German labor and employment law extensively regulate the employer/employee relationship, according to the Wilmer Hale website. Generally referred to as the “employee protection law,” German labor laws are intended to protect the employee in regard to employment contracts, working hours, leaves and termination law.
German law requires a written employment contract as Germany has no “employment at will,” according to the Wilmer Hale law firm. Starting date of employment, gross salary and benefits, work to be performed, place of performance, vacation and notice periods are delineated in the employee contract. The basic employment contract is unlimited in time; however, a limited term contract is acceptable only in situations where there is an objective reason for the limitation. Filling in for an employee on extended illness or for a short-term work project would be examples of a limited employment contract.
Hours and Breaks
A company agreement or collective wage agreement and German labor laws govern the working hours and breaks or they may be arranged on an individual basis. In accordance with the collective wage agreement, the work week varies from 38 to 40 hours. After six hours’ work, a break of at least 30 minutes is mandated by law, according to the website of the Confederation Fiscale Europeenne. After working a full day, law requires a rest period of at least 11 hours, and working public holidays and Sundays is generally prohibited, although there are some exceptions.
Full paid maternity leave is granted to female employees starting at least six weeks prior to the due date and extending eight weeks after the birth, according to the Wilmer Hale firm. Employees who work a normal five-day week are granted a statutory claim for 20 working days’ vacation per calendar year. Depending on the type of business or seniority, the typical vacation period is between 25 to 30 days per calendar year.
A maximum of three years parental leave per child is granted to both male and female employees, generally without pay. The employee cannot be terminated and has a right to work up to 30 hours per week during the parental leave. A position must be made available to the employee after the parental leave expires.
Employees who have been employed for more than six months fall under the German Termination Protection Act. However, this act is only applicable for companies that employ five or more persons, according to Wilmer Hale. Under the German Termination Protection Act reasons that permit termination are related to the behavior of the person involved (i.e., long-term sick leave, theft or fraud affecting the employer). Pregnant employees, handicapped persons or an employee on three years’ parental leave are protected against unlawful dismissal through "special termination protection."