German police win overtime pay for putting on their uniforms

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A German policeman's lot is a decidedly happier one after a court ruling yesterday which awarded an officer from the city of Münster an extra week's holiday to compensate for the time he spends donning his uniform each day.

Martin Schauder, 44, was awarded extra holiday, or the equivalent in pay, by a court in the west German city after persuading judges that the 15 minutes he spent putting on the kit – vest, trousers, belt, shirt, tank top and boots together with the accompanying pistol and handcuffs – amounted to overtime.

Erich Rettinghaus, the head of the police trade union in the state of North Rhine Westphalia, where Mr Schauder is based, said the ruling was "ground-breaking" because it cleared up an issue that had long been a thorn in the side of the force.

He said the court accepted the officer's claim that he was giving his employers the equivalent of 45 to 50 hours a year because of the uniform requirements.

"It means that each day he shows up a quarter of an hour earlier for work than he actually has to," Mr Rettinghaus said. The court rejected the argument that uniformed police could get dressed for police duty at home.

Yesterday's ruling was not binding as it can be appealed in a higher court. However Mr Schauder's challenge was a test case that is backed by some 120 other Münster policemen with identical grievances. A total of 1,000 police officer in the state of North Rhine Westphalia have similar claims.

It is also not yet clear whether the ruling might be applied retrospectively – in which case Mr Schauder, who has been with the force for 28 years, would be able to look forward to more than six months' holiday.