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Employee in the open -plan office at hr-info (December 2006)

An employee is an employee whose work tasks consist mainly of intellectual work .

If the activity consists of both mental and physical work, it is crucial for the classification which of the worker's activities according to the traffic view, e.g. B. Assessment through collective agreements, is predominantly exercised. It is questionable whether the distinction between blue-collar and white-collar workers still makes sense today. Therefore one tries in part in collective agreements to bring about an equality of both groups. In the Works Constitution Act, equality has already been implemented following the latest reform. A differentiation between blue-collar and white-collar workers is no longer used.

The boundaries between intellectual and predominantly manual work are becoming more and more blurred as the level of technology increases. Nevertheless, the differentiation in the area of ​​social security is important. The importance in labor law is decreasing sharply.


The employee was primarily associated with a social status that distinguished him from the worker or civil servant ( social class ). This social differentiation between salaried employees or workers also exists in other cultures ( English clerk , white collar worker for salaried employees, English worker , blue collar worker for workers). The distinction between white-collar workers and blue-collar workers is (e) based on formal, functional and socio-cultural characteristics. One of the central themes of the debate is the possible leveling of workers and employees ( convergence ) in the course of rationalization . Formally , collective agreements in Germany ensured that workers received a subsequent weekly or monthly wage and white-collar workers a monthly wage, often in advance. Workers had a notice period of four weeks to the end of the month, employees were considered better protected with six weeks to the end of the quarter. Functionally , white-collar workers took on mainly intellectual activities, while workers did physical work. Social insurance carriers for workers were the state insurance institutions , for white-collar workers the federal insurance company for white-collar workers . The latter differentiation was only abolished in January 2005. The activities of employees were considered to be “more complex, their success less easily measurable and therefore more difficult to control directly”.


Up until the end of the 19th century, the division of employees into salaried employees and workers was unknown in labor and social law . Those who carried out predominantly intellectual or administrative activities were called "factory officials", "works officials" or "clerks". According to Johann Samuelansch / Johann Gottfried Gruber 1853 ( General Encyclopedia of Sciences and Arts ) someone received a salary as an employee, the worker received wages. In the first volume of this lexicon, published in 1820, there was no entry for the term employee. The "German Mine and Factory Officials Association" founded in Bochum in 1890 represented "factory officials". Only an amendment to the trade regulations (GewO) of June 1, 1891 designated journeymen , assistants , apprentices , factory officials, foremen, technicians and factory workers uniformly as "industrial workers" and spoke in § 133a GewO a. F. of "similar employees". It privileged the employees with a longer statutory notice period than the "industrial workers" (§ 122 GewO old version). In 1894 the "Association of Office Employees of Germany" was founded, and in 1897 the "Central Association of Clerks" was established. A Disability Insurance Act of July 1899 already used the collective term “and other employees”.

The BGB of January 1900 described the group of employees in its original version of § 622 BGB a. F. as "persons employed with fixed salaries for the performance of services of a higher kind". It was not until the “Insurance Act for Salaried Employees” of December 1911 that the general term “salaried employee” was recognized by law. The list of occupational groups in the Salaried Employees Insurance Act of March 1924 indicated that the legislature at that time only wanted to recognize salaried employees with "elevated" or "higher" occupations and activities . While laws left it to be enumerated, in April 1936 the Reich Labor Court (RAG) stated: “According to language usage and jurisprudence, the term“ employee ”has been given a certain content and describes the employee, who is engaged in intellectual work by hand performed, predominates ". The Federal Labor Court (BAG) also adopted this formulation in September 1954. In May 1990 the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) ruled that the different notice periods for blue-collar and white-collar workers are incompatible with the general principle of equality under Article 3 (1) of the Basic Law. The legislature complied with this judgment by revising Section 622 of the German Civil Code in October 1993.


According to the prevailing view of the general public, an employee is someone who does commercial, office-like or other predominantly intellectual work. There are either commercial or technical employees . Commercial work is, for example, office work or other administrative work ; Anyone who is employed in a trade to provide commercial services is a commercial employee. This mainly includes salespeople , buyers or accountants . Technical workers perform mainly by the technology affect tasks such as building technicians , chemists , computer technician , mechanical engineer , physicist or draftsman .

In addition, one differentiates according to the position:

  • Employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements (ÜT): An employee who is employed in a company in which there is a collective agreement and who receives significantly more salary (> 30%) than he should receive according to his collective bargaining group .
  • Employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements (AT): An employee who is employed in a company in which a collective agreement applies and who either holds a position whose job description has no equivalent in the collective agreement (e.g. specialist) or whose salary is above the maximum collective wage . The AT employee concludes an individual employment contract with the employer.
  • Executives are employees who have been given essential employer powers. These include, for example, the right to hire and dismiss , disciplinary law or a comprehensive power of attorney or general power of attorney . Executive employees are not subject to the Works Constitution Act ( Section 5 (3) BetrVG ). A manager can also be someone who does not have any of the aforementioned powers, but has a comparable position due to the company's structure or salary.

There are employees in the private sector and in the public sector . The public service combines white-collar workers and workers as employees; the Federal Employees' Collective Agreement (BAT) has been in force for white-collar workers since April 1961 , which the collective agreement for the public service (TVöD) replaced in October 2005. Both groups are now uniformly referred to as employees . Judges , civil servants and soldiers , on the other hand, are considered neither employees nor employees.

Legal issues

Employee is a used in many laws legal concept . The employment relationship begins for workers or employees with an employment contract ( § 611 para. 1 BGB), the pay is uniform for the services performance due ( § 614 BGB). In Section 622 (1) of the German Civil Code (BGB), the notice periods for employment relationships are uniformly set at four weeks to the fifteenth or the end of a calendar month for both groups. Anyone who is employed in a trade to provide commercial services is referred to as a clerk or employee ( § 59 HGB ). Their employer must be a businessman according to § 1 HGB. Employees within the meaning of the Labor Court Act (ArbGG) are workers and employees as well as those employed for their vocational training ( Section 5 (1) ArbGG). The Deutsche Bundesbank employs civil servants, salaried employees and workers ( Section 31 (1) BBankG ).


While the word worker linguistically represents a noun agentis from the term work , the employee is the substantiated participle from employment . Both employment relationships still differ today in terms of their work content . Workers mainly deal with physical work, but increasingly also take on control tasks (monitoring machines or entire systems ) as part of job enrichment . The main activity of white-collar workers is still more intellectual work.


In 2011, significantly more than half of all employed persons (56.9 percent). A good every fourth employee was a worker (26.2 percent), just under every ninth self-employed (11.0 percent) and around every twentieth civil servant (5.2 percent). Since 1991, the proportion of blue-collar workers has decreased from 38.9% (1991) to 26.2% (2011) and shifted in favor of white-collar workers.



Austria developed a number of privileges under labor and social law earlier than in Germany, because, among other things, in 1906 a special insurance scheme for private civil servants gave the German white-collar movement an impetus. The definition applies that private employees are employees who provide “ commercial services (clerks), other higher-level non-commercial services (?) (With appropriate prior knowledge) or office work (all office activities )." (According to Section 1 (1) of the Employees Act ). This makes the employee one of the basic groups of forms of employment. In economic terms, they are recorded including freelance workers , a group created in 1998 that is also employed on a service contract. Then there are the contract employees ("employees" of the state institutions as private employers), and then together with the civil servants form the group of employees and public servants. All other workers are blue-collar workers (there is no specific legal regulation defining who is a blue-collar worker, so the definition is exclusive). The definition corresponds very closely to the international blue / white collar concept.

Employees with an activity corresponding to this definition are mandatory employees for whom the law of employees applies and receive a service contract . Salaried employees receive a monthly salary that is determined according to local custom (Section 6, Paragraph 1 of the Salaried Employees Act) and depending on the industry (salary tables in collective agreements ). Fundamental legal differences between workers and employees concerning Dismissal periods and dates (§§ 19-21) and reasons for premature dissolution (§§ 25-32), the duration of the continued payment on sick leave and service prevention reasons  (§ 8). There are also regulations on the non-competition  clause (§ 8, 36).

See also: Labor law: difference between white-collar workers and blue-collar workers

Salaried employees are compulsory members of the Chamber for Workers and Salaried Employees  (AK), which has been responsible for all employees since 1921. You are  insured under the General Social Insurance Act (ASVG).

In Austria there are a good 1.9 million employees (2013: 1,946,500), that is almost a quarter of the population (2013: 23.3%; measurement precise: resident population in private households), slightly less than half of the employed (2013 : 44.3% of 4.4 million) and a good half of the employed (employees; 2013: 53.7% of 3.6 million), their largest group in terms of numbers.

Financially, the salaried employees are among the better middle earners, the gross annual income is € 28,696 (median, 2012; total employees: € 25,373). The proportion of women is 55%. The gender income gap is almost as strong as that of blue-collar workers, male employees earn around € 42,010 and women € 21,190, i.e. only half (average income difference 2012: 49.6% based on men). This means that male employees are clearly high earners, while women earn well below the overall average.


In Switzerland , in 1901, a number of ACV commercial employees created an “office staff association”, which the majority of the technical staff subsequently joined. At the suggestion of the ACV Basel workers' association, an association of Swiss cooperative employees was founded in Biel on May 14, 1905, which was joined by the personnel organizations of the consumer associations in Lucerne, Bern, Biel, Winterthur, Basel, Schaffhausen and Zurich. The Swiss Employees' Association has existed for white-collar workers since 1923 . After the First World War, Swiss employees remained true to their petty-bourgeois milieu despite high unemployment . In contrast to Germany, there was great stability in the income relationship between white-collar workers and blue-collar workers in Switzerland.


In Luxembourg, where the term “private civil servant ” was still in use, the distinction between manual workers and salaried employees ( French employés privés ) was abolished on 1 January 2009 with the entry into force of the single statute ( French statut unique ).

See also


Scientific literature:

  • Fritz Croner : Sociology of the Employees . Cologne / Opladen 1962.
  • Michel Crozier : Le monde des employés de bureau: résultats d'une enquête menée dans sept compagnies d'assurances parisiennes. Éditions du Seuil, 1965.
  • Oliver C. Errichiello, Arnd Zschiesche : The employees in the 21st century . Moderne Heimat Verlag, Hamburg / Lübeck 2005.
  • Ulf Kadritzke: Employees. In: Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism . Volume 1, Argument-Verlag, Hamburg 1994, Sp. 272-278.
  • Charles Wright Mills : White Collar. The American Middle Classes . Oxford University Press, New York 1951; German: people in the office. A contribution to the sociology of employees. Bund Verlag, Cologne-Deutz 1955, ISBN 0-19-515708-7 .


  • Siegfried Kracauer : The employees . From the newest Germany. 1930. New edition Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-518-36513-4 .
  • Günther Schulz: The employees since the 19th century. Oldenbourg, Munich: 2000.
  • Tatjana Timoshenko: The saleswoman in the Wilhelminian Empire: Establishing and upgrading a women's profession around 1900 . Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2005.

Literary representations (chronological):

Web links

Wiktionary: Employee  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Nick Kratzer / Sarah Nies, New Performance Policy for Employees , 2009, p. 31 f.
  2. Jürgen Kocka , The Employees in German History 1850-1980 , 1981, p. 7
  3. ^ Günter Hartfiel, Salaried Employees and Employees' Unions in Germany , 1961, p. 68
  4. ^ Johann Samuelersch / Johann Gottfried Gruber (ed.), General Encyclopedia of Sciences and Arts , Section 1, Part 56, 1853, p. 54
  5. ^ Johann Samuelersch / Johann Gottfried Gruber (ed.), General Encyclopedia of Sciences and Arts , Section 1, Part 4, 1820, p. 95
  6. ^ Günter Hartfiel, Salaried Employees and Employees' Unions in Germany , 1961, p. 69
  7. ^ RAG, judgment of April 8, 1936, RAGE 16, 243
  8. ^ BAG, judgment of September 30, 1954, Az .: 2 AZR 65/53, BAGE 1, 92
  9. BVerfGE 82, 126 or BVerfGE 82, 126
  10. Ulrich Blum / Frank Leibbrand (Eds.), Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship , 2001, p. 557
  11. Federal Agency for Civic Education from July 1, 2013, persons in employment according to position in their job
  12. Günther Schulz, The Employees since the 19th Century , 2000, p. 112
  13. Federal law of May 11, 1921 on the employment contract for private employees (Salaried Employees Act). StF Federal Law Gazette No. 292/1921.
  14. a b Workers and employees: Definitions - legal differences - transfer of workers into salaried employment. Austrian Chamber of Commerce, wko.at / labor law and social law / labor law / forms of employment.
  15. Employed persons by occupational position and gender since 1994. Statistics Austria, statistik.at (table).
  16. ↑ In 2013 wage tax revenue rose by 4.8%, gross income rose by 2.9%. Press release Statistics Austria, 10.902-211 / 14, November 12, 2014, in particular also Table 2: Persons liable for income tax in 2013 according to social status and gross income levels. (The figure given here, 45.6% of 4.3 million, relates to the labor force according to ILO , see employed persons , statistik.at).
  17. a b c gross annual income of women and men by social status 2012 , statistik.at (table).
  18. Anna Wössner, The employee problem in Switzerland. Consumers' associations , 1926, p. 17
  19. Günther Schulz, The Employees since the 19th Century , 2000, p. 113
  20. Thomas Kuchinke: The onion in the mirror cabinet. About the legends of yuppies, employees and petty bourgeoisie. contrueche-zeitschrift.de.
  21. Chambre des Salariés (csl.lu).