With an international reputation in terms of technological advance, science and automation processes, Germany is home to a large pool of highly-qualified workers, especially in sectors like computer science and engineering. The country’s stable and productive economy promotes innovation and research and the overall good command of English eases communication processes when hiring an international team of skilled workers.
German employees are known for their punctuality and their very strong work ethic. While employees in other countries may be inclined to have small talk with their colleagues, staff in Germany tends to dive straight into work and get it done in an efficient way.
When hiring an employee in Germany, it is mandatory to provide a detailed employment contract which has to be signed by both parties. In general, German law distinguishes between fixed-term and permanent employment contracts. Furthermore, there are several sub categories such as freelancer agreements and contracts for interns.
The minimum requirements for an employment contract include:
- name and address of both employer (full company name and representative) and employee
- start date and duration (the latter only in case of a fixed-term contract)
- workplace (if the employee will have several workplaces, this needs to be detailed in the contract)
- short description of the type of work
- information on salary, bonuses, payment method, payday and other aspects that relate to remuneration
- working hours
- annual leave entitlements
- notice periods in case of employment termination
- references to regulations under collective law such as collective agreements
It is common for employment contracts to also contain information on probation periods, overtime etc. In general, employment contracts in Germany tend to be rather detailed and long.
Before signing the employment contract, both parties have to agree on a probation period. In no case should the probation period exceed six months. During this time, the notice period for terminating the employment is shortened to two weeks.
Working Hours and Breaks
Employees in Germany typically work between 38 and 40 hours per week. 48-hour weeks are possible under certain conditions but should not exceed a six month period. A normal working day is eight hours, extendable to a maximum of ten hours.
After six hours of consecutive work, employees must have a 30-minute break which can be either paid or unpaid.
Overtime payment is subject to the outlines of the employment contract. If the contract does not provide for overtime, employers are not allowed to request overtime work unless there is an emergency. Overtime work can either be paid or compensated by additional time off.
Employers in Germany pay their employees on a monthly basis. Payday details are subject to what has been agreed in the employment contract. Most employees receive their wages on the last day of the month or the first day of the following month. However, it is also possible to pay employees by the middle of each month.
As of January 2021, German employees get paid an hourly minimum wage of EUR 9,50. Prospects are that the minimum wage will increase by another 10 Cents in July 2021 and reach a total of EUR 10,45 by mid 2022.
When employees are unable to work because of sickness or injury, they receive their normal pay for a total of six weeks. Employees who are absent from work for longer than three consecutive days due to sickness are required to provide their employers with a doctor’s note.
After six weeks, sick pay is reduced to 70% of their normal gross salary and is provided by the statutory health insurance.
In Germany, it is common practice for employers to pay their employees a 13th salary as a yearly bonus.
Taxes and Social Security Contribution
Employees and employers in Germany are subject to the following tax and social security contribution rates (January 2021):
15% corporate tax rate
7% – 17% municipal trade tax
Individual income tax rates are progressive:
above EUR 9,745: 14% – 24%
above EUR 14,754: 24% – 42%
above EUR 57,919: 42%
above EUR 274,613: 45%
around 20.7% of employee’s salary including:
1.2% unemployment insurance
7.3% health insurance
1.525% care insurance
around 1.32% accident insurance (depending on industry)
0.06% insolvency contribution
around 19.3% of employee’s salary including:
1.2% unemployment insurance
7.3% health insurance
1.525% care insurance (1.55% for employees without children)
As Germany forms part of the PAYE system, employers are responsible for calculating and withholding the appropriate tax rates from the monthly salary. The withheld amount must then be forwarded to the German tax authorities no later than the 10th of the following month.
The statutory minimum annual leave entitlement is 20 days (based on a five-day working week). If the employee’s standard working week comprises six days, the minimum paid annual leave is 24 days. However, it is common practice among employers to grant between 25 and 30 paid vacation days every year.
In general, employees have to take their annual leave within the respective year but some employers allow their workers to carry unused leave over into the following year. According to German law, paid leave days dating from the previous year have to be used until March 31.
In addition, Germany counts eleven official public holidays – plus a number of public holidays which apply only in certain federal states – which must be observed by companies.
Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave
Pregnant female employees are entitled to 14 weeks of fully paid maternity leave: six weeks before and eight weeks after giving birth. In some cases, e.g. premature birth, maternity leave can be extended to 18 weeks.
There is no paternity leave as such but fathers have the same entitlements to parental leave as mothers.
Both mother and father are entitled to take parental leave until their child is three years old. The total amount of parental leave is 36 months for both parents – for the mother, the count starts with the end of maternity leave.
Parental leave benefits are paid by Social Security for twelve or 14 months. Parental leave must be officially requested at least seven weeks prior to the planned start date. Alternatively, parents can request part-time work during this time.
After having completed six months of service, employees in Germany are generally protected from dismissal. Employers thus need a good reason for employment termination which could be based on:
- the employee’s personal situation (e.g. long-term sickness)
- the employee’s conduct (e.g. violation of labour agreement)
- business-related aspects (e.g. liquidation)
Termination by mutual agreement or by default as specified in the employment contract is also possible.
When dismissing an employee, companies have to respect certain notice periods which depend on the employee’s length of service. In no case can notice periods be shorter than four weeks:
- more than two years of service: one month’s notice
- two to five years of service: two months’ notice
- five to eight years of service: three months’ notice
- eight to ten years of service: four months’ notice
- ten to twelve years of service: five months’ notice
- twelve to fifteen years of service: six months’ notice
- fifteen to twenty years of service: seven months’ notice
Resigning employees also have to respect a minimum notice period which should be specified in the employment contract.
Unless the dismissal is due to operational changes, severance pay is not a legal requirement. However, employees might be entitled to severance pay under collective bargaining agreements. If that is the case, severance pay generally amounts to 50% of the employee’s monthly salary multiplied with his or her years of service.
Hiring in Germany?
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