Working abroad, especially in a legal system as developed and rigorous as the German one, requires special attention and awareness on the part of employees. German labour law – knowing both one’s rights and obligations is key to ensuring safe, stable and satisfactory employment conditions. What are the rights and obligations of employees under German employment law? Why is it so important to be knowledgeable on this topic?

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German employment law – why is it so important to know it?

Firstly, German labour law offers a wide range of protections for employees. It regulates many aspects of employment, such as minimum wages, working hours, holidays and the right to safe working conditions. Understanding these laws allows employees to effectively enforce their rights and avoid possible abuse by employers.

Secondly, being aware of employees’ obligations helps maintain professionalism and strengthens the relationship between employees and employers. Knowing the expectations of working time, discipline and loyalty allows employees to work effectively with their employers. Furthermore, contribute to the success of the organisation.

Misunderstanding or ignoring employee rights and obligations can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts and even legal consequences. Knowledge of employee rights and obligations is therefore not only a matter of compliance, but also a key element in building healthy and satisfying working relationships in the German working environment.

German employment law – working time and holidays

German employment law sets out a precise framework for working time and holidays for employees. According to these laws, the typical weekly working time is usually 40 hours, however, this may be different in some sectors. In addition, it is possible to adjust working hours flexibly, allowing employees to better harmonise their work and private lives.

As far as holidays are concerned, German legislation guarantees employees at least 20 days of holiday per year when working full time. However, many companies offer more, up to 30 days. It is important to note that the law requires employers to grant holidays, which provides employees with the necessary time for rest and recuperation. In addition, there are additional days off associated with national and regional holidays, which gives employees additional opportunities for rest. At the same time, the system is flexible. Which allows working hours and holidays to be tailored to the individual needs of employees and the characteristics of the workplace. Such flexibility is particularly appreciated by employees who want to balance work obligations with family or personal life.

In terms of working hours, the average working time in Germany is eight hours per day, up to a maximum of 48 hours per week. In some sectors, such as construction, working hours can vary depending on the time of year. It is important that the weekly average does not exceed 48 hours over a six-month reference period. Employees are entitled to a 30-minute break when working 6-9 hours and 45 minutes when working more than 9 hours.

Employment contract

Employment law in Germany regulates various aspects of employment contracts. First and foremost, the contract must be in writing, containing relevant information such as pay, working hours and duties. This is the safest form, as the written contract provides a basis in case of problems with the employer or employee, such as unfair dismissal or arrears of pay.

In addition, German legislation protects employees from unjustified dismissal and the notice period depends on the length of service. Employers are also obliged to comply with holiday and sickness provisions. It is also worth noting that employees’ rights are strongly supported by trade unions, which often negotiate collective agreements regulating additional working conditions.

The employment contract must contain information on pay, working time, holidays, notice period and job description. Employers are required to confirm these conditions in writing at the latest one month after the start of work. The probationary period may last a maximum of six months, and temporary contracts are allowed for specific reasons, such as the temporary replacement of another employee.

However, an employment contract in Germany can also be concluded verbally or by tacit consent, meaning that the employee undertakes the work and the employer does not object to it. Even if the contract is verbal, the employer must provide the employee with a written copy. Signatures on the contract are provided by both the employee and the employer, or their authorised representatives.

What does German labour law say about health and safety?

Occupational health and safety are key issues in German labour law, aiming to ensure safe working conditions for employees and to minimise the risk of accidents and occupational diseases. Below we outline the key aspects of these issues:

  1. Employer’s obligations to provide safe working conditions. The employer is obliged to provide employees with safe and hygienic working conditions that minimise the risk of accidents and occupational diseases. This includes, but is not limited to, regular maintenance of work equipment and tools, health and safety training and the provision of appropriate personal protective equipment such as helmets, safety goggles or masks.
  2. The employee’s rights in the event of an accident or occupational disease. In the event of an accident or occupational disease, the employee is entitled to compensation and benefits under the accident or occupational disease insurance. The employer is obliged to report the accident or occupational disease to the relevant authorities and to provide the employee with appropriate medical care and rehabilitation. If the accident or occupational disease leads to a loss of working capacity, the employee may be entitled to a pension or other protective benefits.
  3. Rules on payment of wages and social security contributions. German labour law specifies the rules on the payment of wages, stipulating minimum hourly rates and deadlines for the payment of wages. The employer is obliged to deduct the relevant social security contributions, such as health, pension and disability insurance, from employees’ wages.
  4. Employees’ rights to social security benefits such as health and pension insurance. Employees working in Germany are entitled to social benefits that provide them with access to health care, pension benefits and other forms of social security. Health insurance is compulsory and the employer is obliged to deduct health insurance contributions from the employee’s salary. Pension benefits are financed by the social security system, to which employees and employers make regular contributions.


Understanding both rights and obligations is crucial for any employee working in Germany. Having this knowledge allows you not only to effectively enforce your rights, but also to function smoothly in the workplace, fostering harmonious relationships with your employer and colleagues. Adherence to the applicable regulations regarding working time, health and safety, as well as remuneration and social benefits ensures stability for employees and the protection of their health and dignity.

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