Germany: One year after the minimum wage law came into effect – how Customs monitors and investigates and how to behave in such cases.
One year after the minimum wage law came into effect, Customs is increasing its activities in this connection. Two different types of procedure exist:
Under the Inspection Procedure Customs in particular interrogates lorry drivers in Germany and asks foreign employers/ companies to submit documentation about compliance with the minimum wage (in German). For example, Customs requests employment contracts, payroll slips, documentation about actual payment of wages, working time records and data about customers.
Customs acts through Investigation Procedures if the first indications are that a company did not comply with the regulations under MiLoG in a particular case.
In both procedures the affected companies are entitled to different rights, because the first procedure is a mere administrative procedure, while investigation procedures follow the principles of criminal law.
In connection with the Inspection Procedure companies should know that even at this early stage they may be entitled to decline to give information if they otherwise run the risk of incriminating themselves by handing in documents. Since this right conflicts with the legal duty to keep documentation ready for inspection at the request of the authorities, we strongly recommend not to cooperate with the authorities hastily, but to seek legal support first. A further step should be to verify whether it might be advantageous to file an objection to an inspection order.
The investigation procedure allows for extensive participation rights. In particular, we strongly recommend inspecting the investigation files before actively taking part in the procedure. Only on the basis of this knowledge can you determine a successful strategy for the developing procedure.