under the applicable state law. Consequently, the employer in the case at hand was obliged to release the employee under full pay during the educational leave period of five working days.