Förderprogramm "Integration durch Qualifizierung IQ"

FAQ – Working hours

Working hours – how many hours are you allowed to work?

You are not allowed to work more than 8 hours a day. There are exceptions where you are allowed to work up to 10 hours a day. However, you must not exceed an average daily working time of 8 hours over 6 months.

You must not work more than 48 hours in a week (maximum working time). Even if you have several jobs, your total number of working hours must not exceed 48 hours.

There must be a rest period of 11 hours between your working days (during which you are not allowed to work). If you work shifts, you must ensure that you adhere to the rest period. If you work in the care sector, agriculture, catering/hotel or transport companies, for example, the rest period between your working hours may be shorter. The missing rest time must always be made up for.

Your working hours are set out in your employment contract. It states whether and how much overtime you can work. This information might also be found in collective agreements or company agreements. If you are unsure about how your overtime is regulated, you should speak to your employer.

You should know whether you will be paid for overtime or receive the time off: For example, you work 2 hours overtime and are allowed to leave 2 hours earlier on another day (time off in lieu). It can also be agreed that you will be paid for overtime. Your employer is not allowed to order you to work overtime just like that – your working hours and overtime are regulated by law. He or she must comply with the law.

To document your working hours, it is important that you write down your hours precisely. Then you can prove how long you have worked.


You work on call. Your working hours are not written in the contract – what does that mean for you?

If your employment contract does not specify working hours, this automatically means that your working hours are at least 20 hours per week.

You can work more than 20 hours a week, but not less. On-call work means that you are assigned to work at short notice. Even if you are on call, your employer must employ you for at least 3 hours continuously if the duration of your daily working hours is not regulated.

So if your employment contract does not state that you should work 8 hours a day, for example, your employer can ask you to work for 3 hours. He/she may not schedule you in for a period of only 2 hours or less, for example, as this would not be worthwhile for you.If you are still only supposed to work for 2 hours, your employer must pay you for 3 hours.

If you work on call, your working hours during the week may deviate from the rule. If a minimum working time has been agreed (in the employment contract), your employer may give you a maximum of 25% more work (per week). If a maximum working time has been agreed, your employer may allow you to work up to 20% less, but not less than that.

If your employment contract states that you should work a maximum of 30 hours per month, your employer can ask you to just work 24 hours in a "quiet" month and then only pay you for these hours. But he/she cannot pay you for less than 24 hours.

There are no clear working hours in your contract – what do you need to know?

For example, if your employment contract states that you have to work between 10 and 40 hours a week, this rule is unclear and not permitted.

If your employment contract states unclear working hours, you need to calculate how many hours you work on average: For example, you work 20 hours in the first week of the month, 40 hours in the second week, 20 hours in the third and 20 hours again in the fourth. Then your average working hours are 25 hours per week. You must be paid for this time, even if you sometimes work less.

How to calculate your average working hours:

Working hours in week 1

+  working hours in week 2

+  working hours in week 3

+  working hours in week 4 

= B        

Divide the result B by 4 (because there are 4 weeks in one month)

B / 4 = average number of working hours per month

Example calculation: 20 + 40 + 20 + 20 = 100 / 4 = 25

There are also jobs where you have flexible working hours, such as flexitime (Gleitzeit). For this purpose, a flexitime account is kept which records minus and plus hours. You can then decide for yourself when and how much you work within a defined framework (in the employment contract or a company agreement).

Who writes down your working hours?

In Germany, working time recording (Arbeitszeiterfassung) will apply from 2023: The employer is obliged to record your working hours and overtime.

There will soon be a law for this! That's probably why not every employer has set up an electronic system to record your working hours. If your employer has not yet done so, he or she must do make up for this. The more employees he or she has, the longer it takes to set up this system.

Note: always write down your working hours yourself anyway! Then you can prove when and how long you have worked. And you can check whether you get paid for all the hours and overtime.


Do you have to take breaks during your work?

Yes, breaks are set by law: If you work longer than 6 hours, you must take a 30-minute break. If you work longer than 9 hours, you must take a total of 45 minutes’ break.

Breaks are not paid – but you should still take them. If you do not take a break, the time will still be deducted from your working hours.


Working on Sundays, public holidays and nights – what do you need to consider?

Working at weekends, on public holidays or even at night is normal in some sectors, such as catering or nursing. You must be paid for these special days and times (bonus). There is a legally regulated bonus for night work (=work between 11 pm and 6 am, for pastry shops/bakeries night work is from 10 pm to 5 am). If you are paid bonuses, this will also appear on your payslip.

Your employment contract (or collective agreement) states which bonuses are paid for overtime, work on Sundays and public holidays. If this is not in your employment contract, it may be in the collective agreement that applies to your work.

You travel for your work – what does that mean for your working hours and pay?

If you do not have a fixed place of work, but travel to customers, for example, this travelling time is also working time. This also includes the journey to your first customer and the journey home from your last customer. If you travel for work, you must be paid for the time you spend travelling. 

If your travelling time is outside of your normal working hours, a different payment may apply. This is the case if it is stated in your employment contract or a collective agreement or company agreement. This also applies if the travelling time is part of your job. The employer will ask you to document journeys and travelling times. You should do this in order to secure payment (travel expenses).

Note: the time you need to travel from your home to work does not count as working time. This time only counts as working time if you drive directly from your home to a customer.


What is a working time account?

A working time account is an account in which plus hours can be collected or from which minus hours can be reduced.

  • Plus hours are the hours that you work more than stated in your employment contract.
  • Minus hours are the hours that you work less than stated in your employment contract.

The basis of the account is the working hours stated in your employment contract. Keeping a working time account can also result from a company agreement or a collective agreement. This is particularly the case in temporary work.

It must also be regulated how many plus and minus hours you are allowed to accumulate in the working time account. It must also state how and when you have to make up or use up these hours (plus or minus). Your employment contract, a company agreement or a collective agreement also states whether plus hours are paid or used up as time off in lieu. When agreeing a working time account, the working time laws and the statutory minimum wage apply.