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 At Work

Work Usage

The German work environment is similar to most of Western Europe. Although Berlin is the capitol, the work environment in the city is generally more relaxed than other big cities like Frankfurt. Germans are known as private and professional, but Berliners are much less so than other German counterparts.

Working hours

Working hours and breaks are governed by the Arbeitszeitgesetz (law on working hours), collective wage agreements and company agreements, or arranged on an individual basis. The work week generally varies between 38 and 40 hours with a daily work routine of 8 hours. A break of at least 30 minutes is mandatory after six hours's work, and a rest period of at least 11 hours must be observed. Employees cannot normally be required to work on Sundays and public holidays. However, for employees in highly skilled positions, particularly managers, unpaid overtime is expected.

An increasing population are now working on "flexi-time". This means there are core hours during which all employees must be present, but the rest of the work hours can be at the employees discretion.

Entitlement to Work in Germany

EU citizens (plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) are free to move and work within the union.

The situation is much more difficult for people from outside the EU. Berlin's high unemployment make it especially difficult. This does mean impossible, but it is difficult. To increase your chances, it helps to have an education or special skill and speak German. Start applying before arriving and have enough savings to subsist for a while.


There is no general minimum wage. Minimum standards for working conditions (particularly wages and paid leave) exist only in individual sectors such as the building trade, roofing, painting, electricians, postal workers and building cleaners.


Salaries are normally transferred into the employee's current account in the middle of the month or at the end of the month. Wages tax and the employees's contributions for social security insurance is automatically deducted.


Most jobs are under contract. An employment contract must be in writing and the employee should read and understand all conditions before signing. If it is in a language other than your mother tongue, you should allow a trusted advisor (like a lawyer or financial advisor) that is fluent in that language to inspect it.

Probationary Period

There is usually a probationary period of three to six months. During this time, the employee can be dismissed with two weeks to one month's notice.


After a probationary period, it is very difficult for a company to dismiss an employee. If the employee is of relatively recent hire, the notice period is four weeks. The notice period lengthens progressively for those who have been with the employer for longer periods, and can be seven months for a person who has been employed 20 or more years.

If an employee resigns, the law requires four weeks notice. Their end date should be on the 15th, or end, of a month.

Time Off

Annual leave usually amounts to between four and six weeks depending on the sector. The statutory minimum entitlement to leave is 24 working days per year, but most companies offer much more. Full entitlement to leave is acquired only after the employment relationship has been in existence for six months.

If you are ill, you should go to the doctor and obtain a certificate stating that you are unfit to work. This is commonly given, and necessary for most positions. Your employer must have received this certificate no later than on the third day of your illness. Paid sick leave is available for six weeks. After that period, health insurance pays 70 percent of your last salary until you either return to work or have to retire because of your health.

Some collective wage agreements include arrangements for events like special leave for marriage, death of a close relative, or moving house. Make sure to understand these clauses in the contract. Special rules apply to certain groups of people, including young people under the age of 18 and disabled people.


The German word for public holiday is gesetzliche Feiertage. German businesses generally close on public holidays, but police stations and hospitals do not. If a public holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday or previous Friday is usually not taken off.

Public holidays in Germany vary from one federal state to another. Some states having more public holidays than others.

A calendar of holidays around the world is available here.


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