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Your rights

December 2, 2015

Various legal safeguards apply on the German labour market that protect you as an employee from bad working conditions and unfair pay. Here is an overview.

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Contract of employment

A contract of employment is essential for any job in Germany. It contains precise provisions on your employment relationship. Read it through carefully and ask if something is unclear or does not conform with the oral agreements reached. Finally, you must sign it to make it legally binding. So you must also always insist on a written contract, which is, however, usual in Germany. If you are not handed a contract of employment, this should give you reason for suspicion - enquire at the trade association or your employment agency.

The contract of employment regulates both your rights and obligations and those of the employer. The most important provisions are the description of your work tasks and your remuneration, the duration of the probationary period, working hours and your workplace, your pay and the agreed fringe benefits as well as break-time and holiday regulations. The contract of employment often makes reference to a current collective agreement that the sectoral employers’ association has concluded with the respective trade union, which you can have a look at if you wish (ask your employer or works council about this).

Working hours

The collective agreement usually prescribes a working week of between 37 and 40 hours. Germans, however, actually work an average of almost 41 hours a week. There are often flexible working time schemes (flexitime arrangements) that allow you within limits to decide on your working hours yourself. In some occupations, bonuses are paid for night work and work on holidays, in the health and security sectors and shift work in companies, for example.

Wages and salaries

A standard minimum wage applies in Germany of EUR 8.50 per hour. Every employee is entitled to receive this pay at the least. There are, however, currently exceptions in a few industries. Many have their own higher minimum wages, the building trade, for example. Otherwise, wages are negotiated in collective bargaining between trade unions and employers’ associations. If there is no collective wage agreement in your industry, you must negotiate your pay with the employer yourself.

Social security

As an employee in Germany, you are a member of the national social security system. It comprises statutory health, nursing, accident, pension and unemployment insurance. As soon as you are registered as an insured person, you will be assigned a so-called social insurance number. Inform your employer of this and keep a safe record of it at home.