Holiday and leave entitlement in German labour law

The leave entitlement is regulated by the employment contract. The tariff regulations apply.

According to the German Federal Leave Act, an employee is entitled to at least four weeks’ leave per year. This is equivalent to 24 working days or 20 working days for a 5-days week.

However, the employee must first acquire his days off: he must be from six months in the employment relationship, and then he is entitled to his days off. During the first six months, he may apply for partial leave.

Differences between “working days” (Arbeitstagen) and “business days” (Werktagen)

Business days are all days that are not Sundays or Holidays. Working days are the days we worked on.

  • Business days = 6 days per week
  • Working days = 5 days per week

When can you take your days off?

The annual days of leave are to be taken within the current year. If an employee can not take his days off within the year, those days may be transferred to the following year. He has then to take those days in the first three months of the year, otherwise the leave entitlement will be forfeited.

 

Self-Suspension

The employee always has to apply for leave. If he takes days off without authorization, the employer has the right to terminate their employment relationship. If the employer refuses to authorize the days off, the employee can claim for compensation damages in Court.

 

Has your leave entitlement been denied? Contact one of our experts! We are here to help you!

 

Holidays and Sickness

If an employee is sick, the days he is not coming to work are not considered „holiday“. If he falls sick during his holidays, those days are not counted as „days off“: a medical certificate is required.

If the employee is not able to take his days off because of an illness, those days are going to expire.

 

Days off at the end of an Employment Relationship or during an exemption from work

 If the employment relationship is terminated before the holidays have been taken, the employer must pay for those days off. In the case of an exemption, the employer can not offset the “normal” leave to the employee on the exemption period. An exemption from work must not be considered as “holiday”!

Working hours in Germany

Working hours and allowed breaks

When should you start working? How many breaks do you have? How long does your break last? How have your working hours been distributed throughout the whole week?

All those information will be provided to you in your contract of employment.

Daily working time

According to the Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz), the maximum working time per day is eight hours. This time can be extended to up to ten hours. Prerequisite: in six months (24 weeks) the average of your working hours should not exceed 8 hours a day.

Breaks and rest periods

According to the Arbeitszeitgesetz, the following breaks-settlements apply:

 

Working Hours Resting Time
From 6 Hours 30 Minutes
From 9 Hours 45 Minutes

 

The total resting time can be divided in small breaks: e.g. a 30-Minutes break can be divided in 2 breaks x 15-Min. each. There must be at least 11 hours rest period between two working days. Employees may not be working on Sundays and Holidays but exceptions are allowed.

Youth Protection

Pursuant to the Youth Health and Safety at Work Act (Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz), young employees (under 18) are not allowed to work for more than eight hours a day (for a maximum of 40 hours a week). The employer has to allow underage workers to take days off in order to go to school, if it is the case.

For them, the following resting hours-list applies:

Working Hours Resting Time
From 4,5 Hours 30 Minutes
From 6 Hours 60 Minutes

 

Maternity leave

The following working times are not allowed to pregnant women:

  • Extra-hours
  • Night-shifts (8PM-6AM)

Working on Sundays and holidays.

Leave of absence under German labour law

“Consider yourself on leave until further notice!” An exemption/leave of absence may be decided colloquially.

This means that the employer releases the employee from labor conscriptions for an undetermined period of time.

Consequences of an exemption from work:

  • The employee can not comply with his work until a legal termination of the contract;
  • The employee must stay away from the workplace;
  • The employee may be entitled to compensation for damages.

Please consider that your entitlement to holidays and the overtime payment do not forfeit with the exemption from work.

The exemption may be the “elegant” substitute for an immediate termination. The employer can remove the employee from his / her position before the statutory period of notice.

The employee may object to the exemption:

  • The works council can object to the exemption after the order of a decent termination of the employer.
  • The employee can take legal action against the exemption before the Employment Court (Arbeitsgericht).

If you are interested in the formal and content related conditions of an exemption agreement, you can prevent possible disadvantages by requesting for more information in due time.