My employer wants me to reduce my working hours. Do I have to accept that?
Employers can respond to the corona crisis with so-called “short-time work” (Kurzarbeit). Short-time work means that you work fewer hours than initially agreed upon in the employment contract. The fact that you work less hours has an impact on your salary. You can read what the so-called “short-time allowance” (Kurzarbeitergeld) is in the next question. With the so-called "short-time work zero" (Kurzarbeit null) you temporarily do not work at all.
Companies cannot set short-time work on their own! If a contractual agreement (e.g. your employment contract (Arbeitsvertrag), a collective agreement (Tarifvertrag) or a company agreement (Betriebsvereinbarung)) provides a certain regulation regarding short-time work, the employer is allowed to mandate short-time work. If there is no contractual agreement on short-time work, the works council (Betriebsrat) must agree to short-time work. You can find out what a works council is and about it’s responsibilities here and here. In companies without a works council and without contractual regulations regarding short-time work, the employer has to receive a written declaration of consent (Einverständniserklärung) from each employee affected by short time work. If you work in short-time work, you are entitled to short-time allowance. Get advice from a Fair Integration advice center if you are unsure whether you should sign a declaration of consent! Don't sign anything you don't understand.
What is short-time allowance (Kurzarbeitergeld)?
Because of the coronavirus, there are new rules for short-time work. Under certain conditions, your employer can apply for short-time allowance (Kurzarbeitergeld) at the responsible employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit). You can read more about the conditions that your employer needs to fulfill in order to receive short-time allowance here. If the conditions are fulfilled, the employment agency approves the short-time allowance and pays it to your employer. That is why you will receive both, your wages and the short-time allowance from your employer and not from the employment agency.
The fact that you work fewer hours has an impact on your salary. Short-time allowance is the money you get for your unpaid wages. That is 60% (if you have a child living with you 67%) of the net wage lost because of short-time work. If you work 50% or less, your short-time allowance is:
- beginning with the 4th month in short-time work 70% (if you have a child living with you 77%) of the net wage lost because of short-time work.
- beginning with the the 7th month in short-time work 80% (if you have a child living with you 87%) of the net wage lost because of short-time work.
This regulation applies until the end of the year. The employer can increase the short-time allowance. A table, to help you calculate your short-time allowance can be found on the website of the Federal Employment Agency.
Important: Even people who work in temporary agency work (Leiharbeit) can get short-time allowance! Under certain circumstances, trainees are also entitled to short-time allowance. There is no short-time allowance for employees who have a mini-job.
If the short-time allowance is not sufficient to finance your living, you can apply for supplementary social assistance (aufstockende Leistungen) at the job center or the social welfare office (Sozialamt). This also applies to: persons with permission to reside (Aufenthaltsgestattung) or special leave to remain (Duldung) and persons with a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel) for employment or training.
Attention: Receiving supplemental social assistance from the job center or the social welfare office may impact your residency status! Receiving short-time work allowance will not affect your residency. If you have any questions, be sure to contact a Fair Integration advice center!
Will I still get my wages if my company closes?
There are three options:
1. A government authority quarantines your company because, for example, many employees have contracted the coronavirus. The following applies: The employer generally bears the operational risk, even if operational problems that they did not cause arise. If the closure has been ordered externally by an authority, the employer must continue to pay wages.
2. Your employer closes the company because he no longer has a job for you. If he meets the requirements, he can ask for short-time work allowance (Kurzarbeitegeld) from the employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit) for his employees. You can find out what "short-time work" means in the question: "What is short-time allowance".
3. Your employer closes the business voluntarily or as a precaution. In this case, you can stay at home and the employer must continue to pay your wages.
Can my employer fire me because there is currently no work for me?
If you have been working in a company with 10 or more employees for more than 6 months, the statutory protection against dismissal (Kündigungsschutz) applies. This means that there must be certain reasons for a termination (Kündigung). The current corona crisis is not automatically a reason for operation related redundancies (betriebsbedingte Kündigung). If your employer terminates your contract with this reason, you should have your termination legally checked. To do this, you must file a so-called unfair dismissal complaint (Kündigungsschutzklage) with the competent labour court (Arbeitsgericht).
Important: A termination might have consequences for your residency. If you have any questions, be sure to seek advice!
Attention: If your employer wants you to sign a termination notice, you might actually sign your own notice of termination or a termination agreement (Aufhebungsvertrag). This can have disadvantages for you! Seek advice from a Fair Integration counselling office before you sign anything! Read the information on our flyer "Termination - what I need to know!".
Does my employer have the right to send me home?
The employer can send you home if he has the impression that you are sick or due to an infection, that presents a risk for your colleagues. The employer can also send you home as a precautionary measure. In both cases, your employer must continue to pay your wages. If you are healthy and able to work, the employer needs a good reason or your consent to send you home. If he has no good reason, you have the right to continue receiving your full wages.
If the employer does not have enough work for you he is not allowed to single handedly decide that you have to reduce your accumulated overtime hours, take vacation, or reduce the credit on your working time account. You can read what a working time account is here.
Am I entitled to do home office, i.e. to work from home in the current situation?
You are not entitled to work from home, that is, to do "home office". If you want to work from home, you must discuss this with your employer. Many employers are currently making home office regulations. If you get such an offer from your employer, you should take advantage of it. Home office regulations can result from company agreements or a collective agreement. If there is a works council in your company, ask your works council which regulations apply to you. You can find out what a works council is and about its responsibilities here and here.
In some companies, working from home is difficult. If there is no home office regulation in your company, you have to ask your employer whether you can work from home or not.
My vocational school is closed because of the coronavirus. What should I do?
If your vocational school is closed, you must go to the company, in which the practical training takes place. Unless the company is closed due to quarantine. For exams, you must always ask the responsible office whether the exam is taking place. You can also find more information under this link.
Attention: If you have a “special leave to remain for the purpose of training” (Ausbildungsduldung) and get fired from your vocational training, get advice quickly!
Because of the coronavirus, I have to take care of my child at home. Do I continue to receive money from my employer?
Parents have to do everything in their power to ensure that their children are looked after. Under certain circumstances, you can receive part of your net wage (67%; but no more than € 2016 net) for a period of up to 10 weeks (for single parents up to 20 weeks), if you have no other way of looking after your children (e.g. through another parent or caretaker). You will continue to receive the money from your employer. However, before you can claim this payment, you must first use up your vacation from the previous year, the vacation you have already planned and reduce overtime hours.
This is a new regulation that the federal government has adopted because of the corona crisis. This rule applies to parents who have a child under the age of 12. This rule does not apply to vacation periods (e.g. periods in which the kindergarten / school would have been closed anyway). If you have any questions, contact a Fair Integration advice center!
Attention: If you work in a so-called "systemically relevant profession" (e.g. as a doctor, police officer, elderly or nursing staff etc.), your child may be entitled to emergency care (Notbetreuung). In this case, you can take your child to the school / day care center that they normally attend. In order to send your child to emergency care in some federal states it is sufficient if one parent works in a systemically relevant profession.
If you make less due to the Corona crisis, for example because you receive short-time work allowance and your wages are not sufficient to support your family, you can get a child supplement (Kinderzuschlag) of up to € 185 a month under certain circumstances. As of April 2020, families who apply for the child supplement must provide proof of the income of the month before the application. This regulation is to apply until September 30th, 2020. You must submit the application for the so-called "emergency child supplement" (Notfall-Kinderzuschlag) to your “Familienkasse”. You can apply online. You can find more information on the website of the Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit).
Can my employer make me work overtime if my colleagues are sick and unable to work?
Overtime must always be agreed upon beforehand: in the employment contract (Arbeitsvertrag), in a company agreement (Betriebsvereinbarung) or in a collective agreement (Tarifvertrag). If there is no agreement, the employer may not order overtime without your consent. In exceptional situations, the employer may require you to work overtime. This applies, for example, if the employer can use overtime to ward off damages that threaten the company and that cannot be avoided otherwise.
Does the employer have the right to send me on vacation?
When determining vacation, the employer must always take your wishes into consideration. In principle, he cannot force you to take vacation. If you are on short-time work (Kurzarbeit), other regulations may apply. If you have any questions, please contact a Fair Integration advice center!
Can I postpone my requested vacation?
If you have submitted a leave request (Urlaubsantrag) and the employer has approved it, it is a two-way agreement to which both sides are bound. You can therefore only postpone your vacation with the consent of your employer. Talk to your employer whether this is possible under the current circumstances.
What happens if the bus, the S-Bahn, the U-Bahn or the train stop running and I cannot get to work?
It is the responsibility of the employee to arrive at work on time. This means that as an employee, you have to make sure that you get to your workplace. Your employer does not have to pay you for the days that you do not come to work because of these circumstances.
If you are unable to reach your work place due to failure of public transportation, it might make sense to talk to your employer. Perhaps a suitable solution can be found (e.g. home office). You can also read the answer to the question: "Am I entitled to do home office, i.e. to work from home in the current situation?".
I suspect that I have been infected with the coronavirus. Do I have to be in quarantine?
If you have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have contracted the infection (e.g. because you have been in contact with someone who is infected with the coronavirus), you should inform your employer immediately. Then you need to clarify whether a medical examination is necessary.
In addition, the competent authority can decide that you have to be quarantined, even if you are not ill yourself. For example, this could be the case if you have been in a heavily affected area in Germany or in an international risk area within the past 14 days, or because you have had contact with a person who has contracted the coronavirus. Please note the current information from the doctors and health authorities in your area. This explains what you should do if you suspect you have been infected. The relevant authority, such as the health authority (Gesundheitsamt), decides whether you need to be quarantined.
Will I still get money from my employer if I am in quarantine?
Quarantine means that you have to stay home for a certain period. The relevant authority, like the health authority (Gesundheitsamt), decides if this is the case for you or not. You will continue to receive your wage while you are in quarantine. The Protection Against Infection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz) regulates who is responsible for the loss of your salary.
Warning: If someone in your company is infected with the coronavirus, colleagues who have been in contact with the person may be put under quarantine. In this specific case, clarify this with your employer and the local health authority!
As long as you are healthy and circumstances allow you to, you may have to work from home (e.g. in home-office) while you are in quarantine. Discuss this with your employer.
What happens with my wage if I have contracted the coronavirus?
If you have contracted the coronavirus, you will be unable to work and will receive a certificate of incapacity for work (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung) from your doctor. You must send this to your employer and your health insurance company (Krankenkasse). The normal rules in the event of incapacity to work apply here. If you are not working, you will continue to be paid by your employer for 6 weeks in accordance with the Continuation of Remuneration Act (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz). If you are sick for longer than 6 weeks you will receive sick leave benefits (Krankengeld) from your health insurance company. Those who are not insured through their work, e.g. mini-jobbers and people who are pursuing student employment do not receive sick leave benefits.
Warning: Usually you do not have to tell your employer why you are unable to work. However, since the coronavirus is highly contagious, it is highly advisable to inform the employer and colleagues about your infection with the coronavirus. This is the only way your employer can react accordingly and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Your employer can write down a reporting obligation in a company agreement (Betriebsvereinbarung).
Do I have to go to the doctor to report sick (Krankmeldung)?
In the case of mild diseases, for example a slight cough or sore throat, you can call the doctor's office until 31/3/2021. After a phone call with your doctor, you can receive a certificate of incapacity for work (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung or AUB) for 7 days by post and this can be extended for a maximum of another 7 days.
For the time being, this rule is valid until the end of the year. Attention: This special rule already existed at the beginning of the year, was then suspended and now reintroduced due to an increased number of cases of COVID-19 and colds!
The CovApp also helps you to better assess the need for a doctor's visit or corona virus tests.
I am afraid of being infected with the coronavirus. Can I stay at home?
The fear of being infected on the way to work or at work is no reason to not go to work. If you decide to stay at home on your own without consulting your employer and without a doctor's certificate of incapacity for work (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung), your employer can give you a written warning (Abmahnung) or terminate your contract (Kündigung).
Do I have to travel to a corona risk area if my employer sends me there on a business trip?
Your employment contract states whether business trips in Germany and abroad are compulsory for you. If you do not go on a business trip despite your obligation, this can be a reason for a written warning (Abmahnung) or termination (Kündigung).
Important: Nevertheless, your employer cannot send you on business trips anywhere without restrictions. You have the right to refuse a business trip under certain circumstances. The employer has a duty of care (Fürsorgepflicht). This means that, among other things, he has to protect the health of his employees. If there is an official travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) for a specific country or area, the employer must take this into consideration. Should your employer nevertheless send you on a business trip to a risk area, you should always speak to your supervisor and / or the works council. Let the Fair Integration advice center help you!
You can find the current travel warnings from the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) under the following link.
What must my employer do to protect me from the coronavirus?
The employer must inform you of the risk of infection at work. He must inform you of the hygiene measures to be followed and take measures for your protection. Employees must be able to do their work safely. The risk of infection must be as low as possible. This can also include that the employer must provide you with facemasks and disinfectants in washrooms and at the entrances to the company.
Do I have to follow the protective measures ordered?
Your employer has a so-called “instruction right” (Direktionsrecht). This means that he can require you to implement the necessary hygienic measures against the spread of the coronavirus. For example, the employer can tell you to wear a facemask and to wash or disinfect your hands regularly.
How is a contract of employment formed?
You enter into a contract of employment with an employer. As part of this, you and the employer must at least agree on what work you will do and that you will receive remuneration/money for this work.
You and the employer are able to enter into a contract of employment in writing (both of you sign the contract of employment), verbally (both of you agree to the commencement of work in a personal conversation or on the telephone) or electronically (both of you agree to the commencement of work via text, WhatsApp or email). The employer must have provided you with a written record of this contract after one month at the latest. In question 5) you will find out what to do if you have not received a contract of employment from the employer.
What is a probationary period and what should I bear in mind?
You and your employer can get to know one another during the probationary period and make sure it is a good fit. A probationary period is only valid if it is agreed upon. During the probationary period, you or the employer may terminate the contract of employment—without stating reasons—with notice period of 2 weeks.
Please note: The notice period may be shorter in some collective agreements. A probationary period is not an internship and must, as agreed in the contract, be paid. Legislation governs the permitted length of a probationary period. The Fair Integration advice centres are happy to advise you on this.
Does a contract of employment have to be signed immediately?
No. Do not allow yourself to be pressurized! You can take your time to read through the contract and ask questions if there is something you have not understood. You can also ask for time to think about it and then take the draft contract with you and seek information from an advice centre. If the employer forces you to sign the contract immediately, contact an advice centre as soon as possible.
I do not understand some of the points in my contract of employment, what can I do?
Advice and information on employment law issues relating to your contract of employment is available free of charge from advice centres such as the Fair Integration advice centres.
What can I do if I have not received a contract of employment from the employer?
If you have already been in your employment relationship for more than one month, you are entitled to a written record of the contract from your employer. They must ensure that the key contractual conditions are forwarded to you in written form.
The information below must be included in the record:
- Name and address of both contracting parties
- Date of commencement of the employment relationship
- Location of employment
- Description of the employee’s work
- Amount and composition of the employee’s wages (wages, allowances, supplements, bonuses, etc.)
- Working hours
- Number of holiday days
- Notice periods
- Reference to which collective agreements and company agreements apply to the employment relationship
Please note: A contract of employment is very important if there is a dispute over working conditions. Without a contract it is very hard to prove which agreements apply and whether these have been breached. This is why you should always request a written contract of employment! If you are refused this, then insist on the record of your working conditions referred to above!
Which working conditions apply if there is no written contract?
If the employer does not forward you a written contract of employment, then the general statutory regulations apply. Provisions from a collective agreement may also apply if these are binding on all employment relationships in your industry or in your company.
The general statutory requirements include legal minimum standards which apply to all contracts of employment and to which all companies must adhere (e.g. holiday entitlement of at least four weeks per year and minimum wage which is currently €9.50 per hour).
The regulations which apply to your personal employment relationship can be clarified by checking with a Fair Integration advice centre (e.g. based on wage slips and other information relating to the employment relationship).
IMPORTANT: If it comes to a dispute, then verbal agreements cannot generally be proven.
For this reason it is always better if you have a written contract of employment. The Fair Integration advice centre is happy to provide you with information about your rights and options.
What is a collective agreement and when does this apply?
A collective agreement is an agreement on working conditions such as wages and holidays between a company and a union (“company-specific collective agreement”) or between the employer's association for a specific industry and the union (“industry-wide collective agreement”).
General or umbrella collective agreements are agreements which regulate basic working conditions for all employees in an industry. Collective salary/wage agreements regulate the payments in a specific company or sector.
A collective agreement applies to your employment relationship if you are a member of the union, if your employer is a member of the employer's association and the union and the employer’s association have negotiated a collective agreement. A collective agreement also applies if there is a reference to this in your contract of employment or your employer belongs to an industry in which generally binding collective agreements apply (e.g. building cleaning, security services and others). Ask the Fair Integration advice centre whether a collective agreement applies to you.
Can the contract of employment deviate from the law or from a collective agreement?
The statutory minimum standards (e.g. holiday entitlement of at least 20 working days per year, minimum wage at currently €9,50 per hour) always apply. If there is a valid collective agreement, the arrangements under the collective agreement also apply.
However, deviations from both are possible:
Where contracts of employment have better working conditions, for example if more days of holiday are agreed than in law or in the collective agreement, then the improved regulation of the contract of employment applies.
In rare cases, a law or collective agreement may permit a more inferior regulation than the statutory minimum standards for the employee. Information about this is available from the Fair Integration advice centre.
How does an employment relationship end?
Your employment relationship can end by means of termination by you or by means of termination or dismissal by your employer. Specific notice periods must be observed in the case of termination. Termination must also always be in writing. Please note: you must respond quickly even if your contract of employment is terminated verbally!
Your employment relationship may also be terminated by means of a termination agreement (a joint written agreement between you and your employer). If you have a fixed-term contract of employment then your employment relationship ends as of the final date of the fixed term.
IMPORTANT! If you sign a termination agreement, you lose protection against dismissal and run the risk of reductions to your unemployment benefit. Take care if your employer presents you with a notice of termination for signing. It may be a termination agreement which will have disadvantages for you. A notice of termination does not have to be signed by the recipient in order to be valid.
What is important to bear in mind with a fixed-term contract of employment?
A fixed term, or time limitation, means that your contract of employment is valid for a specified period of time, for example one year. A time limitation must always be agreed in writing between you and the employer. There are three types of time limitation. Time limitation with no material reason is possible for up to a maximum of two years. Time limitation with material reason (material reasons include standing in for individuals on parental leave or project work) is also possible for longer than two years. In the case of time limitation dependant on task completion, the employment relationship ends when the task has been completed. The specific task must be included in the contract of employment.
IMPORTANT! Legal action may be taken against a fixed term contract three weeks after its termination. You must have registered with the employment agency as seeking employment no later than three months before the end of the contract. If you do not become aware that your work is coming to an end until later, you must inform the employment office within three days of receiving this information. If you do not comply with these deadlines, you run the risk of reductions to unemployment benefit.
What should I bear in mind if I receive a notice of termination?
If you want to keep your job, you have to react quickly because there is only a three-week period in which legal action for protection against dismissal can be taken.
IMPORTANT! Contact an advice centre, a union or a specialist solicitor as quickly as possible. They will provide you with information about what action you can take.
IMPORTANT! You must have registered with the employment agency as seeking employment no later than three days after you received the notice of termination. This can be done in person, by telephone or online. If you register later, you run the risk of reductions to unemployment benefit.
You must notify the employment agency of your unemployed status in person and no later than on your first day without employment. Your unemployment benefit will only be paid from the day on which you register your unemployed status.
To which points must particular attention be paid in the contract of employment?
If your contract of employment contains a limitation period and the employer fails to pay wages or pays insufficient wages, you are only able to subsequently claim wages within the limitation period.
Limitation periods may also exist on the basis of a collective agreement. Limitation periods within a contract of employment however do not apply to the statutory minimum wage.
IMPORTANT! Limitation periods may be very short (e.g. three months). If you have not received wages or have received insufficient wages, find out what you can do as quickly as possible, for instance from the Fair Integration advice centre.
So-called contractual penalties may be agreed in your contract of employment. This may mean, for example, that you have to pay a fine if you do not comply with a notice period. In most cases the employer is doing this to prevent to you intentionally or negligently being in breach of obligations agreed in the contract of employment.
However, not all contractual penalties which are in the contract of employment are necessarily valid.
Contractual penalties must not be in breach of statutory minimum standards in employment law and they must be set out clearly and unambiguously in the contract of employment. The level of the contractual penalty must be reasonable and must usually be a maximum of one month’s pay.
IMPORTANT! If you receive less pay due to a contractual penalty, you can contact a Fair Integration advice centre.
What is a termination?
A termination is a written declaration that terminates an existing contractual relationship. For example, you can terminate an employment relationship by handing in your notice of termination. Both the employer and the employee can give notice of termination. Termination by the employer is also known as dismissal. One party always gives notice of termination to the other, unlike with the a termination agreement.
What is an ordinary termination? What is an extraordinary termination?
There are two different types of termination. The ordinary/timely termination and the extraordinary termination/termination without notice: An ordinary termination is also called timely termination, because certain time limits apply.
These are specified in the employment contract or collective agreement. During the probationary period, the time limit is usually only two weeks. After the probationary period, the time limit is at least four weeks. There can always be exceptions.
The extraordinary termination is also called termination without notice. There is no set time limit here. However, extraordinary termination requires an important reason. Examples of important reasons include workplace violence and theft. The employment contract is then terminated from one day to the next, i.e. immediately.
What form must a termination take for it to be effective?
There are three formal conditions that must be met if an employer wishes to give notice of termination to an employee. Of course, they also apply in the opposite case, if an employee wishes to terminate an employment contract:
(1) Notice of termination must always be given in writing: If a termination is issued only orally or sent by text message (SMS/WhatsApp) or email, it is invalid. This means that it is only valid if it is in the form of a signed letter.
(2) Furthermore, the termination is only valid once it has reached the addressee. That means it must have arrived in the letterbox, or be handed over personally. It is not enough to be informed orally about the termination. The party sending the termination must always be able to prove later that the termination notice has actually reached the addressee.
Attention: It is very important that the employer always has your current registered address. You can only react in good time if you receive post from your employer immediately.
(3) If the company has a works council, it must be consulted beforehand on the termination. For this reason, make sure you talk to the works council. If it knows nothing about it, then the termination is not effective and you can defend yourself against it.
This only applies to dismissal by the employer.
What notice periods must be observed?
The law prescribes a notice period of four weeks to the 15th or to the end of a calendar month. Unless your employment contract or a collective agreement stipulates otherwise, this also applies to you. The period begins with the day after receipt of the notice of termination. The full four weeks must then elapse between the first day after receipt of the termination and the end of the employment. The day on which the notice of termination was received is not counted.
Attention: If you work longer at a company, the employer's statutory notice period is extended. Check your employment contract or the collective agreement in force. If you are unsure which notice periods apply to you, contact a Fair Integration advice centre.
There are exceptional cases where the time limits are shorter. For example during the probationary period.
Hier habe ich mich nur gefragt, ob wir das lieber unübersetzt also den Begriff als Eigenname auf Deutsch verwenden sollten, i.e. Faire Integation statt Fair Integration
In den anderen FAQs ist entweder die Rede von „Fair Integration advice centre“ oder nur „advice centre“ – das ist sehr durchmischt. Wenn wir das einheitlich wollen, dann sollte das bei Kündigung genauso übernommen werden (oder aber es wird in den anderen FAQs entsprechend angepasst. Das macht mehr Arbeit, aber ich habe jetzt aufgelistet bei welchen Themen unter welchen Fragen welche Formulierung genutzt wurde J
What is an unfair dismissal complaint?
The only way to defend yourself against a dismissal is to file a so-called unfair dismissal complaint with the competent labour court.
Attention: Maybe you are covered by the Dismissal Protection Act (Kündigungsschutzgesetz)! If you have been working in the same company for at least six months and the company has at least ten other employees, the employer must have a specific reason for the dismissal. This reason may be either for operational reasons, or dismissal on grounds of personal capability or on grounds of conduct. You can have the court review the reason with an unfair dismissal complaint.
Even if the Dismissal Protection Act does not apply to you, you can still take legal action against the dismissal in certain cases. For example, if the employer does not comply with the time limit.
An unfair dismissal complaint must be filed within three weeks of receipt of the notice of termination. You can go on your own to the legal application office of the responsible labour court and lodge an unfair dismissal complaint. Or you could contact a lawyer.
Important: If more than three weeks elapse, there is nothing more you can do against a termination. If you have doubts as to whether you want or should defend yourself against a termination, it is best to get advice from an advice centre or a lawyer as soon as possible.
Do I have to sign a notice of termination?
A notice of termination is signed only by the party giving the notice of termination. You can sign an acknowledgement of receipt. This has to be a separate letter in which you sign that you received the termination on a certain day.
Attention: If your employer wants you to sign a termination, then perhaps this is a termination in your name or a termination agreement! If you sign these documents, it is very difficult to fight the termination afterwards. The problems that a termination agreement can entail can be found here.
As a rule, you do not have to sign anything immediately. You can always ask to read the text in peace at home. Then get advice from your trade union or a Fair Integration advice centre!
What can I do against a dismissal?
If you receive a notice of termination, you must react quickly. Important: You only have 3 weeks to file a complaint against the termination!
- If there is a works council at your company, the first thing you should ask is whether it has been informed of the termination. If this is not the case, the termination is ineffective. However, you only have three weeks to defend yourself against the termination in court.
- If you are a trade union member, contact the local office immediately. They will check your termination. The union will represent you before the labour court if necessary.
- If you are not a trade union member and still want to defend yourself against the termination, you must file an unfair dismissal complaint with the competent labour court. You can be represented by a specialist lawyer for labour law.
- Immediately register as a “jobseeker” at the employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit). You must contact them within 3 days of receiving your termination notice. Otherwise you risk losing your claims.
If you are unsure what to do, contact your local Fair Integration advice centre.
What does “special protection against dismissal” mean?
When someone has special protection against dismissal, they cannot be properly dismissed. This special protection is granted only to certain categories of persons. This applies, for example, to
- Members of works and staff councils
- Trainees after the end of the probationary period
- Employees on parental or care leave
- Pregnant women and women on maternity leave
What documents do I need to receive from my employer after my termination?
When the employment relationship ends, you are entitled to your employment documents. This includes deregistration from social insurance, the printout of the electronic income tax certificate and a qualified job reference. Also make sure that you receive your final pay slip and check it! If you still have outstanding annual leave entitlements, they must be paid out to you.
What is a termination agreement?
The termination agreement may also terminate an employment relationship. In a termination, one side always gives notice of termination to the other side and certain time limits must be observed. This is different with the termination agreement. Both sides agree on the termination of the employment relationship and can also set the date as desired. Note: A termination agreement may also include other provisions which may, for example, affect your wage entitlements after termination of the employment relationship.
Unlike notice of termination, the termination agreement must be signed by both the employer and the employee. You are not obliged to sign a termination agreement. Take time to think about it and get advice in case of doubt. Check carefully whether you want to sign the agreement. If you sign, you automatically agree to all the provisions therein with your own signature. This makes it much harder to fight against a termination agreement at a later stage than a notice of termination.
Be careful! If you sign a termination agreement, the employment agency will probably not pay you unemployment benefit for up to three months. The employment agency then considers you to be responsible for the termination of your employment.
FAQ Termination and termination agreement: Sources
German Trade Union Federation (DGB) (as of 12/2018): Flyer "Kündigung – Was jetzt?"
DGB Rechtsschutz (as of 04/2107): Flyer zum Thema Kündigung.
ver.di - Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft (o.D.): Flyer „Kündigung. Was jetzt noch hilft.“
Section 622 BGB - Notice periods in the case of employment relationships
What is a job placement agency (Vermittlungsagentur)?
In order to find suitable, qualified employees in the face of a shortage of skilled workers, companies are increasingly turning to recruitment agencies. This service is offered by job placement agencies and is designed to match vacant positions with suitable candidates.
The job placement agencies bring applicants and employers together by referring potential employees from Germany and abroad.
Depending on the scope of the service, there are different types of job placement:
- basic placement (matching supply and demand, mediation/referral of job offers)
- placement on behalf of employers who need candidates with specific qualifications and expertise (headhunters),
- placement and supervision of the entire process from recruitment, employment and termination of employment, as well as other additional services.
What is the role of job placement agencies and what services do they offer?
The job placement agencies offer jobs or employment agreements in Germany on behalf of companies looking for employees. The primary service provided by job placement agencies is matching candidates with companies looking for them. Sometimes they also offer other ancillary services, e.g. support in finding accommodation, registering with authorities, arranging preparatory language courses in the home country or in Germany.
They can also help with official recognition of professional qualifications obtained abroad.
In the preparatory phase, the agencies organise health tests, preparation of visa applications, integration and language courses or testing of language skills (B1- B2 level).
They organise online interviews with potential employers and prepare candidates for the skill level tests or adaptation courses for official recognition of professional qualifications. Some agencies offer a variety of other support services, such as translations, travel and health insurance before entering Germany as well as pick-up service at the airport.
These services can be charged to the applicant or the client. Sometimes they demand payment from both parties for the same service.
Be careful! An additional fee is required for many services.
Do I have to pay a fee for finding a job?
The job placement agencies almost always charge a fee. You do not have to pay the fee until you have signed an employment agreement. The job placement agency must provide you with a job placement agreement that outlines how much you have to pay in fees and what the agency does for it. The law stipulates that the job placement agency may not demand more than €2,000 from you. This law only applies to the fee for the job placement itself. The additional services of the job placement agency are often subject to a separate fee.
Sometimes it looks like the job placement agencies offer all services for free, even a free language course but this can be deceptive. This is because the placement agencies prepay these benefits for you and collect the money from your employer later. Sometimes they are reimbursed by the companies, depending on the length of your employment with them, for example, through monthly instalments for the first three years of your employment. It becomes problematic if you do not stay with the company for the three years and the job placement agencies do not get their prepaid funds back. In that case, they may claim this money from you.
How can I tell if the recruitment agency is reputable?
Unfortunately, there is no official agency that verifies job placement agencies. Therefore, you must always read contracts very carefully.
A job placement agency should draft the contracts in such a way that it is always clear which services the agency is sure to provide and which services/payments you must provide. All actual services should be clearly defined. Often, the obligations of the job placement agencies are formulated in a very broad and non-binding manner. For example, the contracts do not specify that the job placement agency will only support you in finding a flat instead of actually providing you with a flat. In that case, they could simply refer you to housing advertisements.
The risks should also be presented and discussed in a clearly comprehensible way. What happens if you terminate your employment prematurely or fail the language test? The employment agreement should not only be in German, but also in your native language or at least in English.
Is there a connection between the employment agreement and the job placement agreement?
You sign the job placement agreement with the job placement agency and the employment agreement with the employer.
Correlations between the two only come into play if you do not comply with the job placement agreement and do not fulfil your obligations. For example, this may be the case if you do not take part in the language course or the lessons for the proficiency test.
Can the job placement agency impose a contractual penalty on me?
Generally, agreements can contain contractual penalty clauses. They enable the contracting party to demand money from you if you do not fulfil all the agreed obligations. Sometimes, however, these agreements are invalid or the penalty is set far too high. If that happens to you, you should definitely seek advice.
What risks should I anticipate when formulating rights and obligations in the job placement agreement?
Often the services are vaguely formulated. Therefore, it is not always certain that you will actually receive the benefits/services or that the lessons in language courses or the additional lessons needed for recognition of vocational qualifications will actually take place.
Most of the time, the job placement agreement states actions that you must take. For example, it may stipulate periodic participation in a language course including passing the final examination; translation of all documents necessary for recognition of the trained profession; timely VISA application to start work in the company. The duration of the agreement is often mandatory.
The risk here is that you will not be able to take the actions required of you and that the job placement agency will demand a penalty payment from you. The penalty must be clearly stated in the agreement.
Important: There are certain risks!
- For example, a long-term employment relationship may be agreed if the employer pays for further training for you and releases you from work for this time. Another possibility is that the job placement agency pays for the training for you and asks you to reimburse it later.
- If there are official charges, for example for a visa application or an accreditation notification, you will owe the fees, not the job placement agency. If the job placement agency promised to pay the fees for you and they do not, you will have to pay these fees yourself.
- Sometimes accommodation is included in the agreements. However, the rent for the accommodation may be deducted from your salary and you may have to pay a very high rent. If the agreement is terminated, you can also lose the accommodation very quickly.
- For example, a long-term employment relationship may be agreed if the employer pays for further training for you and releases you from work for this time. Another possibility is that the job placement agency pays for the training for you and asks you to reimburse it later.
Can the job placement agency retain my original work documents or my passport?
No, the job placement agencies are not allowed to do that. However, if this happens to you, the embassy of your country or the police can help you.
If my employment agreement was already concluded in my home country, can it be changed in Germany?
Your employment agreement cannot simply be changed. Your employer can only make unilateral changes with proper notification of alteration.
Of course, you can jointly sign a change agreement and, for example, redefine a higher wage. But it is only valid if both sides agree.
How is the collaboration with the employment agency?
The employment agency is itself a job placement agency. The International and Specialized Services division of the German Federal Employment Agency (ZAV, Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung der Bundesagentur für Arbeit) works closely with other organisations, even in the respective home countries, in an effort to fill positions in Germany with applicants from abroad. At information and selection events abroad, the ZAV presents job openings in German companies and recruits qualified applicants. The current focus is on mechanical, electrical and ICT engineers, technical and IT specialists, doctors and nurses as well as specialists for the hotel and gastronomy industry.
Germany has negotiated special recruitment agreements with some countries. The Federal Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit) is also involved in the implementation processes of these agreements. It also sets the standards for the private job placement agencies that place workers in Germany under these special arrangements.
What is agency work?
Agency work is a specific form of employment. What is different here is that the temporary employment agency with whom you enter into a contract and the company in which you work (are assigned to) are not the same. The temporary employment agency itself has therefore entered into contracts with a range of different companies (hiring companies or hirers) to whom the employee will be assigned. Another specific feature is that the temporary employment agency will only assign you to a hiring company for a specific period of time. The periods for which you work for a hirer may vary significantly. The assignment may just be for a few days, but it may also be for a few months. This means that, as an agency worker from a temporary employment agency, you may be assigned to different companies for different periods of time and therefore work in a range of different companies.
Is there a difference between agency work, temping and personnel leasing?
No. There is no difference between agency work, temping and personnel leasing. They are just different terms which mean the same thing.
Important: A temporary employment agency is not the same as a recruitment agency. A recruitment agency sets out to assign employees to permanent posts where they are employed on a permanent basis. By contrast, in the case of temporary work, employees are employed by an employer and are then simply assigned to different companies for limited periods of time.
How is temporary work regulated in law?
Regulations relating to temporary work can be found from a range of different sources. Statutory regulations are contained in the German temporary Employment Act (Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz (AÜG)). This regulates key issues relating to temporary employment including the conditions necessary for a temporary employment agency to receive authorisation to supply temporary workers.
Collective agreements within temporary employment regulate basic working conditions such as wages and days of leave. It is therefore important to know which collective agreement applies to the individual employment relationship. If you have any questions, please contact a Fair Integration advice centre.
Am I permanently employed as a temporary worker and who is my employer?
Yes, as a temporary worker you are normally permanently employed which means you have a contract of employment which is either for a fixed term or for an indefinite period. However, as a temporary worker you are not employed in the company to which you have been assigned/are working. Your employer is the temporary employment agency with whom you have signed a contract of employment.
What is the hiring company responsible for and what is the temporary employment agency responsible for?
The contract of employment is in place between you and the temporary employment agency. The temporary employment agency therefore assumes the usual obligations of an employer:
- Wage: You receive your salary from the temporary employment agency.
- Holiday: The amount of holiday you receive is regulated in the contract of employment or in the collective agreement. If you wish to request holiday, the request must always be made to the temporary employment agency.
- Illness: If you become ill, it is the temporary employment agency who is responsible for the continued payment of your wages. For this reason it is important to always call in sick to your temporary employment agency.
- Accident: If an accident at work occurs, you must report this to the temporary employment agency. If you are not able to work as a result of the accident, then it is the temporary employment agency which is responsible for the payment of your wages.
No contract is entered into between you and the hirer/hiring company. However, while you are working in a specific hiring company, you are obliged to follow the instructions of the company. This means that the hiring company gives you instructions such as how you must complete the work involved in the job and will specify the precise working times for each day.
What is a working time account and how does it function?
The working time account is very typical for temporary work. The contract of employment between you and the temporary employment agency will specify how many hours you must work during the week. However, in some hiring companies, more or fewer hours will be worked and occasionally there will be overtime to do. This is the reason for the working time account. If 35 working hours per week are agreed in a contract of employment and, for example, you work for 40 hours in the company, then you will be paid for 35 hours and 5 hours will be credited to the working time account. These hours are known as plus hours. There are also minus hours in the case where fewer hours are worked than agreed.
If you have accumulated plus hours, you can arrange time off in lieu. This must be agreed beforehand with the temporary employment agency. If the contract with the temporary employment agency ends, you must be paid for the plus hours accumulated on the working time account. The collective agreement provides more detailed information about the working time account. Contact an advice centre for information!
Important: The temporary employment agency cannot force you to reduce your plus hours because no hiring company has been found for you (see next point).
Please note: Information about hours in your working time account can often be found on your payslip (under AZK-Std. or Zeitkonto). In some cases the employer will provide you with a separate summary of the working time account each month.
What happens if the employer does not assign me to a hiring company?
If your period of assignment in a hiring company comes to an end and you are not assigned to another company by your employer this is referred to in Germany as assignment-free time (“einsatzfreie Zeit”). In this assignment-free time, accumulated hours in the working time account are only reduced if you have previously agreed this with the temporary employment agency. Assignment-fee time is therefore something other than leisure time. Assignment-free time can also not be debited as minus hours from your working time account without agreement.
Assignment-free time must be paid, this means you continue to receive your wages even though you are not currently working in a company. However, you must be contactable in the event that the temporary employment agency has found a new hiring company for you. As a temporary worker, you are entitled to leave. The employer is not permitted to instruct you to take this leave during the assignment-free time.
For how long can I be assigned to a hiring company?
In temporary work there is a so-called maximum assignment duration (Höchstüberlassungsdauer). This stipulates the maximum time you are permitted to be assigned to a hiring company. Temporary workers are not permitted to be assigned to the same company for more than 18 months. This is the case unless provision is made within a collective agreement that the temporary worker stays in a company for more than 18 months; in this case, it is then legally possible. Following this, the assignment in the company must end and you can then be assigned to another company as a temporary worker. However, following an intervening period of 3 months, you may be assigned again in the company in which you had previously worked for 18 months. The hirer, however, also has the option of employing you after 18 months on a permanent basis (or even earlier than this) in their company.
How much will I earn?
There is a minimum wage in temporary work below which the amount you earn must not fall. Since 1/4/2021 the minimum wage is €10.45 per hour. If you are hired to work in an industry in which a generally binding industry minimum wage applies, this must be paid.
It is important that you are correctly classified. In the collective agreements, specific activities are allocated to specific wage brackets. You must receive a higher wage for specific activities. It is important that you are classified in the correct wage bracket immediately. Changing aspects of the classification at a later point is much harder.
Important: It may happen that your employer classifies you in a lower wage bracket than is actually correct. Find out from your union or from a Fair Integration advice centre whether you have been classified in the correct wage bracket.
Is it ok that I am earning less than my colleagues in the same company?
As a rule, from the first day of your assignment in a company you should be earning the same wage as permanent employees in this company who do the same or similar work (equal pay principle). You should also be working under the same working conditions (overtime, breaks, rest time, night working, holidays, etc.) as your colleagues (equal treatment principle). However, this might be regulated differently in a collective agreement. It is therefore possible that you will earn less than your colleagues in the hiring company if a collective agreement applies to your employment relationship. A collective agreement applies to virtually all temporary workers and therefore they often earn less in the first 9 months for doing the same work as their permanently employed colleagues. If you work in the same hiring company for more than 9 months then by law you must receive the same wage as your colleagues. However, many temporary workers do not remain in the company for nine months and this regulation therefore never comes into effect for them. The point in time at which the equal pay regulation applies may be regulated differently by the collective agreements. Find out more about this from a Fair Integration advice centre.
Dismissal and termination as part of agency work: what do I need to know?
In the case of dismissal or termination, notice periods must be adhered to and that also applies to the temporary worker. Notice periods may arise from the German Civil Code, from collective agreements and from the contract of employment. In the probationary period—which in temporary work generally lasts for 6 months—notice periods are frequently very short. Contact an advice centre for information!
If your assignment in a hiring company ends and you are not assigned any new work, that does not mean you can be automatically dismissed because of that. If you are not assigned, then this is initially assignment-free time and the temporary employment agency must continue to pay your wages even if you are not assigned and working. Despite this, temporary workers are often dismissed due to a lack of assignments.
FAQ Agency Work: Sources
German Trade Union Federation (DGB) (2017, 20th April). Guide to unsecured employment, FAQ on agency work/temporary work (Ratgeber Ungesicherte Beschäftigung, FAQ zu Leiharbeit/Zeitarbeit.)
Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) (o. D.). Frequently asked questions and answers on the theme of agency work.
What is a mini job and what is special about them?
In a mini job you are permitted to earn a maximum of €450. Relatively few hours are therefore worked per month. For example, as a mini job worker, you are permitted to work for a maximum of 48.12 hours per month if you are earning the statutory minimum wage of €9.50. The mini job is also referred to as “marginal employment”. As an employee in a mini job, you are not required to pay any social security or income tax contributions. This means you receive all of the wage. You pay only a minimal amount towards pension. This is unless you release yourself from the insurance obligation in the statutory pension insurance scheme. The employer, however, makes specific social insurance and tax contributions for the employment of the employee.
What are my employment rights as a mini job worker?
The same employment rights apply to you as to other employees. Your rights are contained within legislation or collective agreements. You are entitled, for instance, to the minimum wage and to holiday. You are also entitled the continued payment of your wage if you are ill or on holiday. Just because you have a mini job does not mean you must be treated any worse than other employees. If you are treated unfairly, you should contact a Fair Integration advice centre.
Does the minimum wage apply to me as a mini job worker?
Yes! The statutory minimum wage of €9.35 also applies to mini jobs. Sectoral minimum wages, i.e. minimum wages in specific industry sectors which apply to all employees in this sector, also apply to you. A minimum wage of this type applies, for example, to building cleaning. For 2020, this is above the statutory minimum wage (wage group 1) at €10.55 in the east and €10.80 in the west (plus Berlin).
How much holiday am I entitled to in a mini job?
That depends on how much holiday has been agreed. Take a look at your contract of employment. You are definitely entitled to the minimum statutory leave or to the leave provided in the collective agreement. Please note that the statutory minimum leave and the regulations in the collective agreement always relate to a 5 or 6-day week. If you work for fewer days in the week, you also have fewer days holiday.
Important: Your employer is not permitted to demand that you take your holiday at times in which you are not working anyway. You are also not required to make up the lost hours.
What happens if I am ill on the days I am working in my mini job?
If you are ill, you must call in sick to your employer and, no later than from the third day of illness, you must submit a certificate of incapacity for work (doctors note from the doctor/sick note). Take a look at precisely what was agreed in your contract of employment. If you have been working with your employer for four weeks and fall ill, with a mini job you are also entitled to the continued payment of your wage for six weeks during the illness.
Important: You are not required to work to make up the days lost due to illness in order to receive your wages.
Do I have health insurance from working in a mini job, and does unemployment insurance apply to me?
No. The mini job alone does not ensure you are covered in terms of health insurance. You must look to see whether you can get health insurance in a different way, e.g. via the health insurance of a family member, via the job centre or by means of so-called voluntary insurance (for which you pay). You need health insurance in any event.
You also pay no unemployment insurance and receive no entitlement to unemployment benefit from the mini job.
Do I pay into the pension insurance scheme in the mini job?
As a mini job worker you pay a minimum amount into the pension insurance scheme. This gives you a minimum pension entitlement. However, you are also able to request not to have to pay this amount. Those times during which, as a mini job worker, you paid no contributions to the pension insurance scheme do not count towards your pension.
Am I insured in the event of an accident at work?
Yes. You are insured via your employer as part of the statutory accident insurance and provided for in the event of accidents at work.
Can I also have a mini job in addition to my main job? Can I combine several mini jobs?
Yes, a main job subject to social insurance contributions may be combined with a mini job.
You may also combine several mini jobs. Provided that the resulting income you earn is a maximum of €450 you are not required to pay social insurance contributions. If your total income exceeds €450, contributions must be paid for all jobs.
Important: You must always inform your employer about additional mini jobs and other second jobs.
What happens if I regularly earn more than €450?
In this case, the job is subject to social insurance contributions, which means that the employer must deduct contributions for sickness, pension and unemployment insurance from your salary. Your net salary will then be less than your gross salary. However, you will receive full insurance protection, for example under health insurance.
Important: If you regularly earn more than €450 but are still employed as a mini job worker, then this does not comply with legislation and your employer may be liable to prosecution. This may also have negative consequences for you. Find out what you can do about this from a Fair Integration advice centre.
Do I receive state support if I only have one mini job?
You may be entitled to unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld (ALG) II) from the job centre and you may be able to apply for housing benefit (Wohngeld) so that you have enough to live off. Contact an advice centre for information! Note: If you are in receipt of unemployment benefit II (ALG II), the job centre will normally cover the costs of your health insurance.
What does midi job or “sliding contribution scale” (Gleitzone) mean?
A midi job is a job in which somebody earns between €450,01 and €1.300,00, in other words more than in a mini job. In Germany, the word “Gleitzone” is also used to refer to a midi job and is a reference to the sliding contributions scale which applies in this job. In these jobs you pay a small amount from your wages towards social insurance, however you are fully covered in terms of health insurance, nursing care, unemployment benefit and pension. From €850, the employee must contribute the full amount for social insurance.
FAQ Mini-job: Sources
Minijob-Zentrale. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
What does minimum wage mean?
The minimum wage is a statutory requirement and specifies the minimum amount an employer must pay an employee for one hour’s work. The minimum wage is therefore the lowest level of payment. The current statutory minimum wage is €9.50 per hour gross. Employees are not permitted to earn less.
Are there different minimum wages for different industries?
Yes. There are industries in which a higher minimum wage applies than the general minimum wage. This minimum wage for an industry is stipulated in generally binding collective agreements. A list of specific industry minimum wages is available here: http://www.dgb.de/schwerpunkt/mindestlohn/hintergrund/branchenmindestloehne
A higher minimum wage therefore applies to people working in these industries. It is best to contact an advice centre if you are unsure which minimum wage applies to you.
Who does the minimum wage not apply to?
There are a few exclusions from the minimum wage. These are, for example:
Persons in training
Young people under the age of 18 who have not completed vocational education and training
Individuals engaged in a Job Centre or Employment Agency (BA) activity such as introductory training
Individuals engaged in voluntary work
Individuals completing a mandatory internship
Individuals completing a voluntary internship lasting a maximum of three months for the purpose of vocational orientation
Does the minimum wage also apply to foreign employees?
Yes. The minimum wage also applies to foreign employees. There are no exceptions for refugees or other migrants.
Do interns also receive the minimum wage?
The basic rule is that the minimum wage must be paid for a voluntary internship if it lasts for more than three months. In this case, the minimum wage must then be paid from the first day of the internship.
The minimum wage does not have to be paid for a mandatory internship (e.g. for a degree), even if it lasts for more than three months.
Important: The internship is sometimes used by employers to avoid the minimum wage. This page helps you find out whether you are entitled to the minimum wage:
When does the minimum wage change?
There is a commission in which employer and employee representatives decide every two years whether there will be a change to the minimum wage.
Since January 1st 2021 the national minimum wage is € 9.50 gross per hour. Employees must not earn less!
Who checks whether the minimum wage is paid?
The Customs office (Zoll) is responsible for checking the employers. The Customs office is a government authority. Here there is a department for checking companies, which is called the Tax Enforcement Unit for Undeclared Work (“Finanzkontrolle Schwarzarbeit” - FKS). The Tax Enforcement Unit for Undeclared Work checks whether all employees are correctly registered in a company, whether the employer is paying contributions to social insurance, and whether all employees are receiving payment of the minimum wage. If the Tax Enforcement Unit for Undeclared Work receives a tip about a specific company, it is able to check this.
Where can I get help if I am not being paid the minimum wage?
If the minimum wage is not being paid, there are ways to challenge this. You have a right to the minimum wage. A claim for the minimum wage is enforceable before the court. Unions have a separate legal protection which supports employers in this respect who are a member of a union. Find out what you can do about this from an advice centre.
It is possible to report the employer to the Customs office. If the employer pays less than the minimum wage, they may be subject to a fine. The Customs office will not help you to recover the wages you have not been paid by your employer. The law allows a period of three years in which to enforce a claim for the minimum wage before the courts.
Can I forgo the minimum wage?
No, you cannot forgo the minimum wage.
Is it important for me to record how many hours I have worked?
In many sectors, the employer is legally obligated to record the working hours. However, hours are sometimes not correctly recorded and more hours are worked than are paid in wages. It is therefore important that you record the hours you have worked yourself. If you have been paid for less hours than you have actually worked, this may be in breach of the minimum wage. Your record of the hours will help you provide proof of the hours worked and will therefore help you claim the right wage.
The brochure "Working time - What are my rights?" and a timesheet in German, English, français, espanol, русский, ትግርኛ, soomaali and العربية, دری can be found by following this link to the section "Working time".
FAQ Minimum wage: Sources
German Trade Union Federation (DGB). Frequently asked questions about the minimum wage.
How much pay am I entitled to?
How much an employee gets paid is usually regulated in an employment contract. This specifies how much money is earned per month or per hour. It is important for you to know whether you are covered by a collective agreement, because collective agreements can also contain rules on wages. Seek advice from a Fair Integration advice centre.
Some industries have an industry minimum wage, e.g. the electrical trade or the cleaning sector. There is also a statutory minimum wage in Germany. Since January 1st 2021 the minimum wage is € 9.50 gross per hour. Employees must not earn less!
What is wage, what is salary?
Various terms are used for the employer's payment for work, such as wage, salary, pay or remuneration. The term “remuneration” is a more formal term for this payment. However, there are differences between the terms wage and salary:
The term salary is usually used when you receive a fixed sum (monthly salary) every month. The term wage, on the other hand, is used when you are paid per hour (hourly wage). The amount of the monthly wages then depends on how many hours you have worked.
As a general rule: You must be paid for every hour you work!
Tip: Make a note of your working hours! If you do not receive pay slips, ask your employer for them! Check in good time whether you have received your full wages!
What is gross and what is net?
In Germany, a distinction is made between gross wages and net wages: The gross wages are the wages specified in the employment contract. Various contributions are deducted from the gross wages. These include, for instance, social insurance contributions, as well as pension insurance, unemployment insurance, health insurance, long-term care insurance and accident insurance.
The contributions for pension, unemployment, health and long-term care insurance are shared between the employer and the employee. Your employer therefore pays the same amount that is deducted from your wages.
In addition to social insurance, taxes are also deducted from gross wages. The net wages are the wages that are paid at the end after deduction of all contributions and taxes. You can calculate how much net wages you will receive online using a gross net calculator, e.g. at www.brutto-netto-rechner.info.
Is overtime paid?
As a general rule: Overtime must be paid. Overtime are the hours that are worked in excess of the normal daily working hours. Overtime in the legal sense exists if your employer has ordered it or if the employer knew that you were working overtime and did nothing about it.
In certain cases, your employment contract may contain other provisions on payment for overtime. For instance, sometimes overtime is not paid, but instead you get free time to compensate for the hours worked.
It is therefore important that you keep regular records of your working hours and then compare them with the hours on your pay slip. You can note your working hours in a working hours calendar. You can find a template in different languages at www.servicestelle-gegen-zwangsarbeit.de/praxismaterialien. There are also apps that you can use to record working hours. If you are not being paid for overtime, contact a Fair Integration advice centre.
Do I receive supplements?
In addition to the agreed wages, supplements may also be paid. This is an amount that the employer pays in addition to the basic wages. The only legal requirement is that there must be supplements for night work. Night work is work between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. In addition, supplements for overtime, Sunday work and work on public holidays are often agreed in collective agreements or employment contracts. You must therefore find out whether your employment is covered by a collective agreement. The supplements may vary. If you are paid supplements, these are also listed on your pay slip.
When must my wages be paid?
When you receive your wages must be precisely regulated. This is the so-called due date. The law stipulates that wages are paid only after work has been performed. So if you are paid per month, the law stipulates that your wages must be paid on the 1st day of the following month. If you receive the legal minimum wage, then a special rule applies: The minimum wage must be paid at the latest on the last banking day of the month following the month in which you worked (e.g. 31 July for work in June). A different rule applies to the training allowance.
The employment contract or collective agreement may contain provisions other than those laid down by law. Here it is often agreed that the wage must be paid on the 15th day of the following month. This means, for example, that you must have your wages in your account by 15 July at the latest for your work in June. However, an earlier payment date can also be agreed. Check what your employment contract says!
What do I do if I don't get paid on time?
If you do not receive your wages on time, you can claim them. You do not have to go straight to court to claim your wages. You can initially demand your wages from your employer in writing (more information on this is available in the brochure “Wissen ist Schutz” (“Knowledge protects you”) under the item: 2.3.4 “Wenn der Arbeitgeber nicht zahlt” (“If your employer fails to pay your wages”). The brochure is available in German language under: www.dgb.de/downloadcenter/++co++bc4705f8-afc7-11e9-9741-52540088cada). The best approach is to seek help from a Fair Integration advice centre or a trade union.
The police or other state institutions are not responsible in this case. In order to claim your wages correctly, make sure you are well prepared and know exactly how much you should be receiving. For this, it is important to have a list in which you have entered when you worked where and in what role. You can find a template for a working time calendar at www.servicestelle-gegen-zwangsarbeit.de/praxismaterialien.
Attention: You are always entitled to your wages - even if you have been dismissed, have no written employment contract or have worked without a work permit.
Note that there may be certain time limits for claiming the wages, the so-called limitation periods. These are specified in the employment contract or collective agreement. This means that you must claim your wages within this particular period. So act fast!
What is a pay slip?
Pay slips are also known as pay stubs or pay advice. The pay slip shows you how much you have earned (gross wage), which social insurance contributions are deducted, and how much tax is deducted. The pay slip also shows the total amount you are paid (net wage).
Other information may also be included on the pay slip.
Does my employer have to give me a pay slip?
Normally, your employer must issue you a pay slip every month, unless your wage has not changed compared to the previous month, in which case your employer does not have to issue you a new pay slip.
The pay slip is important, because it shows you how much money you get and why.
Tip: If you have not received a pay slip, you can demand one from your employer! Once you have received your pay slip, make sure to check in good time whether you have received your full wages.
What information does my pay slip include?
The pay slip essentially consists of two parts. The top part contains the following information:
- Period the pay slip refers to (which month)
- Name and address of the employer
- Name, address and date of birth of the employee
- Start date of employment
- Tax class and tax identification number
Sometimes the upper part also shows the remaining days of annual leave. But this is not compulsory.
In the main part of the pay slip you see the gross wages with gross pay. So this tells you what your wages consist of: There may be a list of supplements and other payments, for instance in the case of sickness, because then the employer is obliged to continue to pay wages. The various gross payments add up to the total gross amount.
Under the total gross amount, both the deductions for taxes and the deductions for social insurance are listed. The net earnings are calculated after these deductions. In some cases there are also net supplements or net deductions (see: On my pay slip I see that money is deducted. Is that correct?), which are deducted from net earnings. At the bottom of the pay slip is the amount that is transferred to your account. This is called the 'payout amount'.
An interactive diagram explaining a sample pay slip field by field is available at www.datev.de/bruttonetto/demo/#arbeitnehmer (Note: only in German).
How do I check my pay slip?
Your pay slip is an important document that you should always check, because sometimes pay slips can contain errors. To enable you to check correctly, it is important that you have written down all working hours and breaks as well as overtime, night work, work on Sundays or public holidays. When you receive your pay slip, you can compare the recorded hours with the hours in your working time calendar (www.servicestelle-gegen-zwangsarbeit.de/praxismaterialien) and see if everything has been written down correctly.
For overtime, night work, work on Sundays or public holidays, supplements may have been agreed in the employment contract or in the collective agreement. If, for example, you receive supplements for Sunday work and you have worked on a Sunday on two days in one month, then this must be stated on the pay slip under the gross payments section.
If you find an error in the pay slip, it is best to contact a Fair Integration advice centre! Don't wait too long!
On my pay slip I see that money is deducted. Is that correct?
Sometimes money is deducted from the net earnings. These are the so-called net deductions. An example of net deductions is when the employer provides you with accommodation and deducts the rent from your wages. Some deductions are not legally permitted. Furthermore, your employer may only deduct money from your net earnings if your net earnings are not below a certain amount: the garnishment limit. The level of the garnishment limit depends on how much you earn and how many people you have to support (see the garnishment table at the following link: www.verbraucherzentrale.de/sites/default/files/2019-06/Pfaendungstabelle2019.pdf).
It's best to always get advice when you see deductions on your pay slip!
FAQ Wages/salary and pay slip: Sources
Altmann et al: Arbeitsrecht. Handbuch für die Praxis, ed.: Michel Kittner, Bertram Zwanziger, Olaf Deinert, Johannes Heuschmid, 9th revised and updated edition 2017, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 1047-1048; 764-767; 995-1003.
Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) (2017, January). Arbeitsrecht, Informationen für Arbeitnehmer und Arbeitgeber.
German Trade Union Federation (DGB) (2007, 2 August) Entgelt.
German Trade Union Federation (DGB) (undated) Mindestlohn.
German Trade Union Federation (DGB) (undated) Wissen ist Schutz.
DGB Rechtsschutz (2016, 13 October). Ratgeber Überstunden.
Verbraucherzentrale (2019, 28 June). Pfändungsfreigrenzen: Erhöhung nicht verpassen.
Section 850c Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung)
Section 2 Minimum Wage Act (Mindestlohngesetz)
What happens to my wages when I am ill?
If you are incapacitated by illness, you will continue to receive money from your employer. This is called ‘continued payment of wages’ (Lohnfortzahlung). The employer will pay your wages at the same amount as your normal salary for up to 6 weeks. If you are sick for longer than 6 weeks, the health insurance fund will pay you sick pay (Krankengeld). Even if you have worked for an employer for less than 4 weeks, you will still receive sick pay from the health insurance fund. Only after 4 weeks is the employer obligated to continue paying your salary.
You can find out more about sick pay under the question: What is sick pay and how much is it?
If you are on sick leave for a longer period, it is important to have certificates of incapacity to work for the entire period of your illness. A distinction is made here between an initial certificate and a follow-up certificate from the doctor.
How much pay do I receive when I am ill?
If you are ill, you will continue to be paid the money you would have received if you had not been ill. Therefore, the basis for continued wage payment is the basic salary, for example the monthly salary or the weekly, daily, hourly or piecework wage. Bonuses and premiums, such as Sunday, holiday and night work, are also taken into account: if, as an employee, you would have had to work on a Sunday or public holiday, but you are not working because of illness, then you will still receive the additional rate set out in the labour or collective agreement. General pay increases or reductions in pay are also taken into account.
You can find out how much sickness benefit you will receive below, under the question: What is sick pay and how much is it?
Can I be terminated if I am ill?
Sickness is no protection against termination. Even if you are ill, your employer can give you notice. However, the normal rules on protection against termination still apply: If you have worked for more than 6 months in a company with more than 10 full-time employees, you are protected against termination and your employer needs a reason to terminate you. More information can be found in the FAQ termination.
How do I correctly call in sick?
If you fall ill, it is important to notify your employer in good time. This means that you must notify your employer before your shift starts that you cannot come to work because of illness. You can do this by phone, email or a messenger service (like Whatsapp). Some employers give instructions on how their employees should notify their supervisors when they are ill. In addition to reporting sick verbally, it is also advisable to report sick in writing. This is the only way you can later prove that you have fulfilled your obligations.
Important: You do not have to tell your employer the reason for your illness. If asked, you do not have to answer.
By law, you must submit a certificate of incapacity for work to your employer no later than on the 4th calendar day (not working day!) after reporting sick. However, this time may be shorter in your employment agreement or collective agreement. Make sure to take a look at the rules that apply to you! If you receive a certificate of incapacity to work from your doctor, send it immediately by post to your employer and to your health insurance fund. You could also send your certificate of incapacity for work to your employer by fax or scan (email). However, your employer can always demand the original.
Caution: If you do not present the certificate of incapacity for work to your employer, he/she may refuse to continue paying your wages!
Important: You can usually get a certificate of incapacity to work in triplicate: One for your employer, one for the health insurance company and one for your own records. Beginning January 2021, the doctors will forward the certificate intended for the health insurance company electronically to the health insurance companies. In this case you will not receive a certificate for the health insurance company. Starting January 2022, the doctors will forward the copy for the employer electronically to the companies. The forwarding will not exempt you from the obligation to notify the employer when you are ill.
What do I do if the employer does not accept my sick note or says that he/she did not receive it?
To avoid your employer not accepting your sick note or saying that he/she did not receive it, it is best if you can prove that you have reported sick and handed in the certificate of incapacity to work. You can do this by providing written proof of your sick note (such as sick note by email) and by sending your certificate of incapacity to work to your employer by registered post and in advance as a scan by email. This way, your employer cannot claim that he/she has not received it.
Important: Your employer must accept your sick note. If you are ill and unfit for work, you do not have to go to work.
Do I have to go to the doctor immediately if I am ill?
If you are ill and unable to work, it does not automatically mean that you have to go to the doctor immediately. What is important is that you inform your employer immediately about your inability to work (see question: How do I correctly call in sick?). Then it always depends on whether your employment or collective agreement stipulates when you have to send your employer a certificate of incapacity to work at the latest. If nothing special is regulated, the statutory regulations apply: They stipulate that the employer must receive a sick note by the 4th calendar day at the latest. For example, this means that if you are only sick for 1 or 2 days and then return to work, you do not need a certificate of incapacity to work and thus do not need to see a doctor. However, many employees choose to go to the doctor anyway to make sure they are credible.
If your employment or collective agreement stipulates that you must submit a certificate of incapacity to work to your employer on the first day of illness, then you must of course go to the doctor on the first day you are ill.
Can any doctor give me a certificate of incapacity to work?
In principle, any licensed doctor can prescribe you on sick leave. In most cases, it makes sense to first make an appointment with your primary care physician, who will examine you and may issue a sick note. If a specialist is needed for your illness, your primary care physician can make a referral. Specialists (such as orthopaedists or ENT doctors) can also issue sick notes. However, they do not usually make same-day appointments, unless it is an acute emergency.
What is sick pay and how much is it?
Sick pay is the money you receive if your employer is not obligated to continue paying your wages. This is the case, for example, if you are newly employed by an employer and have not yet worked there for 4 weeks. If you have been on sick leave for more than 6 weeks, after the 6 weeks you will no longer receive continued pay from your employer. Instead you will receive sick pay from the health insurance fund.
The sick pay amounts to between 70% of gross and 90% of net earnings. This means that you have less money at your disposal while receiving sick pay. Sick pay can be paid by the health insurance fund for a maximum of 72 weeks.
Do I also receive sick pay if I am ill after an accident at work?
No. If you are sick as a result of an accident at work, you do not receive sick pay. Instead you will receive injury benefits. The injury benefit is not paid by the health insurance fund, but by the employer’s liability insurance association. This distinction is important because you may still be entitled to special benefits when you receive injury benefits. You can find out more about accidents at work and injury benefits in the FAQ work accident.
What is a certificate of incapacity to work/yellow certificate (gelber Schein)?
A sick note or certificate of incapacity to work (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung/AU-Bescheinigung/Krankschreibung/gelber Schein) is the certificate you get from your doctor when he/she determines that you cannot work because of illness. It usually states the day on which you saw the doctor. The doctor determines how long he/she will put you on sick leave and enters this date on your sick note. He/she can only put you on sick leave for a maximum of 2 weeks. If you are sick for longer than 2 weeks, you have to go to the doctor again and continue to have your sick leave certified. There must be no gap between the last day of your sick leave and your next visit to the doctor.
How can I correctly report sick during my holiday abroad?
If you become unfit for work while on holiday abroad, you can go to the local doctor and get a sick note. In this case, you must notify your employer of your incapacity to work, the expected duration and your whereabouts. You must also notify your health insurance company in this case. The certificate of incapacity to work from abroad should be accepted by your employer and the health insurance company. There is no legal deadline for submitting the certificate of incapacity to work from abroad. All you need to do is notify your employer. You should submit the written certificate of incapacity to work as soon as possible.
Important: If you become incapacitated for work while on holiday, regardless of whether you are abroad or at home, you can have the days of holiday taken during your incapacity for work ‘credited’ to your account afterwards. This means they are not counted as holidays.
FAQ Sick note: Sources
https://www.lohn-info.de/lohnfortzahlung_im_krankheitsfall.html#hoehe (hier mit Urteil zur Höhe der ENTGF)
What is a trade union?
A trade union is a voluntary association of employees. It promotes the interests of its members. A trade union is independent of the state, political parties and churches. Trade unions are financed through membership fees. Trade unions are organised democratically. This means: They have statutes, hold elections for certain functions and their members have a say.
Trade unions in Germany are organised by sectors. Here you will find an overview of the DGB trade unions: www.dgb.de/uber-uns/dgb-heute/gewerkschaften-im-dgb
These 8 trade unions have joined forces in the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB – Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund). The DGB does political work for the trade unions. It fights for better working conditions in Germany.
The explanatory video “What is a trade union?” (in German) by the trade union IG Metall is available at:
What are the tasks of a trade union?
A trade union is committed to improving working conditions. It represents the interests of its members towards employers and the state.
A trade union is a so-called collective bargaining party. This means that it can conclude collective agreements with the employers' association or an individual employer. For this purpose it conducts collective bargaining, which may, for example, concern higher wages, shorter working hours and more annual leave.
The trade union can use industrial action to achieve its objectives in collective bargaining. This includes threatening strikes, so-called warning strikes and strikes.
What advantages do I have as a trade union member?
As a member of a trade union you will receive information and support in many areas.
- Trade unions offer free advice and information, for example on rights under collective agreements, claims in the event of unemployment or company pension schemes.
- Trade unions provide support in disputes with employers or in the event of unfair treatment. As a trade union member, you receive free legal advice on these issues and are entitled to free legal protection. This applies to labour disputes, but also to disputes with the employers' liability insurance association or with pension, health, long-term care or unemployment insurance associations. In these cases, the trade union provides a lawyer who can represent you in court.
- Only as a trade union member do you have a legal right to all collective benefits.
- Trade unions provide financial support to their members in the event of strikes. They pay strike pay if the employer does not pay the employer because of the strike.
- Trade unions offer members seminars for qualification and further training in operational and socio-political topics.
The more members a trade union has, the greater its political influence and the better it can assert the interests of its members.
How much does trade union membership cost me?
The membership fee for most trade unions is one percent of your gross income.
This applies to full-time and part-time employees, trainees, freelancers and employees with mini jobs. People without an income, pensioners and students pay a smaller fee.
You can deduct your membership fee from income tax as income-related expenses.
How can I join a trade union?
If you want to become a member, the first thing you need to know is which trade union is responsible for you.
You can ask for advice directly from a trade union. They will tell you which trade union is right for you. You can find information online, for example at:
To become a member, you must complete, sign and submit a form. You can also do this online at:
What is a works council, what is a staff council?
Employees can elect a person or a group of persons from their company to represent their interests towards the employer. At private companies, this representation of employees is called the works council, and in the public sector the staff council.
In a company with a works council or staff council, employees have more rights and have more influence on decisions.
The law stipulates that a works council must be elected in all companies with 5 or more employees. The more employees a company has, the more people there are on the works council. Employees must become active themselves if they wish to establish a works council.
A staff council is elected in all agencies with 5 or more employees. The more employees there are, the more people are on the staff council. The rules that apply to a staff council are similar to those for a works council.
What are the tasks of the works council?
The tasks, rights and duties of a works council are governed by the Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz). The works council and the employer are obliged by law to cooperate in a spirit of trust in the interests of the employees of a company. The employer must inform the works council about many things and must also make documents available.
The employer must consult the works council beforehand on some matters, for example in the case of a dismissal. The employer must inform the works council about the person to be dismissed and the reasons for dismissal.
The works council has a right of co-determination on some issues. This means that the employer may not make a decision without the works council. This applies, for example, to the question of when the daily working time begins and ends.
The works council ensures, for example:
- that all employees are classified in the right wage group,
- that breaks and working hours are observed and
- that occupational safety and accident prevention regulations are observed (for example, that employees wear helmets or safety shoes at work).
The works council holds consultation hours for employees and conducts works meetings. It can also negotiate company agreements. Furthermore, it should also support the integration of foreign employees into the company.
The works council may not divulge confidential information.
What are the tasks of the staff council?
A staff council represents the interests of employees in the public sector. The rights of staff councils are governed by the Staff Representation Act (Personalvertretungsgesetz) and the Federal Staff Representation Act (Bundespersonalvertretungsgesetz). The tasks and duties of staff councils are similar to those of works councils.
What is the difference between works council, staff council and trade union?
Trade unions are made up of employees as well as other persons (such as pensioners, students, job seekers, etc.). A trade union is made up of all its members. Trade unions are not only active in one company, but in one or more entire sectors. Trade unions are collective bargaining parties and negotiate collective agreements with individual employers or the employers' association of an industry.
Works councils and staff councils represent the employees of a company. For this purpose, employees elect colleagues from their company to the works council or staff council. It then champions the rights of all employees in the company and negotiates, for example, works agreements.
Trade unions often actively support the establishment of a works council. Trade unions offer seminars for elected works councils on all important issues relating to the work of works councils. They also support the works councils with information and advice.
Works councils and staff councils are often trade union members. However, this is not mandatory.
What is a works agreement?
A works agreement is an agreement between the works council and the employer. There are therefore no works agreements without a works council. Negotiating works agreements is one of the main tasks of a works council.
Works agreements are binding for the employer and the employees and apply in the same way as laws or collective agreements. However, a works agreement may not infringe higher-ranking rights. These rights include collective agreements, laws, regulations or EU law.
Works agreements can be used to regulate many matters in the company. This applies especially to matters in which the works council has a say. A works agreement can, for example, regulate working time models, occupational health and safety or the use of the internet, e-mails and social media in the company.
In the public sector, the agreements between the agency and the staff council are called “service agreements”.
FAQ Trade unions / Works council: Sources
Hans-Böckler-Stiftung (2018). Auf einen Blick: Die wichtigsten Beteiligungsrechte.
Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB) (04/2018) Was ist eine Gewerkschaft?
IG Metall (undated). Wer zahlt wie viel Mitgliedsbeitrag?
Vereinigte Lohnsteuerhilfe e.V. (undated).
DGB Bildungswerk BUND (undated). Basiswissen Betriebsrat.
DGB Bildungswerk BUND (undated). Basiswissen Personalrat.
Bund Verlag (undated). Das sind Ihre Rechte als Betriebsrat.
Bund Verlag (undated). Betriebsvereinbarung.
Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, Druck, Journalismus, Papier (undated). Was ist eigentlich die Gewerkschaft, und was ein Betriebsrat?
Who can I turn to if I have a question about labour law?
If you have a question about labour law (i.e. your employment agreement, pay slip, working conditions, pay and much more), there are various places you can turn: e.g. to a Fair Integration counselling centre, which will give you free and confidential advice on these issues. Trade unions also offer advice on labour law. They are independent of political parties and offer legal assistance and representation in a dispute to workers who are members of a trade union. If you want to become a member of a trade union, the Fair Integration counselling centres can help you!
Of course, you can also always contact a lawyer who specialises in labour law.
I need a lawyer, but I cannot afford one. What can I do?
If you need a lawyer, you should be aware that there is a fee for services provided by lawyers. Lawyers’ fees are regulated by law. (more on this under: How much does a lawyer cost?). However, there are other options for people with low income: In this case, the state helps, so you can get advice from a lawyer for little money. This is done with the help of the so-called legal fee financial aid permit.
How much does a lawyer cost?
The costs for a lawyer can vary. It always depends on whether you just want a consultation or whether you need extrajudicial or judicial clarification (see below).
The costs for a consultation are regulated by the German Attorney Remuneration Law (RVG/Rechtsanwaltsvergütungsgesetz). It regulates the levels of the consultation fees. The costs are capped. The first consultation may cost a maximum of 190 euros (plus VAT); all further consultations 250 euros (plus VAT).
In addition to normal consultation from a lawyer, however, in many situations individuals need access to more comprehensive legal support. It can take the form of extrajudicial or judicial representation. Whether something can be settled out of court or in court always depends on the nature of the legal dispute. In any of these cases, further legal fees will be incurred, which are regulated in the Attorney Remuneration Law.
What is a consulting certificate and who receives it?
The consulting certificate for legal consulting assistance gives people with low income and assets the opportunity to receive advice from a lawyer for a small amount of money. In addition to basic counselling, legal representation can also be provided in extrajudicial matters (assertion of claims, settlement agreements, etc.). There are certain income and asset limits here. People who would receive legal aid free of charge can also obtain a consulting certificate.
If you go to a lawyer with a consulting certificate, he/she cannot charge you more than a fee of 15 euros. The remaining fees are paid by the state.
How can I get a consulting certificate?
The application for legal consulting assistance can be made in writing or verbally at the competent local court. The competent local court is the one in whose district the petitioner’s main residence is located. If you would like to apply for a consulting certificate, it is helpful to call the local court in advance to find out about the necessary documents and opening hours. The application form for approval of legal consulting assistance should be completed in advance. You can find this form here: https://justiz.de/formulare/zwi_bund/agI1.pdf.
You take the form and the necessary documents to the legal aid application centre where the judicial officer checks the conditions for approval and, if applicable, issues the legal fee financial aid permit. The court will only issue a consulting certificate once for each extrajudicial matter. The legal consulting assistance procedure at the competent local court is free of charge for the applicant.
The legal consulting assistance can also be applied for after the lawyer has given his advice. However, there is a risk here that the application will not be approved and that you will have to bear the costs of the lawyer yourself.
What are the requirements for a consulting certificate and what documents do I need?
There is a maximum income and asset limit for the approval of a consulting certificate for legal consulting assistance. Pensioners, unemployed persons, recipients of social assistance or benefits from the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz) generally fulfil this requirement. If you want to make sure that a consulting certificate is granted before applying for it, you can use a legal aid calculator to find out: Individuals who would receive free legal aid can also obtain a legal fee financial aid permit. In addition, there must be no other possibility of free consultation/representation in the extrajudicial matter (e.g. through trade unions, legal aid insurance). Another prerequisite is that the competent local court has not already approved or rejected a consulting certificate for legal consulting assistance in the same matter.
If you wish to apply for a consulting certificate from the legal aid application centre at the local court, you must bring the following documents with you:
- A valid identification document (identity card, residence permit, passport, …)
- Your current income statement and that of your spouse (e.g. pay slip, notification from the employment agency or job centre)
- Potentially proof of maintenance obligations
- Potentially proof of other monthly payment obligations
- Bank statements of the last 3 months
- Your current lease agreement and utility bills
- If applicable, documents relating to the matter (e.g. notice of termination, written warning, etc.)
If your consulting certificate has been approved, you can take it to a lawyer, who may not charge more than 15 euros.
Can I go to all lawyers with a legal consulting assistance certificate?
In principle, lawyers are obligated to take on clients with an approved consulting certificate. The only exception is if the lawyer is unable to take your case for an important reason, e.g. if he/she is overloaded. Before you make an appointment with a lawyer, you should always inform the lawyer that you have a consulting certificate.
What costs are incurred in labour court proceedings?
The costs of labour court proceedings include the lawyer’s fees (if you have a lawyer) and court costs.
In the initial tribunal, each party pays their own lawyer’s fees, regardless of whether they won or lost the case. Only the court costs are paid by the losing party. For the court of second instance and higher, the losing party in the lawsuit must pay all costs and fees, including those of the other party.
The court costs and lawyer fees are based on the so-called amount in dispute in labour court proceedings. The higher the amount in dispute, the higher the costs. The labour court determines the amount in dispute in the judgement. Once the amount in dispute has been determined, the court costs and lawyer’s fees can be calculated.
For the calculation of the court costs there is a cost index, allowing you to see how much a fee is for the respective amount in dispute.
up tp ... EUR
up tp ... EUR
The court costs are always due at the end of a legal recourse. This means that the court costs do not have to be paid when the action is filed, but only when the respective instance is over. The labour court does not request advance payment.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid is a type of state loan for people with low income and assets to cover the legal costs incurred in a legal dispute. In other words, legal aid is intended to help those people who must or want to go to court but cannot cover the costs themselves. It provides financial support for people with low income.
If the application for legal aid is granted, you will be exempt from paying the costs of the proceedings. Depending on your income situation, you will have to pay back the costs that were covered in instalments. Read more about this under the question: Do I have to pay back legal aid?
Be careful: In labour law, legal aid does not cover the other party’s legal costs, which have to be paid after the second instance if you lose the case. Read more about this under the question: How do labour courts work?
Who receives legal aid and how can it be requested?
You can get legal aid if you have low income and assets. You can use the legal aid calculator to calculate in advance whether you can get legal aid or not (e.g. www.pkh-rechner.de). As a rule, pensioners, unemployed persons, welfare recipients and recipients of benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act fulfil this requirement. Your assets must be less than 5,000 euros. In addition, there must be a prospect of success in legal proceedings. Only then can the costs be covered. The court decides whether legal action has a chance of success.
Legal aid is usually requested by your lawyer when he/she brings the action. However, the application can also be made before or after the action has been brought.
The examiner determines whether the applicant requires financial assistance by looking at the ‘Declaration of personal and financial circumstances’. As with the application for legal consulting assistance, the following documents must be enclosed with the application:
- A valid identification document (identity card, residence permit, passport, …)
- Your current income certificate and that of your spouse (e.g. earnings certificate, certificate of unemployment benefit)
- Potentially proof of maintenance obligations
- Potentially proof of other monthly payment obligations
- Your bank statements of the last three months
- Your current lease agreement and utility bills
- If applicable, documents relating to the matter (e.g. notice of termination, written warning, etc.)
Do I have to pay back legal aid?
That depends on your financial situation. If your legal aid application is approved, you may have to repay the costs in instalments. The decisive factor here is what your income situation is and whether it changes. For four years after the end of the proceedings, you must notify the labour court without being asked if your income has improved by more than 100 euros. You must also notify the labour court if you change your place of residence. So, if you are needy at the time of filing your application and are granted legal aid, but earn more money later on, the labour court may ask you to pay back the legal costs. This means that legal aid may have to be reimbursed either in instalments, in full, in part or not at all.
What does a lawyer do for me?
It is important to know that there is no obligation to hire a lawyer for the initial tribunal in the labour court. This means that you can attend the conciliation hearing and the chamber hearing without a lawyer. Nevertheless, it is of course easier and in many cases advisable to be represented by a lawyer. However, it remains your decision whether or not you wish to hire a lawyer for your case!
A lawyer will set an initial appointment with you to discuss your case. You should bring all the documents with you, such as your employment agreement, pay slips and other documents relating to your case. The lawyer will examine your documents and may suggest that the matter be settled out of court or in court. Out-of-court settlements include contacting the employer, enforcing claims and the like. If the lawyer advises you to file a complaint, he/she will represent you in court. This means that if there is a conciliation hearing in court, the lawyer will handle the negotiations and argumentation with the judge and the lawyer of the opposing party.
I have my first court hearing at the labour court. What happens there?
The first court hearing at the labour court is called a conciliation hearing. The special thing here is that there is no verdict at the end. Instead, an attempt is made to reach an agreement between the employee and the employer. The conciliation hearing will be attended by the employee, the employer, the respective lawyers (if applicable) and the judge. This hearing is public, meaning that the public is also allowed. The facts of the case are discussed and it is determined whether both sides see the possibility of reaching an agreement. This could be a payment, amount of compensation, etc. If an agreement is reached, the decision is put down in writing and sent to the employer and the employee. This is called a settlement. Then the procedure is over. If there is no agreement, the court can also schedule a second conciliation hearing if it sees a chance that an agreement can still be reached. If this is not the case, then there is a chamber hearing. Here too, a settlement may still be reached. If this is not the case, the labour court will reach a decision. Of course, there can also be several chamber hearings.
How do labour courts work?
The labour court deals with disputes relating to labour law. They are usually disputes between employers and employees or between parties to collective agreements. The labour court is a civil court with special jurisdiction.
Legal proceedings before the labour court are initiated by filing a legal action with the competent labour court. Anyone can file the legal action; however, it is usually done by a lawyer. A legal action is a motion stating who demands what from whom. When the legal action is filed, it is sent to the other party (the defendant), and the labour court sets a date for the hearing, the conciliation hearing. A conciliation hearing is attended by a judge and the plaintiff, the defendant and their lawyers. The defendant must respond to the legal action. An attempt is made to reach an amicable agreement, the result of which is called a settlement.
If the parties cannot agree, the case is heard by a chamber. The court asks both parties to submit their supporting arguments for the legal action as well as the response before the chamber hearing. At a chamber hearing, the judge of the conciliation hearing is present again, as are two other honorary judges.
The competent labour court is the court of the employee’s place of work. If a judgement has been handed down in the initial tribunal, an appeal can still be lodged with the Regional Labour Court. In contrast to the initial tribunal, it is mandatory to hire a lawyer for the Regional Labour Court. In theory, a legal dispute can also go as far as the Federal Labour Court if one party appeals the ruling of the Regional Labour Court.
What is legal aid insurance?
Legal aid insurance is insurance that you can take out to cover your costs of a legal dispute. This means that you pay an amount to an insurance company every month, and if a legal dispute arises, the insurance company can cover the costs. It usually covers the costs for a lawyer, the court costs and so on. But you always have to pay attention to which costs are covered by the insurance company and which areas of law are insured.
FAQ legal support: Sources
Which types of training are there?
Vocational (or company-based) training in the dual system
The practical training takes place three to four days a week in a company under the supervision of a trainer. Trainees attend vocational school for one to two days a week. This is where they meet other trainees from the same or similar industries and learn about the theoretical content of the occupation. On average, vocational training in the dual system takes three years.
In this case, unlike vocational training in the dual system, the training does not take place based in a single company but at a so-called training provider. This means that you complete practical exercises in a type of college. This may provide an alternative form of training if you cannot find a training company.
There are also some school-based forms of training in the technical, social and foreign language sectors, as well as in healthcare.
a) technical sector: medical laboratory assistant
b) social sector: nursery teacher
c) foreign language sector: foreign language correspondent
d) health sector: geriatric nurse
In these cases the content is delivered solely in vocational schools or in vocational technical schools. A company-based placement is normally completed during the training. The regulations relating to school-based training may differ from federal state to federal state.
What is important in a training contract?
For vocational training in the dual system, you enter into a training contract with your training company. The contract must be concluded in writing before commencement of training. The training contract contains important information.
The training contract regulates:
The goal of the training and the training process
Commencement and duration of the training
Location of the training
Trainer (contact partner)
Regular daily working hours
Length of probationary period
Training remuneration and additional benefits
Holiday days each year
Reference to collective agreements and company agreements
How much do I earn during training?
What you earn while training is recorded in the training contract. If a collective agreement applies to your training company, this also determines how much money trainees receive. If there is no collective agreement, find out how much trainees earn in other companies in your industry. A minimum monthly remuneration for trainees is mandatory for training contracts that are concluded from 2021. Therefore, the monthly remuneration in the first year of training must not be less than € 550. Furthermore, the training remuneration should be based on what is normal in the sector and must not be significantly less. The amount you earn increases slightly with each training year. Contact an advice centre for information!
Note: You can find the typical training remuneration for the industry, organised by occupation, on the website of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (www.bibb.de).
how much money trainees receive - statutory minimum
1st year of training
2nd year of training
3rd year of training
4th year of training
What financial support is available?
If the training remuneration is not enough to cover living expenses, you can apply to the Employment Agency for vocational training assistance (BAB).
Important: Access to this financial support varies according to status:
Persons with asylum status and recognised refugees are immediately entitled to this support, asylum seekers with so-called “good prospects of remaining in the country permanently” are entitled to this support after 15 months of residency in Germany.
What measures are there to support preparation for training?
Introductory training (EQ)
For recognised refugees, asylum seekers and persons resident with special leave to remain (Geduldeten), it offers the chance to become integrated in the day-to-day working processes of a company over a period of six to twelve months. This may provide an opportunity for individuals to prepare for possible vocational education and training. Introductory training is exempted from the minimum wage.
Pre-vocational training measures (BvB)
Pre-vocational training measures are a preparation for integration into training (or commencement of employment). They are intended as a means of guidance to help an individual make the right career choice. As part of this, a range of placements are completed and classes are attended in a school. It is also possible to take the lower secondary school leaving certificate if this has not already been obtained.
Which support options are available for use during the training?
In-training support (abH)
In-training support is support provision if problems occur during training, for example, if you are having problems with a subject in vocational school. This provides support in a range of different areas such as extra support with a subject, or socio-educational support if there are problems with the training company.
Assisted training (asA)
In the case of assisted support, the trainee receives comprehensive support and the training company also receives support for the entire duration of the training. In addition to these measures, trainees can also take advantage of extra support or socio-educational supervision. Training companies receive support in conflict situations via assisted training. The purpose of this is to stabilize the training relationship.
What is a report book (in the dual system of education and training)?
Each week during the training, you write up in your report book what you do and what you learn during the dual vocational education and training. This is why it is also referred to as written record of training. Your record is usually checked and signed by your trainer. A report book which is fully completed is the requirement for admittance to the final examination and is valid even if it has not been signed by the training company.
Important: The training regulation normally allows you to complete your report book during working hours. Your trainer is not allowed to force you to complete your record book during your free time.
Which conditions apply to me as a trainee in the company?
As a trainee, you have rights too. For example, you have the right to be treated with respect. Training is a learning relationship and making mistakes is also part of learning.
Your general training plan specifies exactly what you are supposed to learn in which year of training. It is your right that this training plan is followed. Your trainer is authorised to issue instructions to you. This means that they instruct you on how you must complete the work. However, activities which have nothing to do with your training are not part of this contract. If activities which have nothing to do with your training goal take up a lot of time, you can refuse to do these.
There are also strict regulations relating to working time and safety measures. You can find out more from the ‘Dr. Azubi’ online portal for trainees: http://jugend.dgb.de/ausbildung/beratung/dr-azubi
What can I do if my training conditions are bad?
Get in contact with your training company’s works council or with the young people and trainee representation (Jugend- und Auszubildendenvertretung (JAV)) if there is one in your company. Alternatively, the union relevant to you, if you are a member, or the Fair Integration advice centre will help you
Are trainees forced to do overtime?
In exceptional cases, adult trainees are permitted to work up to 10 hours each day instead of 8 hours, but only if the overtime is compensated for in the following week. Stricter regulations apply to trainees under the age of 18 under the Youth Employment Protection Act (maximum working time of 40 hours over 5 days). You are allowed to work for a maximum of 8.5 hours if the working time is correspondingly shorter on another working day of the week.
Can a dismissal be challenged?
Yes. Following the probationary period, dismissal of trainees is only possible if trainees do something seriously wrong. An example of this would be repeated unauthorised absence from work or from vocational school or, for instance, theft within the company. The issuing of an ordinary notice of termination within training is not possible. Dismissal is therefore often not justified and can be contested. Please note: This does not apply to the probationary period! Termination without notice is always possible during this time.
Who can I approach if I am having difficulties at the vocational school?
Every school usually has a mentor who is available for students to talk to.
If you are struggling to keep up with what is being taught in class, you might be able to access in-training support. This will provide you either with extra support and/or other forms of assistance to help you cope better in the vocational school.
What is a “special leave to remain for the purpose of training” (Ausbildungsduldung)?
If an individual has been issued with “special leave to remain” status (Duldung), and therefore their right to stay remains uncertain, a “special leave to remain for the purpose of training” (Ausbildungsduldung) can be issued for the duration of the training. You cannot be deported during the period in which you have a “special leave to remain for the purpose of training”. After successfully completing your vocational training, you are generally entitled to a residence permit for a period of 2 years (3 + 2 regulation). However, this only applies if your work is also carried out in the profession in which the training was completed.
What do I have to do in order to obtain “special leave to remain for the purpose of training”?
The “special leave to remain for the purpose of training” must be applied for at the immigration office. You have to have a trainee position before applying. Depending on the training occupation and your own residence status, there are different requirements for the application.
Who is eligible for the “special leave to remain for the purpose of training”?
As of January 1 2020, the “special leave to remain for the purpose of training” will be considered for two groups: The first group concerns people whose application for asylum has already been rejected and who have been issued with “special leave to remain” (Duldung). At the time of application, however, they must have been already in the possesion of the “special leave to remain” status for three months. This does not apply if the person entered Germany before December 31, 2016 and started the training before October 1, 2020. The second group concerns people, who are still in the asylum procedure, who have already started training and who want to continue the training after their application for asylum has been rejected. This means that people in the asylum procedure can continue their training without interruption, even after their application for asylum has been rejected. It is new that the “special leave to remain for the purpose of training” can now be granted not only for qualified vocational training, but under certain conditions also for specific one-year-long assistant training courses.
Important! There are many different reasons why a “special leave to remain for the purpose of training” could not be granted. For example in the case of a general prohibition of employment (e.g. due to a so-called safe country of origin). If a person's identity has not been clarified, this is also a reason to not grant the “special leave to remain for the purpose of training”. For this reason, you should carefully inform yourself before applying whether or not the “special leave to remain for the purpose of training” is an option for you.
Further information at:
www.asyl.net/view/detail/News/das-migrationspaket (Page 23-31)
Are you allowed to change the training company?
Trainees are only allowed to change training positions once. The trainees however receive a one-off “special leave to remain” for a further six months in order to find a new training company.
What is an accident at work? / When is an accident considered an accident at work?
Accidents at work are defined as accidents that occur to employees at work or on the daily commute to and from work and that are directly related to the activity at work. Even if you have an accident on the way to work or on the way home, it is still an accident at work (specifically: commuting accident/Wegeunfall). If you have an accident at work, certain rules apply about who pays and what benefits you can receive afterwards.
What do I have to keep in mind if I have an accident at work?
First of all, you need to recognise that your accident is an accident at work. For example, many people do not know that an accident on the way to work also counts as an accident at work (commuting accident). You have to make sure that you notify your employer immediately about the accident at work. If necessary, you should see a doctor. Accidents at work are the responsibility of the so-called ‘accident insurance consultant’. You can find out more under the question: Which doctor should I see after the accident at work?
Which doctor should I see after the accident at work?
After an accident at work, you should see an accident insurance consultant (Durchgangsarzt) instead of your usual general practitioner. Accident insurance consultants are usually specialists in surgery or orthopaedics, who are particularly well versed in the field of trauma surgery. These doctors have a special licence, which may later be necessary in connection with your accident at work. If you see an accident insurance consultant, you should always mention that the accident occurred on the way to work. Accident insurance consultants document exactly how, when and where the accident occurred.
Who pays my wages if I cannot work because of an accident at work?
If you are unable to work because of an accident at work, you will usually receive continued payment of your salary (Lohnfortzahlung) from your employer. You will continue to receive this payment for a maximum of 6 weeks. If you are also unfit for work, you will receive injury benefits (Verletztengeld). Injury benefits are paid by the so-called employer’s liability insurance associations (Berufsgenossenschaften) for the period during which you are unable to work or take part in rehabilitation measures due to the accident at work. Your health insurance company pays the injury benefit on behalf of the employers' liability insurance association.
How much is the injury benefit?
The injury benefit is usually around 80% of your normal gross pay. However, it may not exceed the actual net pay. The contributions for pension and unemployment insurance are deducted from this amount. The injury benefit is therefore higher than the sick pay (Krankengeld).
How do I apply for the injury benefit?
In the event of an accident at work, the employer will contact the statutory accident insurance directly. Your employer is subject to this obligation if the incapacity to work due to the work accident lasts longer than 3 days. This means that you do not have to do anything at first except notify your employer about the work accident. If you receive injury benefits, your employer’s liability insurance association will later send you questionnaires about the work accident, which you must complete and return.
Important: You should always know who your correct contact person is. If it is an accident at work and you receive injury benefits, it is always the employer’s liability insurance association, not the health insurance company!
If your employer does not take action and does not speak to the relevant employer’s liability insurance association, you should first remind your employer. If your employer does not take action, you should contact the relevant employer’s liability insurance association yourself. You can find out how to find out the relevant employer’s liability insurance association under the question: What is the employer’s liability insurance association?
What is the difference between injury benefit (Verletztengeld) and sick pay (Krankengeld)? Can I choose which benefit I receive?
You cannot choose which benefits you receive. The injury benefit is usually higher than sick pay. You only get it if you are unable to work because of an accident at work. There is a special procedure to determine whether that is the case. Injury benefits are paid by the employer’s liability insurance association. Sick pay is paid if you are unable to work due to illness. In both cases, however, the employer continues to pay your wages for the first 6 weeks.
How long do I receive injury benefits?
Injury benefits are payable from the day on which the incapacity to work was established. However, continued payment of wages by the employer has priority. Therefore, the injury benefits are usually only paid from the 7th week of incapacity for work. The injury benefits are paid for a maximum of 78 weeks (including 6 weeks of continued wage pay). It ends earlier when the incapacity for work is ended and work is resumed, or when a transitional allowance (Übergangsgeld) is paid. Transitional allowance is paid for the period of occupational rehabilitation if the original activity can no longer be resumed after an accident. If long-term inpatient treatment is necessary, the injury benefits are paid beyond the 78 weeks.
What is the employer’s liability insurance association?
The employer’s liability insurance associations are the providers of statutory accident insurance for companies and businesses as well as their employees. Employer’s liability insurance associations insure employees against accidents at work and occupational diseases. They pay injury benefits, the costs of medical treatment, nursing care and medical rehabilitation. All employees in a company or establishment are automatically insured under the statutory accident insurance scheme. The employer’s liability insurance association that covers your insurance depends on the sector in which your company operates.
If you are unsure which employer’s liability insurance association is responsible for you, you can call the free information line of the statutory accident insurance to find out: +49 (0)800 60 50 40 4.
What benefits do I receive from an employer’s liability insurance association after an accident at work?
After an accident at work, you as an employee can receive various benefits from the relevant employer’s liability insurance association. It always depends on each individual case. The best known benefit from the employer’s liability insurance association is the injury benefit (Verletztengeld). It is paid if the incapacity to work continues beyond the period of the employer’s obligation to continue paying wages. In addition, the treatment costs incurred at the doctor’s office are covered by the employer’s liability insurance association.
Other benefits covered by the employer’s liability insurance associations include the following:
- home nursing and medical rehabilitation
- Services for participation in working life and community life, such as vocational preparation, training and retraining, psychosocial support, housing assistance and car assistance
- Cash benefits, such as injury and transitional benefits, insured person’s pension, nursing care allowance
- Survivors’ benefits, such as death benefits, survivors’ pensions and allowances.
Will I receive compensation from my employer or insurance company for the accident at work?
You will not receive any compensation or damages for pain and suffering from an employer’s liability insurance association. However, you can take out additional private accident insurance to pay you compensation and damages for pain and suffering in the event of an accident.
Without additional private insurance, you can take legal action to claim damages and compensation for pain and suffering from the person who caused the accident. To do this, you must be able to explain how the incident caused your accident and the link between the incident and your damage and pain.
FAQ work-related accidents: Sources