German labor law is not codified in a single code but composed of various federal statutes, court decisions, and industrial practices. Minimum labor standards are set forth in separate acts namely Working Hours Act, Minimum Wage Act, Federal Paid Leave Act, etc.
Hours & Pay Regulations
The workweek is defined as the 6 days of Monday-Saturday. The working time of the employees may not exceed 8 hours and 48-hours per week. It can only be extended up to 10 hours if, within 6 calendar months or within 24 weeks, an average of 8 hours is not exceeded per working day. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 3.
On-call work that requires the employee to be available at the workplace also counts as working time and in some cases as overtime. On-call work in the form of constant availability, for example, stand-by work, on the other hand, does not count as working time. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 7.
An employer shall maintain a record of any working time exceeding 8 hours(which is, in general, the maximum daily working time excluding rest breaks) on business days and all the hours worked on Sundays and public holidays and shall keep the record for at least 2 years. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 16.
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 overtime work or premium pay.
Night-time means the period from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Any work which occupies more than two hours of night-time is considered night work. Night employees mean who:
- usually must perform night work on rotating shifts because of their work schedule, or
- perform night work on at least 48 days in a calendar year.
Expecting and nursing mothers are not permitted to work at night between 20:00 hours to 06:00 hours.
The daily hours of night work may not exceed 8 hours. The working hours can be extended to 10 hours but it should not exceed an average of 8 hours per day within a calendar month or within 4 weeks.
The employer must provide the night employee an appropriate number of paid days off for the hours worked during the night or provide an appropriate addition to the gross wage due for the work performed. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 2(3-5), 6.
Employees must not work for more than 6 consecutive hours without an unpaid break. When an employee works more than 6 hours but less than 9 hours, he is entitled to a 30 minutes break. If the work hour is more than 9 hours in a day the employee will be entitled to a 45 minutes break. The rest periods can be divided into smaller periods of at least 15 minutes each. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 4.
Employees must have an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours after the end of the daily working hours. The rest period can be reduced by 1 hour in some industries, such as in hospitals, catering, and transport provided that compensatory rest is given within one month or four weeks by extending another rest period to at least 12 hours. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 5 (1).
Employees may not be employed from midnight to midnight (0-24 hours) on a Sunday. If the employees are employed on Sunday, they must have another day of rest as compensation, which shall be granted within a period of 2 weeks including the days on which the employee worked. An employee shall have at least 15 Sundays off in a calendar year.
In cases, where several regular shifts by day and night are followed, the beginning or end of the rest on Sundays and holidays can be moved forward or backward by up to 6 hours, if the organization closes following the beginning of the daily rest for 24 hours.
An employee shall be granted rest on a Sunday, public holiday, or on a compensatory rest day immediately after the daily rest period unless there are technical or other reasonable reasons. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 9-11.
The following 9 national holidays are observed:
- 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: Second Day of Christmas
The number of public holidays varies from one federal state to another, with a maximum of 13 holidays in some regions of Germany.
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 employees get a free day in compensation for a holiday falling on a non-workday.
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 8 weeks including the day on which they worked.
Employees are not entitled to extra pay if they are required to work on a public holiday. Employees who are absent from work without excuse on the last working day before or on the first working day after public holidays are not entitled to payment for public holidays. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 11.
Employees who work six days per week are entitled to an annual minimum paid vacation of 24 working days. Working days are all calendar days that are not Sundays or public holidays. Employees with a five-day working week are entitled to a pro-rata vacation of 20 working days.
Employees can claim their full vacation entitlement if the employment relationship has existed for a minimum of six months during the applicable vacation year. In case of a shorter employment term during the vacation year, the proportionate vacation entitlement is 1/12 for each full month of employment. Any fraction of vacation days that result in at least ½ day is considered as full vacation days.
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 3 months of the succeeding calendar year.
An employee is not entitled to vacation if his/her previous employer had granted such vacation period during the same calendar year. This must be certified by the previous employer.
For an employee who falls sick during his/her vacation period, those days shall not be counted as vacation days, when certified by a doctor as an incapacity to perform work.
Pay – An employee’s vacation pay is based on the employee’s average wage earned in the last 13 weeks before the start of the vacation period, excluding any overtime wages. Employees shall be given vacation pay before the beginning of the vacation period. Federal Paid Leave Act, 1963, §§ 3-4, 7-8, 11.
Effective January 1, 2021, the national minimum wage is € 1614 per month. Minimum Wage Act, 2014, § 1.
The minimum wage given is subject to change and may not be updated. Kindly access the link to get the current rate.
In the event of incapacity for work, employees have the right to receive sick pay up to 100 percent of their salary for a period of six weeks. If the employee falls sick again due to the same illness, the 6 week period will start again if 6 months have passed since the end of the last sick leave or if 1 year has passed since the beginning of the first sick leave. In case, an employee gets sick due to a new disease, the 6 week period commences again.
If the incapacity for work continues for more than 3 days, employees must submit proof of incapacity for work with duration. Continued Remuneration Act, 1974, § 2
An expectant mother must not be employed during the 6 weeks prior to the birth of her child. A woman who has given birth must not be employed for eight weeks thereafter.
Maternity leave is extended to 12 weeks for premature or multiple births, or if the child is born with a disability. 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 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.
Pregnant employees and nursing mothers are not allowed to work on Sundays or holidays. Expecting and nursing mothers are not permitted to work overtime. Expecting and nursing mothers are not allowed to work more than 8.5 hours daily or 90 hours in a 2-week period. Expecting and nursing mothers under 18 are not permitted to work more than 8 hours daily or 80 hours in a 2-week period.
Compensation during maternity leave: During the individual maternity protection period the employee is entitled to full pay. The remuneration of the pregnant women is calculated on the average remuneration of the last 13 weeks or of the 3 months prior to the beginning of the month of pregnancy. Maternity Protection Act, 2000, §§ 3, 6, 9-10, Act on the Payment of Child-Raising Benefit and Child-Raising Leave, 2015, § 2.
- Working mothers that are nursing their babies are permitted to take “nursing breaks”, provided 8 hours of work was not interrupted by a break of 2 hours or more.
- Nursing breaks are 30 minutes twice a day or one time per day for 1 hour.
- If a working mother is at the job for more than 8 hours, then she is entitled to two 45-minute breaks or if there isn’t a close nursing area available, then a single 90-minute break is to be provided.
- These breaks may not be deducted from a nursing mother’s pay or hours worked and they may not be counted in place of other instituted breaks (like lunch breaks).
There is no leave benefit specific to fathers, although either parent may take advantage of parental leave.
In addition to maternity leave, there is the option for the mother or father to take an extended parental leave for up to a total of 24 months with a parental allowance paid by the government for the initial 14 months. The entitlement to parental leave exists until the completion of the third year of a child’s life. A portion of 24 months’ leave can be taken after the child’s third birthday but prior to his/her eighth birthday.
An employee on parental leave may be employed part-time for a maximum of 30 hours per week.
Pay – During parental leave, employers are not obliged to pay the employee’s salary. However, during parental leave, employees may be entitled to parental benefits that are provided by the state. Under German law, the parental benefits amount to 67% of the employee’s average income in the 12 months prior to the child’s birth. Law on Parental Allowance and Parental Leave, § 15
Employees have the right to unpaid leave from work for up to 10 workdays, if necessary to organize need-based care for a close relative in an acute nursing situation or to ensure nursing care during this time. Care Time Act, 2008, §§ 3.
An employee is entitled to unpaid leave for a close relative who is in need of care at home for a period of a maximum of 6 months. The claim does not apply to employers with 15 or fewer employees. In case, the close relative is no longer in need of care or home care, the leave ends 4 weeks after the change in circumstances.
The employer is liable to pay employees for such leave in cases where such a claim has been agreed between the employer and employee via an agreement. Care Time Act, 2008, §§ 4 and 5.
An employee is entitled to 6 weeks of paid leave for organ or tissue donation. Continued Remuneration Act, 1974, § 3a.
Last updated on: April 28th, 2021