German labor law is not codified in a single chapter but composed of various federal statutes, court decisions and industrial practices. The Civil Code defines the employment relationship, but minimum labor standards are set forth in separate acts on various labor-related issues.
Hours & Pay Regulations
A normal workday comprises eight hours, but may be extended up to 10 hours, as long as an average of eight hours per working day (Mondays through Saturdays) is not exceeded during any six calendar months or 24 weeks.
After finishing their daily work, employees must be given at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest. If this period is interrupted, it must be granted in full after the interruption. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 3-6
Employees can be required to perform overtime work only if there is a provision in the employment agreement or in a collective bargaining agreement giving the employer that right. There is no legal provision for premium pay.
Overtime pay is not required or regulated by statutory law, and in principle it is possible to have some overtime work included in monthly remuneration. Overtime need only be compensated if it occurs regularly and is necessary to fulfill the workload given the employee or if the employer requires overtime. Otherwise, overtime may be compensated by granting additional time off.
Nighttime is the time from 11 pm to 6 am, in bakeries and pastry shops the time from 10 pm to 5 am. Night work is any work that covers more than two hours of the night. Night workers are employees who due to their working time design, usually have to do night work in alternating shifts or do night work for at least 48 days in the calendar year.
The working hours of the night shift and shift workers shall be determined in accordance with the established findings of work science on the humane design of work. The working-day working hours of night workers shall not exceed eight hours. It can only be extended to up to ten hours if, notwithstanding § 3 of the Working Hour Act, within an entire calendar month or within four weeks, an average of eight hours per working day is not exceeded.
Night workers are entitled to undergo occupational medical examinations prior to employment and thereafter at regular intervals of not less than three years. After the age of 50, night workers are entitled to this right at intervals of one year. The costs of the investigations shall be borne by the employer, unless he offers the examinations to the night workers free of charge by a company doctor or an inter-company service of company doctors.
The employer shall, at his request, convert the night worker to a day job suitable for him if:
- According to occupational medical assessment, the further performance of night work endangers the worker in his health or
- In the employee’s household a child under the age of twelve lives who cannot be looked after by another person living in the household, or
- The worker has to care for a person in need of care who cannot be cared for by another member living in the household, provided that this does not conflict with non-urgent operational requirements. If, in the opinion of the employer, the implementation of the night worker on a day job suitable for him is precluded by urgent operational requirements, the works council or staff council must be heard. The works or staff council may submit proposals for implementation to the employer.
Insofar as there are no collectively agreed compensation arrangements, the employer shall grant the night worker an adequate number of paid days off or an appropriate supplement to the gross salary he is entitled to for the hours worked during the night. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 6
Employees must not work for more than six consecutive hours without a break. If they work from six to nine hours, a 30-minute break must be provided (or two 15-minute breaks), and if they work more than nine hours, a 45-minute break must be provided, which may be split into periods of at least 15 minutes each. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 3-6.
After finishing their daily work, employees must be given at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest. If this period is interrupted, it must be granted in full after the interruption. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 3-6.
Employees may not be employed on Sundays and public holidays from 0 to 24 o’clock. In multi-level operations with regular day and night shifts, the beginning or end of the Sunday and holiday rest may be advanced or retracted by up to six hours if the operation is suspended for the 24 hours following the beginning of the rest period. For drivers and co-drivers the beginning of the 24-hour Sunday and holiday rest can be brought forward by up to two hours. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 9
Work on Sundays is also governed by the ArbZG. As a rule, employees must not work on Sundays. However, a large number of exceptions apply, including the following:
- Provided that the work cannot be done on a working day, the restrictions do not, or only to a limited extent, apply to certain industries, in particular, to restaurants and hotels, hospitals, TV, radio, the daily press, public transport, utilities, and agriculture, as well as security and cleaning services.
- Sunday work is permissible if it is necessary to prevent spoilage of raw materials, failure to produce proper work results, or the destruction of, or substantial damage to, production facilities.
Certain exceptions from the above requirements may be agreed on in collective bargaining agreements or, on the basis of a collective bargaining agreement, in a works agreement.
Working Hours Act, 1994 (ArbZG). Fed. Labor Ct., 5 AZR 294/00 of Dec. 12, 2001 (NZA 2002, 505).
In Germany, there are national holidays and there are also holidays specific to individual regions. The number of official holidays vary slightly from state-to-state. Holidays are always observed on the day on which they fall, even if they fall on a weekend. Holidays are not moved to the nearest Monday, nor do workers get a free day in compensation for a holiday falling on a non-working day.
Employees are not entitled to extra pay if they are required to work on a public holiday. However, Collective bargaining agreements generally provide for overtime pay for holiday work. If employees are required to work on a holiday which falls on a working day, they must have a day of rest in compensation, which must be granted within a period of eight weeks including the day on which they worked.
Germany observes the following nine national holidays, the dates of some of which vary year to year:
- Jan. 1: New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- May 1: Labor Day
- Whit Monday
- Oct. 3: German Unity Day
- Dec. 25: Christmas
- Dec. 26: St. Stephen’s Day
Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, § 11.
According to the German Federal Leave Act, every employee working six days a week is entitled to at least 24 working days of vacation (i.e., four weeks), employees working five-day weeks are entitled to at least 20 days. Regardless of their individual working time, employees are eligible for their full vacation entitlement if they have been employed for at least six months.
Individuals with disabilities and minors have larger claims. Sundays, public holidays (nine national public holidays and some additional holidays in Catholic areas), and generally Saturdays are not included.
In practice, almost all employees in Germany have longer vacation leave. This is usually regulated in collective bargaining agreements or works agreements and sometimes graduated according to age or years of service. In scheduling vacation leave, employers must take into account the dates requested by employees. If an employee requests dates that clash with operational demands or the vacation requests of coworkers, however, vacation may be granted at another time. The law also stipulates that vacation must be granted en bloc.
Unused leave can only be carried over to the next calendar year if compelling operational reasons or reasons personal to the employee justify it. In the case of a carryover, the vacation must be granted and taken within the first three months of the succeeding calendar year. After that date, remaining unused vacation time is forfeited. Exceptions exist for employees who are on leave due to a long-term sickness or who are severely disabled. Federal Paid Leave Act, 1963, §§ 34, 78, 11.
Effective Jan. 1, 2017, the national hourly minimum wage is 8.84 euros. Minimum Wage Act, 2014, § 1.
In the event of incapacity for work without any fault on their part, the Continuation of Remuneration Act gives employees the right to receive sick pay up to 100 percent of salary for six weeks. Employees are entitled to continuation of salary after employment of four weeks. Employees are obliged to notify the employer of their incapacity for work and the expected duration without undue delay. Before the end of the third calendar day at the latest, they have to show a medical certificate stating the fact of their incapacity for work and the expected duration. If the actual time they are unable to work exceeds the duration stated in the certificate, employees must submit a new medical certificate. The employer may refuse continued payment of remuneration if the employee does not provide the mandatory medical certificate. In the event that the sixweek limit is overrun, employees are entitled to receive a sickness allowance paid by their statutory health insurance plan. Continued Remuneration Act, 1974, § 2.
Under terms of the Maternity Protection Act, an expectant mother must not be employed during the six weeks prior to the birth of her child, even if she has never provided a doctor’s certificate, unless she has made a declaration, which she can revoke at any time, stating that she agrees to continue working. A woman who has given birth must not be employed for eight weeks thereafter. This is extended to 12 weeks for premature or multiple births. The leave entitlement starts on the day of birth and ends eight or 12 weeks later on the same day of the week as the day of the birth. In the event of a premature birth, the length of time is extended by the time that the actual birth took place before the normally expected date of birth. During this period, the employee is eligible for maternity benefits from her health insurance. The Maternity Protection Act ensures that as a rule, female employees suffer no financial disadvantages as a result of maternity. On return from maternity leave, the employee is guaranteed her previous job if the object, scope, and nature of the work to be done is exactly defined by the contract of employment or by actual practice. Maternity Protection Act, 2000, §§ 3, 6, 910; Act on the Payment of ChildRaising Benefit and ChildRaising Leave, 2015, § 2.
There is no leave benefit specific to fathers, although either parent may take advantage of parental leave.
Childraising leave grants a monthly childraising benefit to mothers and fathers and the right to childraising leave for either one of the two parents or for both at the same time. The first two years have to be taken immediately after the child’s birth, and the third year can be taken at any time up to the child’s eighth birthday. Act on the Payment of ChildRaising Benefit and ChildRaising Leave, 2015, § 2 (German); Law on Parental Allowance and Parental Leave, § 15.
Under the Nursing Care Leave Statute, as amended, an employee may request shortterm leave for up to 10 days, if necessary on an urgent basis, to organize or ensure nursing care for a close relative. Close relatives include parents, grandparents, parentsinlaw, spouses, partnersforlife, registered samesex partners, siblings, children (including adopted and foster children, and also children of the employee’s spouse or partnerforlife), daughters and sonsinlaw, and grandchildren. The employee is obliged to inform the employer of his or her leave without undue delay. The employer may request a medical certificate regarding the need for care and the necessity of organizing or ensuring this care.
In businesses that employ more than 15 employees on a regular basis, an employee may take unpaid full or parttime nursing care leave for up to six months if he or she cares for a close relative who needs care in a domestic environment (or, if the relative is a minor, elsewhere). The need for care must be proved by a certificate issued by the nursing care insurance provider or the medical service of the health insurance provider. If an employee wishes to take nursing care leave, the employee must apply to the employer in writing at least 10 workdays before the leave is to commence. In that application, the employee must state for which period he or she wishes to take nursing care leave as well as the extent of the reduction in hours. Specific rules apply where nursing care leave and family nursing care leave will follow each other. If the employee wishes to take part time leave, the employer and the employee must enter into a written agreement on the reduced hours and their allocation. In this regard, the employer must accommodate the employee’s wishes, unless they conflict with urgent operational requirements. Nursing care leave may be taken only once per close relative; however, nursing care leave of less than six months may be extended for up to six months if the employer agrees. Care Time Act, 2008, §§ 2-3.
Under the Family Nursing Care Statute, as amended, taking part time family nursing care leave no longer requires employer consent. Employees in businesses with more than 25 employees on a regular basis (excluding apprentices) may apply for reduced working hours if they provide nursing care for a close relative in a domestic environment (or, if the relative is a minor, elsewhere). During family nursing care leave, the employee must work at least 15 hours per week (in certain cases an annual average of 15 hours per week is sufficient). Family nursing care leave, together with nursing care leave (if any), may not exceed 24 months per relative. An employee who wishes to avail him or herself of family nursing care leave must inform the employer in writing at least eight weeks before the leave is to commence and must identify the period during which he or she wishes to take family nursing care leave, as well as the extent of the reduction in hours. Specific rules apply where family nursing care leave and nursing care leave are to follow each other. The need for care must be proved by a certificate issued by the nursing care insurance provider or the medical service of the health insurance provider. In the event an employee wishes to take family nursing care leave, the employer and the employee must enter into a written agreement regarding the reduced hours and their allocation. This agreement must accommodate the employee’s wishes, unless they conflict with urgent operational requirements.
Last updated on: October 23rd, 2019