The study shows that 71% of workers covered by a collective agreement receive a Christmas bonus, compared to only 43% of workers who are not covered by collective agreements. While in West Germany, 60% of respondents said they had received a Christmas bonus, in East Germany, only 39% of respondents reported such a payment. Women are less likely to receive a Christmas bonus, with 53% reporting such payments, compared to 57% of men. Two-thirds of employees in companies with more than 500 employees must receive a Christmas bonus, in small enterprises with fewer than 100 employees it is only 48% (Table 1). Most collective agreements provide regular information (at least monthly) for employees on the balance of their individual working time account. Many collective agreements also give works councils the right to information and consultation on the use of working time accounts. Only a few agreements involve the parties to collective bargaining in determining the settlement of working time accounts at company level. A number of collective agreements contain so-called opening clauses which, under certain conditions, make it possible to deviate from these tariffs at company level. In many, but not all, cases, these gaps require the consent of the parties to collective bargaining, which are usually unions and employers` associations. The basic idea behind working time accounts is that an employee can work longer or shorter than collectively agreed over a certain period of time and thus generates working time credits or charges in an individual working time account, which are then offset by free time or extra work. From the employers` point of view, this concept has at least two major advantages. First, it allows companies to have more flexible production, which is more closely linked to market requirements. Second, since most working time credits are not counted as overtime, the employer does not have to pay regular overtime premiums and can therefore reduce labor costs.
From the point of view of employees, the use of working time accounts could be an instrument for more “sovereignty of time” that could help them to better organize working hours according to their individual needs and interests. According to a study published in February 1998 by the Institute of Economic and Social Sciences (WSI), there are many collective agreements in Germany for the introduction of “working time accounts”, which have become an important instrument for flexible regulation of working time. Data published in November 2011 by the Hans Böckler Foundation (WSI) shows that more than half of German employees receive an additional annual payment in the form of a Christmas bonus. The data also shows that many more workers covered by a collective agreement receive a Christmas bonus than employees who are not insured. Most industry collective agreements provide for a Christmas bonus, but rates vary considerably from industry to industry. The WSI study, which is based on an assessment of collective agreements in about 60 collective bargaining units, concludes that there is no uniform model for accounting for working time. On the contrary, the possibilities as well as the restrictions on the use of working time accounts vary considerably from one industry to another. In addition, collective agreements generally have to be concluded at company level through the conclusion of a company agreement. Most collective agreements set limits on the use of working time accounts. The agreed limits are between 40 and 600 hours for maximum working time credits and between 20 and 170 hours for maximum working time charges.