Electronic signature of employment contracts and archiving

A law of 2007 introduced the possibility to sign employment contracts electronically by using the electronic identity card, the “e-ID” card (or an alternative electronic signature that satisfies the same security conditions).  This was the only method allowed to sign employment contracts electronically.  This law also provided that the employer and the employee retain the right to object to signing the contract electronically.  Electronic signature of the employment contract cannot be imposed on the other party.   A contract signed electronically is considered equivalent to a signed paper contract.

A new law has recently been adopted to allow other forms of electronic signatures as long as these are “qualified”.  An electronic signature will be said to “qualify” if it meets certain conditions that have been set out by a European regulation.  The internet site of the Federal Ministry of Economy will publish a list of providers that meet these conditions.

This law also provides for the possibility for employers to apply a “non-qualified” electronic signature as long as the signature guarantees:

  • the identity of the parties;
  • the consent of the parties as to the content; and
  • the integrity of the contract (i.e. that the contract cannot be modified after its signature).

In case of dispute, the burden of proof that the signature offers these guarantees will lie on the employer.

Under current legislation, an employment contract that has been signed electronically must be archived with an external archiving provider (meeting certain strict conditions) for a minimum period of 5 years. After this period, the documents will be sent to a non-profit organization (SIGeDIS) that will continue the role of electronic archiver.  If the employer uses an external archiving provider, the company work regulations will have to include the details of the external archiving provider.

Under the new law, employers will be able to choose to archive the documents internally.  In such case, strict conditions will have to be met.

Although the law has been voted and is published, the new provisions it includes will only come into force on a date yet to be determined.  This is expected when the market offers a sufficient number of electronic archiving providers.