Business, work and life in Germany in English

German labour legislation: basic provisions and norms on the working time, holiday, salaries, sick leave and other rights

§ German laws regulating the employment relationship

Further you will find a list of the main German laws regulating the employer-employee relationship:

§ Working hours, weekly working hours

Daily working hours in Germany

How many hours does a working day in Germany last? A regular working day in Germany is 8 hours, long, which under certain conditions can be extended up to 10 hours. With a working day of 6 to 9 hours long, the employee has the right to a lunch break of at least 30 minutes. With a longer working day, the minimum break is 45 minutes. The break can be split into several parts, at least 15 minutes each. An employee cannot work without a break for more than 6 consecutive hours. After completion of work, the employee must have a minimum of 11 hours of leisure time.

Weekly working hours in Germany

How many hours does a working week in Germany last? Full working time in Germany is 40 hours per week, maximum 48 hours per week. It is also allowed to work up to 60 hours a week, with subsequent compensation for time.

The working week lasts from Monday to Saturday, although most workers work from Monday to Friday. Night and shift work is also permitted.

The main night time of work for most professions, according to the Working Time Act, is the time from 11.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m.

Largely, workers should not work all day long on Sunday and statutory holidays in Germany, however, there are many exceptions to this rule.

Overtime work in Germany has to be made up for by the provision of appropriate time off work. Monetary compensation can be made by the firm if agreed between the employee and the employer, however this is not guaranteed by law.

Working time in Germany is 40 hours, maximum 48 hours per week. A regular working day is 8 hours long.

§ The right to leave, duration of holiday in Germany

How many days does a vacation/holiday in Germany last?

Every employee in Germany is entitled to an annual paid rest leave. With a 5-day working week, the minimum vacation time in Germany is 20 working days per year. With a 6-day working week, the minimum vacation time is 24 working days per year. For working youth, the minimum vacation time is longer, depending on their age.

Although the minimum duration of the annual rest leave in Germany is stipulated by law, the actual duration is negotiated by the employee and the employer when applying for a job, it is approved in the employment contract and can be 30 days or more, but not less than the minimum fixed by law.

If an employee has worked at the enterprise for less than 6 months, s/he has the right to a paid rest leave, the duration of which is proportionate to the time worked. For example, if an employee has a 24-day annual rest leave, then for each month s/he receives 2 days of leave, thus having worked for the company for the first 3 months, s/he has the right to a paid rest leave of 6 days.

Annual paid rest leave in Germany is 20 working days a year by a 5-day working week.

§ Sick leave in Germany, payment during sick days

In case of illness, because of which the employee cannot go to work, s/he has to inform the employer as soon as possible. It is necessary to inform only regarding the fact of the disease and the expected duration, the employer has no right to demand information about the disease per se, this information is personal.

If the illness continues for more than 3 days, it is necessary to produce a sickness certificate (Medical note, sick leave), although the employer may require the certificate provision from the very first day of illness.

The employee is protected in case of illness: for the first 6 weeks of sick leave, the employer pays the employee their wages in full. If the sick leave lasts longer and the employee is insured in the system of compulsory medical insurance, s/he is paid 70% of their salary.

§ Maternity leave, maternity protection

How many days does maternity leave in Germany last?

Pregnant women should inform the employer as soon as possible of the expected date of the childbirth. Maternity leave begins 6 weeks before the birth and lasts 8 weeks after the birth of the baby. During this period of time, the woman receives the average salary (Maternity benefit, Mutterschaftsgeld), which she used to get for several months prior to becoming pregnant. This salary is paid to the woman partially by the employer, partially by the health insurance fund.

§ Salary: rate, payment

The rate of salary in Germany depends on the agreement between the employee and the employer and is approved in the employment contract. However, Germany has the Minimum Wage Act (MiLoG), that guarantees the statutory minimum wage.

Information on the average wage in Germany, as well as taxes and social deductions from wages can be found on individual pages of our website.

In some industries, tariff agreements are in place that may set higher minimum wages.

However, the minimum wage/ salary is regulated individually for young people without a college degree, students, trainees, and long-term unemployed.

Salary - Germany has the Minimum Wage Act (MiLoG) in vigor.

§ Probationary, trial employment (in German: Probezeit)

When applying for a job, an employee is given a probationary/ trial period, which can last several months, usually 3 or 6 months. If it is not stipulated by the employment contract, then the employee doesn't have to complete any probationary period. During this term, the employment contract may be terminated within 2 weeks (German: Kündigungsfrist).

While on probation, it is not prohibited to take the annual paid rest leave, although this is not usually done. Besides, during this period, the employee is normally paid their sick leave.

§ Dismissal from work

An employment contract may be terminated either by the employee or the employer subject to the conditions and terms established by law. A notice of the contract termination has to be made in writing.

As stated above, Germany has a law that protects workers from unfair dismissal (the Protection Against Unfair Dismissal Act (KSchG), Kündigungsschutzgesetz). Women during pregnancy or maternity leave, as well as workers with disabilities, are particularly protected by law.

The legislation, the tariff agreement or a work agreement establish minimum terms as to the notice of dismissal. For example, an employee shall receive a notice of dismissal 1 or 3 months before the date of such dismissal.

The statutory period for the notice of dismissal (in German: Kündigungsfrist) is 4 weeks until the 15th day or until the end of the calendar month. This period is extended depending on the length of the worker’s employment at the enterprise and may make up to 7 months.

§ Discrimination in employment and at work

In compliance with the applicable law, discrimination in Germany is prohibited, primarily on the basis of gender, religion, ethnic factors, age, and sexual orientation.

§ Employment references

Every employee working in Germany has the right to obtain a letter of reference (in German: Arbeitszeugnis) from the place of work upon dismissal, as well as in some other cases. In case the employee disagrees with the said employment reference, s/he may appeal it to the labour court.

The employment reference does not formally contain an assessment of work, however, human resources personnel use the "secret language" to indicate the working activities assessment in the reference. Although the reference may sound good, it may in fact mean a poor mark. The table below shows the phrases indicating respective assessment of performance efficiency and relations with other employees of the enterprise, as well as an overall assessment.

Table 1: Employment reference grades of assessment

Assessment grade Performance efficiency Social behavior Overall assessment
Excellent (1) ..."stets ein sehr hohes Maß an Eigeninitiative und Leistungsbereitschaft" Verhalten gegenüber Vorgesetzten und Kollegen war "jederzeit vorbildlich" Seine Leistungen fanden "stets unsere vollste Zufriedenheit"
Good (2) ..."stets eine hohe Leistungsbereitschaft" ..."jederzeit einwandfrei" ..."stets unsere volle Zufriedenheit"
Satisfactory (3) ..."zeigte Einsatzbereitschaft" ..."einwandfrei" ..."unsere volle Zufriedenheit"
Bad (4) ..."zeigte auch Einsatzbereitschaft" ..."korrekt und ohne Beanstandung" ..."unsere Zufriedenheit"
Very bad (5) - ..."unbelastet war" ..."in der Regel zu unserer Zufriedenheit"

Depending on which phrase occurs in the letter of reference, it serves an indicator to the next employer who will receive this letter of reference how the employee has been assessed at their previous place of work. Other phrases may also be used; they can be found on other websites Google arbeitszeugnis geheimsprache

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