Legal Validity of Electronic Signatures

 

 

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This article explains the type of electronic signature offered by Personio, the areas it can be used for, and which information the audit trail for the signed documents will provide.

Whether and for which documents electronic signatures are legally binding depends on the laws of your country. If you have any questions regarding the legal security and effect of electronic signatures, contact a lawyer or legal advisor. Personio provides the technical prerequisites and the tool for the use of signatures and assumes no liability. Please also note that the information in this article may not be complete.

 

Electronic Signatures in Personio

eIDAS, the EU regulation on electronic identification and trust services, distinguishes between three electronic signature types that are explained in the table below. These three electronic signature types differ mainly in their evidentiary value. The following points play a key role: 

  • Does the signature use an electronic certificate?
  • Can the identity of the signatory be verified?
  • Can it be ruled out that the document has been manipulated? 
     

The simple electronic signature does not specify any detailed identification check and has no security value. It is simply electronic data that is attached to the document or logically linked (e.g. a scanned signature that has been inserted). 

An advanced electronic signature ensures that the signatory's identity and the integrity of the signed data are being checked. The signature can be uniquely linked to the signatory to identify them. It has been created with means that are under the sole control of the signatory. Any later modifications that may occur have to be identifiable. 

The qualified electronic signature has the highest evidentiary value of the three variants and is considered equal to the handwritten signature. It is an advanced electronic signature with increased security requirements involving a valid security certificate and a secure signature creation device. Special software and hardware are required to apply and store the signature key. 

 

Personio offers the advanced electronic signature for employee documents and for the recruitment process.

For this, we work together with SignaturIT, a Spanish solution provider. SignaturIT uses encrypted transmission for data, audit trails and time stamps. The servers are ISO 270001 certified. For more information see: https://www.signaturit.com/en/security

 

Examples of the Use of Advanced Electronic Signatures

Documents that advanced signatures may be used for

For agreements that do not need to fulfill any particular form to be legally valid, the so-called "freedom of form" applies. Documents in this category may generally be signed with an advanced electronic signature. However, there are some legal exceptions to this that are bound to the written form. To learn more, see Documents advanced e-signatures may not be used for.

The following documents, for example, can be signed using the advanced electronic signature.

  • Applications
  • Authorizations
  • Employment contracts (depending on the country and legal situation)
  • Changes to the employment contract, e.g. with promotions
  • Formal warnings
  • Home office guidelines
  • Documents used in an employee's onboarding process
  • Provision of inventory
  • Formal performance documents
  • Company car agreements
  • Travel expense statements

 

Documents advanced electronic signatures may not be used for

For certain contracts, the law prescribes a qualified electronic signature (or handwritten signature). In Germany, this applies to all documents that require the written form.

This includes, for example: 

  • Acknowledgments of receipt
  • Limited-term agreements (for employment contracts)
  • Changes and additions to employment contracts with a double written-form clause

For some legal documents relating to employment, the use of electronic signatures is explicitly prohibited:

For example:

  • Termination notice
  • Termination agreement
  • Work reference
  • Company Agreement
  • Reconciliation of interests / settlement agreements
  • Social compensation plan
  • Employee leasing 

For more information, view the webinar "The electronic signature in employment law (GERMAN only)." 

 

The Audit Trail

We provide an audit trail for electronic signatures in collaboration with our partner SignatureIT. This trail is an automatically generated document with all electronic verification data created throughout the digital signing process. The audit trail serves as evidence of a document's integrity (e.g. in court proceedings) and contains the following data:

  • Sender's name and email address
  • Signatory's name and email address
  • Document name
  • Unique identification (different for each file)
  • IP addresses
  • Browser used

You can download individual audit trails by navigating to the overview page for electronic signatures on the dashboard. Click on the three dots next to the document whose audit trail you wish to access. 

For more information about the audit trail, visit the SignatureIT website.

 

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