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Everything You Need to Know About Working Hours in Germany

The average working hours in Germany, at 34.8 per week, is a couple of hours lower than the European average of 37.0 weekly working hours. 

Apart from this, the working hours in Germany are strictly regulated by the government. This means that employees should clock out by the time they’re supposed to. It provides a suitable environment to pursue a balance between work and personal life.

According to the Working Hours Act of Germany, working hours refer to the start of work up until its end. Time for breaks is not included. 

Furthermore, working hours for employees who have more than one employer are cumulative. This means that the total number of working hours, regardless of how many employers one has, should be within the regulated period of time.  

What is a Working Week in Germany?

The working week in Germany is only from Monday to Saturday. However, most institutions only conduct their businesses until Friday, giving employees a two-day weekend. 

Sundays and national holidays are absolutely hands-off. These days should not be interfered with the conduct of work because they serve as a time for employees to kick back and relax. It gives them space to re-energize so that they can boost their morale.

How Long are the Daily Working Hours in Germany?

Working hours in Germany should not be more than 8 hours per day. They are often from 9am to 5pm on a four-day work week, Monday to Thursday, or from 9am to 4pm on a five-day work week, Monday to Friday.

But there is some leeway to stretch the working hours in a day to a maximum of 10 hours. This comes with the condition that, within 6 calendar months or 24 weeks, the average number of hours per day does not exceed 8 hours.

Breaks are Not Up for Discussion

Working hours in Germany: a break is mandatory.
No matter how much employees love their work, they are still required by law to take a break.

During the Working Day

Employees cannot work for more than 6 consecutive hours. They are entitled to breaks within the work day. 

At least 30 minutes of break time should be given to employees who work for six to nine hours a day. Rest breaks increase concurrently with the number of hours worked. Employees who work more than nine hours a day should have a total of 45 minutes of breaks. 

The aforementioned time off from work can be divided throughout the day. But each period should be at least 15 minutes long.  

After the Working Day

After a long day of hard work, employees can leave all their responsibilities behind once they get out of the office. They should have at least 11 hours of rest that is completely uninterrupted by their employers after every working day.  

The 11 hours of uninterrupted rest can be decreased by an hour. This is permitted if the 10-hour rest period in a calendar month or four weeks is followed by a 12-hour rest period thereafter. 

How Long are the Weekly Working Hours in Germany?

In a week, full-time employees often have an average of 36 to 40 working hours in Germany. But a maximum of 48 hours per week is allowable by law. 

In contrast to this, individuals who have an average of less than 30 working hours per week are considered part-time employees. This can be reduced further once an employee has been with the company for six months. 

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been more opportunities for flexible working hours and work from home arrangements. These allow employees to play a bigger role in managing both their tasks and time. It gives more importance to the fulfillment of responsibilities rather than the exact number of hours worked. 

What Happens if Employees Work Overtime?

Overtime work is not done for free; time is gold, after all.

There are some instances when employees can work for 60 hours a week, as long as they receive the appropriate compensation for this extension. Employees can be compensated either in the form of money or time off.   

At the same time, even overtime work has its limits. Despite having a 60-hour work week, the weekly average hours within six months should not exceed 48 hours.  

Is Working at Night Allowed in Germany?

When employees work more than two hours at any time between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., it is already considered night work. The schedule is adjusted from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for bakeries and confectioneries.

Apart from that, any employee working within the aforementioned schedules for at least 48 days per year is also classified as a night worker.    

Even for employees who work at night, the daily working hours should still not surpass 8 hours. It can go up to ten hours, as long as the average working time per day is still within 8 hours in a month or four weeks. 

Night workers are also subject to regular occupational medical examinations. This should be done before the first day of employment and at least every 3 years. For employees ages 50 and above, the interval between medical examinations is shortened to one year. 

However, employees do not need to worry about paying for these check-ups out of their own pockets. The employer is obliged to provide this to the workers. 

Opportunities for training, promotion measures, and other benefits do not depend on the employees’ working schedule. Because of this, all employees, whether working at night or during the day, should be treated fairly.

Can Employees Go on a Vacation? 

Of course, employees in Germany are entitled to annual rest leaves, which are paid. They don’t need to worry about salary deductions for going on a well-deserved vacation.

Full-time employees with a 6-day work week have a minimum of 24 days of annual leave. Those with a 5-day work week have at least 20 days of annual leave. However, depending on negotiations with the employer, it can even be increased to more than 30 days. These are in addition to the national holidays celebrated by the country.

How About When Employees Get Sick?

Those who cannot report to work should inform their employer as soon as the situation allows. Employees are not required to disclose the disease that they are suffering from. But they should let their employers know that they are sick and for how long they will be out of work. 

A medical certificate must be presented to the employer should the employee be sick for more than 3 days.

Employees who develop a long-term disease will not be left on their own. If health conditions require employees to go on a sick leave for 6 weeks or less, they will still receive their salary in full. If more than 6 weeks are needed, employees can apply for a statutory sickness payment from their health insurance provider. With this, they can receive 70% of their salary for up to 78 weeks. 

Industries with the Longest Working Hours in Germany

The working hours expectedly differ from industry to industry. 

Individuals in the sectors of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries put in the greatest number of hours. They have a weekly average of 48.8 hours per week, which is more than 10 hours relative to the national average.

Other sectors that came after were the following: service (42.5 hours); construction and housing (42.1 hours); trade and commerce (41.9 hours); and information and communications (41.8 hours).

Industries with the Shortest Working Hours in Germany

Those who do not want to subject themselves to the longest working hours there are can consider other sectors as well.

Employees in the manufacturing sector work an average of 40.3 hours per week. Individuals in the public administration, education, and healthcare sectors work just a bit longer than they do, at 40.6 hours per week.

Working Hours in Germany Over the Years

Since 1991, working hours in Germany have been decreasing. In that year, all employees, whether full-time or part-time, had an average of 38.4 working hours per week. 

When taken separately, it can be seen that the number of working hours for full-time employees has stayed the same. In 1991, the average working hours per week was 41.4. Similarly, the average weekly working hours for 2019 was 41.0.

On the other hand, the number of hours worked in a week by part-time employees has decreased from 20 hours in 1991 to 19.5 hours in 2019.

The overall decrease in working hours in Germany can be attributed to the increase in part-time employees. Only 14% of the population surveyed in 1991 had this work arrangement, while it went up to 29% in 2019.

A Comparison of Working Hours in Germany with Other Countries

The countries with the highest number of hours worked in a week were Turkey, Montenegro, and Serbia. Employees worked a weekly average of 45.4, 44.4, and 42.6 hours, respectively. 

Employees in the Netherlands worked the least number of hours in a given week. The average working hours in the country were 30.4. Other countries that ranked after the Netherlands were Denmark (33.3 hours) and Norway (33.7 hours). 

However, these values are dependent on the proportion of individuals who are employed part-time. When taken separately, Germany is similar to the Netherlands in that regard. Full-time employees work an average of 40.7 hours per week, while part-time employees work an average of 20.6 hours per week in the Netherlands.  

How Much Can Employees Earn in Germany?

Salaries across industries differ. On average, a full-time employee earns 3,770 euros in a month. But among all of the workers in the country, doctors earn the most.

The national government has also instituted the Minimum Wage Act, which means that employees should be paid no less than 9.82 euros per hour regardless of their work. It is expected to increase to 10.45 euros by the time July 1 of this year comes. This is the gross amount and would still be subject to relevant taxes. The specific tax rates are dependent on the income range of the taxpayer.

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