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Last updated on: December 28th, 2023

Labor Requirements

The labor law in Germany is not codified in a single code, but rather consists of various federal statutes such as the Working Hours Act, the Minimum Wage Act, and the Federal Paid Leave Act, which govern employment terms and conditions such as working hours, holidays, rest periods, wages, overtime, leave, and termination of employment, among others. 

Hours & Pay Regulations

Normal Working Hours

The workweek is defined as the 6 days of Monday-Saturday. The standard working hours of an employee shall not exceed 8 hours in a day and 48 hours per week in a 6-day workweek. The working time may not exceed 48 hours per week on average over 12 calendar months.

Daily working hours can only be extended up to 10 hours if, within 6 calendar months or within but the overall average working time shall not exceed 8 hours per day. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 3.


On-Call Work

On-call work that requires the employee to be available at the workplace also counts as working time and in some cases as overtime.  Based on a collective bargaining agreement an employee may be permitted to extend the working day to 8 hours without compensation if the working time, regularly and to a considerable extent, includes readiness for work or on-call duty and special regulations ensure that the health of the employees is not endangered. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 7.


Recording Requirements

An employer shall maintain a record for at least 2 years of collective agreements and individual works agreements of each employee along with working time exceed beyond 8 hours(which is, in general, the maximum daily working time excluding rest breaks) on any working days and all the hours worked on Sundays and public holidays. Employers are obliged to introduce a system with which the working hours worked by the employees can be recorded. Employers must set up a thorough system for keeping track of each employee’s working hours. 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. Overtime pay and surcharges are rarely governed by federal or state regulations instead are determined mostly by unions, employers, and work councils.


Night Work

Night work is performed between 11 pm to 6 am. An employee is considered to be on night shift if they perform 2 or more hours of work during the night period. 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.

The daily hours of night work may not exceed 8 hours. The working hours can be extended by 10 hours but it should not exceed an average of 8 hours per day within a calendar month or within 4 weeks. Night employees are entitled to occupational medical examinations before beginning work and at least every 3 years thereafter. Night employees over the age of 50 are entitled to medical examination at a year intervals. Night employees shall have the same access to training and to opportunities for promotion as other employees.


Exception– Pregnant women and nursing mothers are not permitted to work at night between 10 pm and 6 am.  


Compensation– The employer must provide the night employee an appropriate number of paid days off for the hours worked during the night or the employee is entitled to a reasonable premium on gross wages. 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-minute break. If the work hour is more than 9 hours in a day the employee will be entitled to a 45-minute break. The rest periods can be divided into smaller periods of at least 15 minutes each. Working Hours Act, 1994, No. 33, §§ 4.


Rest Period

Employees must have an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours after the end of the daily working hours. If the daily working time is extended beyond 12 hours, a rest period of at least 11 hours must be granted immediately after the end of the working time.

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).

Sunday Work

Employees may not be employed from midnight to midnight (0-24 hours) on a Sunday. An employee shall have at least 15 Sundays off in a calendar year. 


In cases, multi shifts operations with regular day and night shifts the beginning or end of the rest on Sundays and public holidays can be moved forward or backward by up to 6 hours, if the work is suspended following the start of the rest period. 


Compensatory Rest – 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 day of employment. An employee shall be granted rest on a Sunday, a 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

Public Holidays

The following 9 national holidays are observed:

      • Jan. 1: New Year’s Day
      • Good Friday
      • Easter Monday
      • May 1: Labor Day
      • Ascension
      • Whit Monday
      • Oct. 3: German Unity Day
      • Dec. 25: Christmas
      • Dec. 26: Second Day of Christmas

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. 


Compensatory Rest – If employees are required to work on a holiday that 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 of employment.



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.

Annual Leave

Employees who work 6 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 5-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 with the same employer has existed for a minimum of 6 months during the applicable vacation year. Any fraction of vacation days that result in at least ½ day is considered as full vacation days.


The employee is entitled to 1/12th of the annual leave for each full month of the existence of the employment relationship – 

      • for times in a calendar year for which the employee does not acquire full vacation entitlement in that calendar year due to non-compliance with the waiting period
      • if the employee resigns from the employment relationship before the waiting period has been completed;
      • if the employee leaves the employment relationship after the waiting period has been completed in the first half of a calendar year.


    Fractions of vacation days that add up to at least half a day are to be rounded up to full vacation days. In the case where an employee leaves the employment after the waiting period has been completed in the first half of a calendar year, the employee has already received leave in excess of the amount to which the employee is entitled, the holiday pay paid for this cannot be reclaimed.


    Vacation must be granted and taken in the current calendar year. A transfer of vacation to the next calendar year is only permitted if there are urgent operational or personal reasons justifying this. If an employee didn’t use their annual leave due to operational or personal reasons, they can carry them to the next calendar year and the leave shall be taken within the first 3 months of the succeeding calendar year i.e by 31st March of the following year. However, at the request of the employee, partial leave i.e. 1/12th of the annual leave must be carried over to the next calendar year.


    The vacation is to be granted consecutively unless there are urgent operational or personal reasons for the employee to split the vacation. If the vacation cannot be granted consecutively for operational or personal reasons and the employee is entitled to a vacation of more than 12 working days, one of the vacation parts must comprise at least 12 consecutive working days.


    If employers want to be certain that untaken annual leave expires at the end of the leave year or carry-over period they must notify their employee accordingly and correspondingly document that this notification has been given, for example by adding the information provided into the personnel file of the corresponding employee. If employees are granted addition contractual annual leave beyond minimum statutory annual leave, the lapse of such leave should be regulated appropriately, including in their employment contract.


    Termination – If the annual leave can no longer be granted in whole or in part due to the termination of the employment relationship, employees must be compensated for the remaining vacation period.


    An employee is not entitled to vacation if their previous employer had granted such a vacation period during the same calendar year. This must be certified by the previous employer.


    For an employee who falls sick during their annual leave, and is unable to perform work as certified by a doctor, then those days are not counted under vacation days.


    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.

    Special Leave

    Sick Leave

    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 6 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. 


    Medical Certificate

    Employees have the duty of notifying (Anzeigepflicht) their employer without undue delay of any incapacity for work and its anticipated duration in the future. If the incapacity to work lasts for more than 3 working days. Employees are only obliged to have their incapacity for work medically determined on the third day. Employees are not required to submit the yellow certificate (sick note) to their employer themselves.


    A yellow certificate is a sick note that a doctor issues to an employee indicating that they are incapable of performing work.

    In accordance with Elektronische Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung (“eAU”), it is the employer’s responsibility to retrieve electronic medical certifications from health insurers directly. Employees will no longer be obliged to present the “yellow certificate” to their employer. However, this only applies to employees with statutory insurance. Employees are still obliged to immediately inform the employer of their incapacity to work. Employers have access to sick leave notices electronically from health insurance providers.


    Employees with private health insurance shall remain unaffected. Privately insured employees shall be required to submit a medical certificate (in paper form) documenting their incapacity to work by the 4th day at the latest, unless the employer needs it earlier, either contractually or by instruction on a case-to-case basis (Vorlagepflicht).  Continued Remuneration Act, 1974, § 5.


    Maternity Leave

    Duration of Maternity LeaveFemale employees are entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave. Maternity leave can start up to 6 weeks before the expected date of birth and must start no later than the day after the birth. Mothers who give birth to more than one child are entitled to two additional weeks of maternity leave for each additional child. A woman who has given birth must not be employed for 8 weeks after childbirth. This is extended to 12 weeks for premature or multiple births, or if the child is born with a disability. Maternity leave is calculated in calendar days. 


    Pay – A pregnant employee is entitled to full pay. The remuneration of the pregnant employee is calculated on the average remuneration of the last 13 weeks or of the 3 months before the beginning of the month of pregnancy. Parents of premature babies may receive up to 4 more months of parental allowance. 


    Notice Requirement A pregnant woman should inform their employer of the pregnancy and the expected day of delivery as soon as the employee is pregnant. A woman who is breastfeeding should inform their employer as early as possible that she is breastfeeding. An employer can request a pregnant woman to present a medical certificate or the certificate of a midwife or maternity nurse as proof of their pregnancy. The pregnancy certificate should contain the expected day of delivery. 


    Restriction – 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 2 weeks. Expecting and nursing mothers under 18 are not permitted to work more than 8 hours daily or 80 hours in 2 weeks. 


    Breastfeeding breakEmployed mothers who are breastfeeding are granted ‘nursing breaks,’ as long as these breaks do not interrupt 8 consecutive hours of work for 2 hours or more. Nursing breaks consist of two 30-minute breaks per day or one 1-hour break per day. If a working mother’s shift extends beyond 8 hours, she is entitled to either two 45-minute breaks or, in the absence of a nearby nursing area, a single 90-minute break. These breaks should not be subtracted from a nursing mother’s pay or counted as hours worked. Additionally, they are distinct from other scheduled breaks, such as lunch breaks, and cannot be used as substitutes for them. Maternity Protection Act, 2000, §§ 3, 6, 9-10, Act on the Payment of Child-Raising Benefit and Child-Raising Leave, 2015, § 2.

    Parental Leave

    Employees are entitled to parental leave if they have a child living in their household, a child for whom they meet the eligibility requirement or a child whom they have taken into full-time care in accordance with and looked after and raised themselves. 


    Employees are also entitled to parental leave if they live in the same household as their grandchild and care for and raise this child themselves, and one of the child’s parents is a minor or one of the child’s parents is in education that began before the age of 18 and generally takes up the parent’s full labor force. The entitlement is only available when neither of the child’s parents takes parental leave.

    Duration of the leave: An employee is entitled to parental leave until a child reaches the age of 3. An additional 24 months can be taken between the child’s third birthday and eighth year. For adopted or full-time care children, parents can take up to three years of leave from the admission date, but not beyond the child’s eighth birthday. 


    Parental leave can be taken, even proportionately, by each parent alone or by both parents together. The employee may not work more than 32 hours per week on average per month during parental leave.


    Flexibility in Working Hours: The employee can request a reduction in working hours and their distribution. The application can be combined with the written notification in a manner specified as per their agreement.


    Annual leave coincides with Parental leave: Employers can reduce annual leave entitlement for each month of parental leave. Unused leave must be granted after parental leave or compensated if the employment ends.


    Pay  Employers are not obligated to pay salaries during parental leave. However, employees may receive state-provided parental benefits, amounting to 67% of their average income in the 12 months before the child’s birth. Law on Parental Allowance and Parental Leave, § 15.


    Family Care Leave

    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. 


    Each statutory insured parent can claim a maximum of 30 working days of child sickness benefit per child per year, provided the child is statutory insured. If there are several children, there is a maximum entitlement to a total of 65 days. Double the number of days applies to single parents. Care Time Act, 2008, §§ 3.


    Nursing Care Leave

    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.


    Family caregiver leave: Up to 24 months of partial unpaid leave (i.e., complete leave is unavailable). Available only to companies with 25 employees or more, excluding trainees. The employer must be informed at least eight weeks in advance, specifying how long they will be going on leave and to what extent (i.e, they need to work a minimum of 15 hours a week on average). Employees will need to include their preferred working hours as well as “draw up a written agreement” with the employer specifying “the distribution and reduction” of these working hours.


    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.

    Organ Donation Leave

    An employee is entitled to 6 weeks of paid leave for organ or tissue donation. The wages paid to the employee by the employer shall be reimbursed to the employer by the statutory health insurance company of the recipient of organs, tissues, or blood for the separation of blood stem cells or other blood components.

    The employer shall be reimbursed by the statutory health insurance company of the recipient of organs, tissues, or blood for the separation of blood stem cells or other blood components the wages paid to the employee, as well as the contributions to social security and company pension schemes to be borne by the employer. and survivor’s pension to be reimbursed upon application. If the recipient of organs, tissues, or blood for the separation of blood stem cells or other blood components is subject to federal medical care or military medical care, the responsible institutions shall reimburse the costs pursuant upon application. Continued Remuneration Act, 1974, § 3a.

    Education Leave

    Employees are entitled to five days of educational leave per year. The entitlement of a current year can be combined with that of a following year if approved by your employer, meaning you can take 10 days of educational leave in one year. This is based on a five-day work week, the entitlement for anyone working more or fewer than five days a week is adjusted accordingly.

    Bereavement Leave

    An employee is entitled to 2 days of leave if an immediate family member dies.

    Disclaimer: The material provided above is for informational purposes only and is subject to change. We endeavor to keep all material up-to-date and correct but make no representations about the information's completeness, accuracy, or reliability. Laws vary by jurisdiction and are subject to change and interpretation based on individual factors that may differ between organizations. The material is not meant to constitute legal advice and we suggest you seek the advice of legal counsel in connection with any of the information presented.