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As Instructions are called in organizations a legally binding instruction from the employer or employer to the employee for the purpose of concrete implementation of the work content .


Operating procedures govern how work instructions , the work processes . The organizations that use them include public administration , government agencies and companies . Sometimes service and work instructions are used as synonyms, but in companies one usually speaks of work instructions , in the public service of service instructions or service regulations . These are labor regulations that are intended to apply within the administration for a large number of cases without representing legal norms or legal sources ; they have no external impact . Like all abstract, general administrative regulations or guidelines, service instructions belong to the process organization .


The instructions are not uniformly defined in terms of title and content. Some dictionaries, such as the Duden, treat circulars and circulars as words with the same meaning , although they have a significant difference in, for example, Swiss tax law. The administrative instructions can be roughly divided into three areas: regulations, explanations and finally guidelines.

The following system corresponds to that which is customary in Swiss tax law:


Service instructions are drawn up by a superior authority and are aimed at their subordinate employees. These instructions determine how to proceed in certain situations.

Circular letters are similar to the service instructions, but they do not come from a superior authority, but from a body that performs supervisory functions. An example of this are the circulars sent by the Federal Tax Administration to the cantonal tax offices.

Service instructions and circulars are legally binding as long as they are neither obviously illegal nor have they been declared invalid in legal proceedings. They are to be carried out by the authorities, even if there are doubts as to their legality.

Design aids

Facts and opinions are described in a circular , but no instructions are given. Leaflets are similar to circulars, but they are published regularly.


Instructions are explicitly aimed at outsiders and provide assistance with official procedures.

Legal issues

Service instructions can only take effect if they are based on a service or employment relationship . Then the employer may in the statement with a service contract contained obligation to work his employees concrete. It is an oral or written, more or less detailed instruction to employees in authorities and administration on how a certain work task is to be performed at a workplace . The employer makes use of his right to issue instructions with it , as does the private employer.

If someone violates official instructions ( refusal to work ), this can have consequences under labor law . Disciplinary range - depending on the severity of the offense - from a simple warning to the warning or even behavioral termination (not in the latter officials ). Behavior- related 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. Under criminal law , breach of service instructions can also be breach of trust under Section 266 of the Criminal Code if the employee has intentionally violated this and the employer has suffered financial loss.


Service instructions can contain both organizational and behavior- guiding (norm-interpreting) content.

With the help of service instructions, tasks , competencies and responsibilities are regulated, cooperation between 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. 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 .

Standard-interpreting service instructions explain the general characteristics of a legal standard in a subject-specific manner , especially if it uses vague legal terms. A service instruction represents the binding regulation for the respective work processes and regulates, among other things, the design and handling of work processes , communication and control relationships or budgetary management . Applicable legal norms leave the authorities with discretionary leeway , so service instructions can also issue discretionary instructions and specify how the administration may use the granted leeway. 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 . This includes wearing a uniform such as that of soldiers , police or fire brigade . However, this is usually not regulated in service instructions, but in the civil service laws. According to Section 45 of the State Civil Service Act of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state government can issue regulations on uniforms.

Service instructions must be written in an understandable, specific and unambiguous manner. Extensive service instructions in manuals ( English manuals ) resigned. According to the durability, a distinction is made between one-off verbal instructions from a supervisor to one or more employees for a specific work process ("please check the incoming application today ") and permanent instructions for all employees for repetitive activities . They regulate the measures for carrying out the tasks set in all areas of work and determine the tasks to be solved as well as the forms and measures to be used by the responsible party .

Administrative practice

Service instructions regulate the work processes in entire authorities, but can also only relate to specific professions . The aviation manual is a service instruction that deals with air traffic control and therefore applies to German air traffic control . On August 23, 1947, Marshal Vasili Danilowitsch Sokolowski confirmed the instructions for the border police to guard the demarcation line of the Soviet Zone , which already contained the order to shoot . It was often specified later. The "Dienstanweisung 16/57" served the Ministry for State Security to "improve the operational work in the factories, ministries and main administrations, universities, colleges and scientific institutes as well as in the agricultural objects". Central service regulations of the Bundeswehr (now: “Active regulation management”) are service instructions that apply to all branches of the armed forces . The job-related instructions include the “service instructions for the registrars and their supervisory authorities” or the “service instructions for teachers” issued by a school authority .

Individual evidence

  1. Hartmut Kreikebaum, Introduction to Organizational Theory , 1975, p. 49
  2. Dr. iur. Bruno Scherrer (2001): Circular letters, circulars, leaflets and other oddities. IFF Forum for Tax Law / University of St. Gallen
  3. Karl-Georg Loritz, collective bargaining autonomy and freedom of design of the employer , 1990, p. 19
  4. Andreas Wittern / Maximilian Basslsperger, Administrative and Administrative Process Law , 2007, p. 29
  5. Willy Landsberg, eGovernment in Kommunen , 2004, p. 188
  6. BAG, judgment of June 23, 2009, Az .: 2 AZR 283/08
  7. ^ BAG, judgment of January 28, 2010, Az .: 2 AZR 764/08
  8. Bernd Juraschko, Practical Guide to Law for Libraries and Information Facilities , 2013, p. 56
  9. Municipal community center for administrative management , expert opinion on administrative organization , 1978, p. 35
  10. Walter Linden (Ed.), Dr. Gabler's Verkehrs-Lexikon , 1966, p. 943
  11. Hans Bauer (Ed.), Halt! Stand still !: Border and border regime of the GDR , 2016, no p.
  12. ^ Ministry's instructions dated May 30, 1957; BStU, ZA, DSt 100996