Work instruction

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With a work instruction ( English work instruction ) of the concrete employer in the employment contract contained obligation to work his employees . It is an oral or written, more or less detailed instruction to employees in companies or authorities on how a certain work task is to be performed at a workplace .


Work instructions ensure a smooth and consistent workflow . They regulate the task , the working method , the temporal and spatial work process , the use of suitable work equipment and the processing of the work objects . Work instructions aim at a uniform implementation of the work steps , reduction of the error rate , assurance of work quality and work safety , cost savings and a homogeneous induction of new employees. As part of quality management , work instructions are part of the quality management manual . They complete the procedural instructions .

Legal issues

Work instructions prescribe how the work performance of an employee owed under the employment contract is to be carried out in general or in individual cases. In principle, the employer can determine the work content , location ( workplace ) and working hours of the work performed by the employee more precisely at its own discretion ( Section 106 GewO ). However, he must do this within the limits of the employment contract, works agreement , collective agreement and statutory provisions. If the weighing up within the scope of § 106 sentence 1 GewO shows that an employer's work instruction is not equitable, the employee does not need to comply with it. As an instruction, it is unilaterally determined by the employer without the employee having the opportunity to participate (e.g. by means of co-determination ). It forces the employee to behave in a way that can consist of a certain act or omission .

Binding work instructions must correspond to the reasonable discretion (§ 106 sentence 1 GewO). With regard to work instructions, this general clause means that the employer has weighed up the essential circumstances of the individual case in his work instructions and adequately considered the interests of both parties. He must prescribe individual work processes objectively, fairly and without arbitrariness .

However, whether an employee may simply disregard an unreasonable (unjust) exercise of the employer's right of direction, or whether he is temporarily bound to this, has not been clearly clarified in the case law. According to the jurisprudence of the 5th Senate of the Federal Labor Court (BAG), the employee must first have the non-binding nature and inequity of the work instruction reviewed by a court before refusing it. Employees would therefore first have to follow the employer's work instructions, even if these do not correspond to equitable discretion ( Section 315 (3) sentence 1 BGB ). The 10th Senate, on the other hand, communicated a contrary legal opinion and in 2017 asked the 5th Senate in accordance with Section 45 Paragraph 3 Clause 1 ArbGG whether it wanted to adhere to this case law.

The employer's right of direction ends where the execution of a given instruction can no longer be expected of the employee according to the principle of equity (Section 315 (2) BGB). The work instruction is part of the work behavior that is not subject to co-determination because it relates to the employee's contractual performance obligation.

In the context of the legal figure of organizational fault, there is the form of so-called instruction fault . If work instructions are missing, incomplete or ambiguous, the employer is liable for damage resulting from the application of these work instructions.


On the basis of his right to issue instructions, the employer can determine the nature of the work, its subject matter and the sequence of the individual work steps. The employer can also specify the circumstances accompanying the work, such as the work clothes of the employee, if he has an objectively justified interest in doing so - for example in the case of work with customer contact . The employee then has to accept that the restrictive requirements of the employer largely deprive him of the opportunity to give his clothing a personal touch to distinguish it from others.

The complexity of work tasks, the increasing division of labor , occupational safety , occupational health and safety and quality assurance make it necessary to precisely specify individual operational work processes . With the help of work instructions , tasks , competencies and responsibilities are regulated, the cooperation of individual departments is organized, internal reporting obligations or forms are introduced, time or quality specifications are made and the work equipment to be used in a certain work step is prescribed. A work instruction represents the binding regulation for the respective work processes with details of the work method, the spatial and temporal sequence and the work equipment and documents to be used.

Work instructions must be written in an understandable, specific and unambiguous manner. Extensive work instructions in manuals ( English manuals ) laid down in the public service often called Instructions . According to durability, a distinction is made between one-off verbal work instructions from a supervisor to an employee for a specific work process (“please check the cash book today”) and work instructions that apply permanently to all employees for repetitive activities. If someone violates work instructions ( refusal to work ), this can have consequences under labor law . These range - depending on the severity of the violation - from a simple admonition to a warning or even termination for behavioral reasons . Behavioral reasons within the meaning of Section 1 (2) KSchG exist if the employee culpably and significantly violates a contractual obligation with the behavior accused of him, the employment relationship is specifically impaired, there is no reasonable possibility of other employment and the termination of the employment relationship after weighing up the interests of both contracting parties appears cheap and appropriate. If an employee does not have sufficient knowledge of German so that he does not understand written work instructions, this can justify an ordinary termination.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Gerhard Diepen / Werner Sauter, Wirtschaftslehre für Bankkauffrau , 1991, p. 70
  2. C. Janko, P. Janko: - Quality Management - ISO 9000. Accessed January 25, 2017 .
  3. Peter Bellgardt, Arbeitsrecht , 2006, p. 119
  4. BAG, judgment of February 22, 2012, Az. 5 AZR 249/11  = BAGE 141, 35 = NJW 2012, 2605.
  5. BAG, decision of June 14, 2017, Az. 10 AZR 330/16 (previously unpublished; BAG press release No. 25/17 ).
  6. BAG, decision of June 8, 1999, Az .: 1 ABR 67/98
  7. BAG, judgment of February 13, 2003, Az .: 6 AZR 536/01
  8. BAG, judgment of June 23, 2009, Az .: 2 AZR 283/08
  9. ^ BAG, judgment of January 28, 2010, Az .: 2 AZR 764/08