Viel Aufregung zur rechten Zeit: Urteil des BAG zum Weihnachtsgeld

by McDermott Will & Emery

Berichte und Aufmacher in allen Medien und alles zum passenden Zeitpunkt: Zur beginnenden Weihnachtszeit ein Urteil des Bundesarbeitsgerichts (BAG) - 10 AZR 848/12 - zum – untechnisch gesprochen  – Weihnachtsgeld. Ist die Aufregung gerechtfertigt ? Eher nicht, hat das BAG doch nur seine bereits eingeschlagene Richtung weiter verfolgt und bestätigt. Trotzdem eine gute Gelegenheit diese noch einmal oder wieder ins Licht zu setzen, denn praxisrelevant ist sie allemal.

Was ist also passiert: Eine jeweils im Herbst des entsprechenden Jahres vom Arbeitgeber versandte “Richtlinie” zur Auszahlung der Weihnachtsgratifikation enthielt den Passus, dass die Gratifikation vom ungekündigten Bestand des Arbeitsverhältnisses zum 31.12. des betreffenden Jahres – hier 2010 – abhängt. Dazu sollte die Höhe der Gratifikation von den im Jahr geleisteten Arbeitsmonaten abhängen: 1/12 eines Monatsgehalts pro gearbeiteten Monat, bei 12 geleisteten Monaten also ein ganzes Monatsgehalt als Weihnachtsgratifikation. Eine übliche und in der Praxis sehr häufig auch in Arbeitsveträgen selbst gebrauchte Klausel. Aber trotzdem unwirksam sagt das BAG, da eine solche Regelung “die Sonderzahlung einerseits den Arbeitnehmer über das Jahresende hinaus an das Unternehmen binden und damit die Betriebstreue belohnen, aber zugleich auch der Vergütung der im Laufe des Jahres geleisteten Arbeit dienen soll”. Die Sonderzahlung geht von ihrem Zweck her also in zwei Richtungen, Belohnung für vergangene geleistete Arbeit einerseits und zukünftige Betriebstreue andererseits. Soll aber in dieser Weise geleistete Arbeit belohnt werden, erwirbt der Arbeitnhemer dann nach Ansicht des BAG auch mit jedem geleisteten Monat anteilig den entsprechenden Vergütungsansprunch der Gratifikation, an dem auch eine Stichtagsregelung zum Bestand des Arbeitsvehältnisses nichts ändern kann. Ganz im Gegenteil ist diese Regelung als eine unangemessene Benachteiligung des Arbeitnehmers unwirksam, weil sie bereits erarbeiteten – nur noch nicht in Form der Gratifikation ausgezahlten  -Lohn entziehe.

Einfach gesagt: Soll geleistete Arbeit in Form einer Gratifikation belohnt werden, kann sie nicht von einem Stichtag abhängig gemacht werden. Ob die Gratifikation wie im vorliegenden Sachverhalt auch zukünftige Betriebstreue belohnen soll, fällt dann nicht mehr entscheidend ins Gewicht. Anders wäre es aber, wenn die Sonderzahlung nur die zukünftige Betriebstreue belohnen soll, weil Sie dann ja mit geleisteter Arbeit nicht mehr im direkten Zusammenhang steht.

Alles eine Frage des Zwecks und der Formulierung also. Arbeitgeber sollten sich daher über die Konsequenzen ihrer Gratifikationsregelungen im Klaren sein und sie im Zweifel eindeutig formulieren bzw. anpassen.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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