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The Workplace in Germany

If you work for a German firm you’ll be subject not only to German taxes but also to premiums for various health, unemployment and retirement plans. (See the separate articles on benefits, health insurance and retirement.) These can take a bite out of your take-home pay. If you don’t intend to work in Germany the rest of your life, it may be possible to be exempted from payments to the retirement insurance (Rentenversicherung) or to collect some of the money you have contributed when you leave if certain conditions are met.

On the positive side, you might get a housing subsidy (Wohngeld) to help with your rent and a child subsidy (Kindergeld) to help with the raising of your children. Often a company may subsidize the cost of getting to and from work, and perhaps pay all or part of the cost of your lunch. Many companies have an employee canteen where low cost lunches and other food items are sold.

If hired, an employee must usually expect a probationary period of three to six months, during which time he or she can be dismissed with two weeks’ notice. Once you have successfully weathered this probation it becomes increasingly difficult for the company to dismiss you. It must convince the unions and/or labor court that the reasons are very good, and in any case must give a proper notice.

If the employee is of relatively recent hire, the notice period will be four weeks. The notice period may lengthen 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 him to give four weeks notice, up to either the first or 15th of a month.

The usual German workweek these days varies between 38 and 42 hours, and some employers shut up shop early on Friday afternoons. The law requires a minimum of 20 working days of vacation annually, but some companies give much more than that, sometimes as much as 30 working days. In some companies employees may earn increasing days of vacation from year to year. Unpaid leave is also permitted under certain circumstances.

Paid sick leave is six weeks, during which you will continue to receive your full salary. After that time, health insurance pays 70% of your last salary until you either return to work or have to retire because of your health.

German law is generous when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. Mothers are allowed six weeks leave at full pay prior to the child’s birth and eight weeks at full pay afterward. In the case of a multiple birth, 12 weeks paid leave is allowed. The mother or father is then allowed up to three years of unpaid leave to stay at home with the child. Recently, the German government initiated a program that allows direct subsidies to new parents (Elterngeld). It is funded by the federal tax system. It is not a permanent subsidy and is limited to the first 12 or 14 months following the child's birth. The amount of the Elterngeld is based on the after taxes income of the parent dedicated to caring for the newborn.

Salaries are generally deposited directly into your bank account around the 25th of each month.

Click here for more information on maternity leave and job protection.

Click here for more information on maternity allowance.