Industrial workers in Germany have won the right to reduced working hours as part of a deal that could benefit  employees across the country.

Workers will be able to reduce their weekly hours from 35 to 28 for up to two years to look after their families.

The deal covers almost one million workers in Baden-Württemberg state and also gives them a pay rise and could be extended to the 3.9 million workers in Germany’s industrial sector.

The IG Metall union and employers in the state agreed on Tuesday on the regional deal, ending a dispute that had seen 24-hour strikes at targeted firms. Regional agreements are typically applied across the whole country and some 3.9 million industrial workers.

The union is the country’s biggest trade union representing metal and engineering workers.

The deal involves the possibility of more flexible working hours, a contentious issue in a strong economy with some firms running at full capacity and facing shortages of skilled workers in some areas.

A reduced working week to care for children, the elderly or sick relatives was also a key demand from the union and the workers.

The employees will also be given a 4.3 per cent pay rise from April, against their demand of a 6 per cent increase. The pay deal stretches over 27 months and also sees additional one-off payments.

IG Metall leader Jörg Hofmann said:

“The agreement is a milestone on the way to a modern, self-determined world of work.”

Since the financial crisis wages have been slowly rising in Germany – mainly because record low unemployment means that in many sectors firms are struggling to find workers.

So an agreement that increases wages was not surprising. More unusual is the automatic right to work fewer hours, something which has been discussed in Germany for years, as people try to combine work and family life.

Thousands of IG Metall members staged one-day “warning strikes” last week, the union’s first such strikes in 34 years. Among the companies affected were Porsche and Daimler, which produces Mercedes-Benz cars.

Both sides said they would recommend the adoption of the deal across Germany.

If the agreement this goes down well with employees, we could see it spread to other sectors where workers have also demanded more flexible working hours.