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FAQ – Employment contract

What does an employment contract do?

An employment contract regulates what work you do as an employee (the person who works) for the employer. It is a contract between you (employee) and your boss (employer).

In the employment contract it says what work you do and how much money you get for it. The employment contract can be concluded in writing (the employee and employer sign it), verbally (meeting/phone call in person) or electronically (via WhatsApp/e-mail).

After one month, your employer must provide you with written proof!

When you get an employment contract, you don't have to sign it straight away! You can read through it first in your own time, or take it home with you. Don't let anyone force you to sign the contract immediately!

If there is anything in it that you don't understand, get help from your advice centre.

Note: you should always ask for a written contract. If problems arise later, verbal agreements are difficult to prove.

What can you do if you don’t receive an employment contract?

If you have been working for more than one month, you must obtain written proof of this.

This proof must include the following points:

  • Name and address of both contractual partners (your data and employer's data)
  • Starting date of the employment relationship
  • Place of work
  • Description of the employee's job (what kind of work you do)
  • Amount and composition of wages (salary, supplements, bonuses, etc.)
  • Working hours
  • Number of days of holiday
  • Notice periods (these may vary during the probationary period)
  • Information on which collective agreements and company agreements apply to the employment relationship

If you do not have an employment contract, the general statutory regulations apply:

The maximum working time of 8 hours a day (10 in exceptional cases), a collectively agreed salary or the minimum wage applies. With a working week of 5 days, you are entitled to 20 days holiday per year.

If there is a valid collective agreement, the provisions of the collective agreement also apply.

Please note: deviations are possible: In the case of employment contracts with better working conditions, for example if your contract stipulates more holiday days than the law/collective agreement, the better provision in the employment contract applies.

In rare cases, a law or a collective agreement can also mean a worse regulation for you than the statutory minimum standards.

If you are unsure which regulations apply, contact your Fair Integration advice centre!

What does “probationary period” mean?

A probationary period is a time that is set at the beginning of a new job. You will be paid normally during the probationary period. The length of the probationary period is stated in your employment contract. It may last a maximum of 6 months.

During this time, you test whether you like the work. Your employer can also check whether you are allowed to continue working.

During this time you can resign without giving a reason. Your employer can also dismiss you without giving reasons. The notice period is then only 2 weeks.

Depending on the collective agreement, this period may be shorter.

How is an employment relationship terminated?

There are several ways to terminate an employment relationship:

1. If your employment contract is for a fixed term, the employment relationship ends on the date specified as the deadline.

2. Termination/dismissal/resignation: Both you and your employer can terminate the employment relationship. However, certain deadlines (notice periods) must be observed.

A termination or dismissal must always be carried out in writing. If you are dismissed verbally, you need to react quickly and get help straight away!

Important: a termination or dismissal only has to be signed by the person issuing it. If you are dismissed, only your employer has to sign. If you are asked to sign the notice of termination, it is probably a cancellation agreement.

3. Cancellation agreement: If you and your employer agree to terminate the employment relationship, you can put this in writing in a cancellation agreement. You then specify when the relationship is terminated without giving notice of termination/dismissal. You and your employer must sign this agreement for it to be valid. Further details can be written down in the agreement, for example how holiday/pay entitlements are dealt with.

Important: if you sign the cancellation agreement, you will lose your protection against dismissal and may later receive less money (benefits) from the employment agency.

What is a "befristeter Arbeitsvertrag” (fixed-term employment contract)?

A fixed-term employment contract means that the end of your employment relationship is written in the employment contract.

Important information about fixed-term employment contracts!

  • If you want to take legal action against the end, you must do so within 3 weeks of the end of your contract.
  • You must register with the employment agency as looking for work at least 3 months before the end date. This way you can be sure that you will receive any benefits.

There are 3 types of fixed-term contracts:

  1. Fixed term without objective reason: possible for a maximum of two years.
  2. Fixed term with objective reason: possible for more than two years. Examples of an objective reason are substitution for an absent person or involvement in a project.
  3. Fixed term for a specific purpose: if a purpose has been defined that must be fulfilled, the relationship ends when this purpose has been achieved. This means that if a substitute for someone off sick was specified as the purpose and this person is healthy again, the contract ends automatically.
Your employment contract is "fixed-term without objective reason"

A fixed-term employment contract without objective reason is possible for a maximum of 2 years.

This is only possible if you are working for an employer for the first time (not if you have been employed there before). The fixed term can be set up to 3 times.

The employment contract must be extended without interruption, otherwise a fixed term without objective reason is inadmissible.

The fixed term must be set out in writing (verbal fixed terms are not possible!). Even if you do not have a written employment contract, for example, you must receive a written fixed-term contract.

A fixed-term employment contract then states the date on which the contract ends. It is only terminated by the fixed term itself, not by a resignation or dismissal.

Please note: the number of extensions or the maximum duration of the fixed term may be regulated differently by a collective agreement. Find out which contract applies to you!

It is not possible for you or the employer to terminate the contract with notice before the end date. This is only possible if it has been expressly agreed in the employment contract or in an applicable collective agreement.

Three months before your employment contract expires, you must register with the employment agency as looking for work.

Your employment contract is "fixed-term with objective reason"

A fixed term is always possible if there is an objective reason that justifies a fixed term.

This means, for example, that your contract is tied to the duration of a project. Other examples of an objective reason can be a temporary need for manpower, substitution, the nature of the work and testing.

This fixed term must also always be set out in writing.

Temporary residence permit as an objective reason

A temporary residence permit can also be a justified objective reason.

However, an objective reason must already be definitively in place when the contract is concluded. This is not always the case with temporary residence permits. Contact your Fair Integration advice centre if your employment contract has a fixed term due to your residence permit.

Fixed-term contracts with objective reason can be extended as often as required (no maximum limit).

It is not possible for you or the employer to terminate the contract with notice before the end date here, either.  This is only possible if it has been expressly agreed in the employment contract or in an applicable collective agreement.

Please note: three months before your fixed-term employment contract expires, you must register with the employment agency as looking for work. If a fixed-term contract ends because the purpose has been fulfilled, or if the contract ends due to termination/dismissal, you must register with the employment agency as looking for work within 3 days of finding out about the end of the employment relationship.

What can you do against a fixed term?

You can have a court review whether a fixed term is valid. To do this, you must file an action against fixed-term employment contracts with the labour court no later than 3 weeks after the end of the fixed-term contract.

You can get help with this from your advice centre or the legal application centre at your local labour court.

Please note: filing an action will involve costs for you. Your Fair Integration advice centre will happily provide information about this.

What are important points in your employment contract?

1. Cut-off period

Your employment contract may specify a cut-off period. If, for example, you are paid too little, you must claim your wages before the end of this cut-off period. If you wait too long and the deadline expires, you will lose your right to your money! These deadlines may result from collective agreements. Your minimum wage is not affected by this.

Important: cut-off periods can be very short (e.g. three months). So find out in good time whether a cut-off period applies to you!

2. Contractual penalties

Contractual penalties can also be included in the employment contract. This means, for example, that if certain termination or dismissal notice periods are not observed, you may have to pay a penalty. The aim behind this is to prevent negligent breaches of the employment contract.

Contractual penalties must not violate the statutory minimum standards in labour law and they must be clearly and distinctly described in the employment contract.

Important: if you receive lower wages due to a contractual penalty, contact your Fair Integration advice centre.