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Working in Germany and Saxony-Anhalt

Seeking Employment

Working

You are looking for work. First, register with the Federal Employment Agency as „arbeitsuchend“ (seeking employment).

The prerequisite for this is a valid registered address. You must be reachable by post at the registered address. It is your contact address with the Employment Agency.

To register as seeking employment, use the internet portal „JOBBÖRSE“ or call the relevant Employment Agency. Once you are registered as "seeking employment," as an EU citizen, you have a legal entitlement to support in job search by the Employment Agency.

  • The Employment Agency supports with:
  • Job search including application and interview preparation,
  • Choice of workplace,
  • Professional development and retraining,
  • Career changes and job transitions,
  • Professional further education, among others.

The entire service of the Employment Agency is free of charge. Once you have registered as seeking employment, you should use the offers of the relevant Employment Agency to find a job. Arrange a personal consultation appointment to discuss your individual situation. A job counselor will assist you free of charge.

If a job cannot be found for you even with the help of your job counselor, measures of active labor market promotion may be considered for you. This applies even if you are not entitled to unemployment benefits.

Tip: Inform yourself about the exact services of labor market promotion according to the Social Code.

Utilizing the Placement Budget

As an EU employee, you can apply for financial support from the so-called placement budget if you want to take up employment subject to social security contributions.

Under certain conditions, the placement budget can cover the following costs:

  • Costs for the recognition of foreign educational or professional certificates,
  • Costs for the creation and sending of application documents,
  • Costs for travel to job interviews,
  • Travel expenses for the journey to take up employment in another location,
  • Costs for commuting when taking up employment in another location,
  • Costs for work materials such as work clothing and tools,
  • Other costs, e.g., translations, instructions/certificates from the health department.

Note: Funding from the placement budget requires that you are at risk of unemployment. Funding is not granted if you are in a non-terminated or indefinite employment relationship or if you are seeking a new job for personal reasons (e.g., higher earnings/change of residence).

Utilizing Vocational Rehabilitation Measures

If you are unemployed or at risk of losing your job, you can be supported through "measures for activation and vocational integration." With the Activation and Placement Voucher (AVGS), your job counselor certifies the fulfillment of the funding requirements and together with you, defines the specific goal and content of the measure. The AVGS entitles you to select a provider, a private job placement agency, or an employer suitable for your professional goals.

Vocational integration measures include, for example:

  • Job application training,
  • Skills assessment,
  • Coaching,
  • Professional knowledge transfer including job-related language support,
  • Job trials,
  • Vouchers for private job placement.

You coordinate the decision regarding your further steps with your job counselor, taking into account the local range of measures available.

Note: Engaging such a mediator can significantly increase your chances of finding new employment. If you are entitled to unemployment benefits and have been unemployed for at least 6 weeks without being placed, you are entitled to a placement voucher for the free use of a private job placement agency.

Education Voucher for Further Education

The Employment Agency supports your professional qualification and further education with the Education Voucher. This option is considered if you are already unemployed or if you are employed and your professional knowledge and skills need to be adapted to changed requirements in the field.

You receive the Education Voucher from your job counselor if you meet the funding requirements. It certifies the assumption of further education costs (course fees, travel expenses, costs for accommodation and meals away from home, and childcare costs) and, if applicable, the continued payment of unemployment benefits during participation in the further training measure.

Measures of professional further education include, among others:

  • Adaptation qualification,
  • Preparation for external examinations,
  • Partial qualifications,
  • Retraining with a provider,
  • Individual company retraining, or
  • Part-time vocational training (possible in combination with job-related language support).

Rules and Laws in Employment Relationships

Termination and Protection against Termination

In Germany, there are two types of terminations:

An "ordinary" and an "extraordinary" termination.

The extraordinary termination is immediate. This means that the employment relationship is terminated upon issuing the termination. This case is rare, as special requirements must be met for the effectiveness of this termination.

With the ordinary termination, the employer must observe a notice period of four weeks to the 15th or the end of the month. The longer the employment relationship exists, the longer the notice period. For example, with 15 years of service, the notice period is six months to the end of a calendar month.

You enjoy special protection against termination under the Termination Protection Act (KSchG) if:

  • Your employment relationship at the time of termination is older than six months, and
  • You are employed in a company with more than 10 employees.

The Termination Protection Act stipulates that a termination by the employer must be socially justified. The employer must cite special reasons that speak against continued employment of the employee in their company. These reasons may lie in the person or behavior of the employee, but may also be based on urgent operational requirements.

If there is a works council in your company, the employer must consult the works council regarding your termination. A termination that occurs without consultation of the works council is invalid.

If you want to challenge the termination, you must file a "termination protection lawsuit" with the labor court within 3 weeks of receiving the written termination. If the lawsuit is not filed within the deadline, the termination is effective. This deadline must also be met if your employment relationship is not subject to the Termination Protection Act.

Note:

A termination is only effective if it is in writing.

An oral termination, termination by email, fax, or SMS is invalid.

Termination is also possible during sick leave.

In case of termination, promptly consult with the works council. The works council can object to the termination for certain reasons within one week.

If Your Wages Are Not Paid

Note: In the event of termination or the threat of job loss, you have various options to seek legal assistance. Ensure you fulfill your obligations for timely reporting and documentation.

If the employer fails to pay the agreed wages, demand payment of the unpaid wages in writing. Be sure to set a deadline of 2 weeks for payment.

In this letter, specify the working hours for which you are claiming wages, the total wage amount, and your bank account details. Complain to the works council or another relevant entity in the company (e.g., a designated representative) about the outstanding wage payments. You can also seek support for your wage claims from there.

If the employer still does not respond to your payment request within the specified deadline, you can enforce the wage claim through a lawsuit at the labor court. If you do not speak sufficient German to conduct a trial, the court automatically provides an interpreter.

CAUTION: In court, you must prove the wage claims. Therefore, record your working hours every day. Have your notes signed by your supervisor/foreman. If this is not possible, ask a colleague to sign, for example.

Note:

Missing the deadline has serious consequences:

The termination becomes effective at the end of the notice period, and you can no longer contest it.

Utilize the support of trade unions or other advisory services promptly, or hire a lawyer specialized in labor law.

Payment According to Minimum Wage

The statutory minimum wage in Germany increased to 12.41 euros on January 1, 2024. It will rise to 12.82 euros on January 1, 2025.

The minimum wage in Saxony-Anhalt is identical to other federal states. There are thus no regional or East-West differences in the amount of the statutory minimum wage. However, there are industry-specific minimum wages negotiated in collective agreements.

Even if you receive the minimum wage, make sure that the wage amount does not violate the prohibition of grossly unfair remuneration.

In Germany, the state customs administration checks whether the employer complies with the prescribed minimum wage. If not, the employer must pay the minimum wage arrears. Additionally, they may be fined.

Tip: If you do not receive the minimum wage, you can call the Minimum Wage Hotline (citizen's phone of the BMAS at 030 60 28 00 28). This number accepts complaints and reports of violations of the Minimum Wage Act. For more information on the minimum wage in Germany, refer to the DGB's topic page.

Working Hours and Vacation

Your working time may not exceed 8 hours per day. With few exceptions, rest breaks and the journey to and from work are not counted as working time. The working time may be extended to a maximum of ten hours if, on average, you do not exceed eight hours of daily working time within six months. Working is prohibited on Sundays and public holidays. Only for certain industries and activities are there legal or collectively agreed exceptions to this working time regulation. The legal exceptions are regulated by the Working Hours Act.

Note: Document your daily working time: Write down your working hours and breaks every day. Have your notes signed by your supervisor/foreman. If this is not possible, ask a colleague to sign.

Vacation

Employees in Germany are entitled to paid annual leave of at least 24 working days per calendar year. These are four weeks of vacation per year since Saturdays also count as working days. The entitlement arises six months after the start of the employment relationship. If the duration of the employment relationship is shorter than six months, you are entitled to pro-rata leave (two working days per month).

Vacation is regulated in the employment contract. For employment relationships under collective agreements, the duration of vacation is generally higher. For young people, the vacation regulations of the Youth Employment Protection Act apply. Depending on age, the Youth Employment Protection Act requires up to 30 working days of vacation.

 

Continued Payment of Wages in Case of Illness

If you have worked in a company for more than four weeks and become ill, you are entitled to payment of your regular wages for up to 6 weeks from your employer.

This also applies if you are unable to work due to a sports injury. However, if you have knowingly jeopardized your health, for example, by driving under the influence or smoking after a heart attack, the employer may refuse to pay your wages.

Note: If you are sick, you must notify the employer as soon as possible. You need a medical certificate no later than the 4th calendar day of illness. For example, if you became ill on Friday, you must submit a medical certificate to the employer on Monday. However, the employer may request the sick note as early as the first day of illness. Be sure to adhere to these deadlines, as a violation can lead to termination.

Rights and Duties for Employees in Case of Job Loss

If Your Wages Are Not Paid

Note: In the event of termination or job loss, you have various options to seek legal assistance. Make sure to fulfill your obligations for timely reporting and documentation.

If the employer fails to pay the agreed wages, demand payment of the unpaid wages in writing. Be sure to set a deadline of 2 weeks for payment.

In this letter, specify the working hours for which you are claiming wages, the total wage amount, and your bank account details. Complain to the works council or another relevant entity in the company (e.g., a designated representative) about the outstanding wage payments. You can also receive support for your wage claims from there.

If the employer still does not respond to your payment request within the specified deadline, you can enforce the wage claim through a lawsuit at the labor court. If you do not speak sufficient German to conduct a trial, the court automatically provides an interpreter.

CAUTION: In court, you must prove the wage claims. Therefore, record your working hours every day. Have your notes signed by your supervisor/foreman. If this is not possible, ask a colleague to sign.

If I've Been Terminated

In this case, you must file a lawsuit in court (termination protection lawsuit) within 3 weeks of receiving the termination notice. This deadline applies to all terminations, regardless of whether you fall under the Termination Protection Act.

You can file the termination protection lawsuit yourself at the labor court, meaning you do not need legal representation by a lawyer. Legal representation is only required in the 2nd instance. With the termination protection lawsuit, you aim to have the labor court declare the termination invalid. If successful, the termination is deemed invalid. This means your employment relationship continues. You must then go to work, and the employer must pay the wages. You can also file a termination protection lawsuit if you do not want to continue the employment relationship but instead want severance pay.

Note: Remember to submit written employment contracts, records of working hours, or other documents related to the amount of wages received (in copies).

CAUTION: Court proceedings incur court costs. These are usually borne by the losing party. In case of partial success, the costs are shared proportionally. In the first instance, each party must bear the costs of a lawyer. Therefore, you must pay your attorney's fees even if you win the case.

Note:

Missing the deadline has serious consequences:

The termination becomes effective at the end of the notice period, and you can no longer contest it.

Utilize the support of trade unions or other advisory services promptly, or hire a lawyer specialized in labor law.

Unemployment Benefits and Basic Security

If you become unemployed, you are entitled to unemployment benefits such as unemployment benefits and basic security.

Note:

You must personally register as a jobseeker at the responsible employment agency at least 3 months before the end of your employment. If you learn about the termination of your employment less than 3 months in advance, you must register personally with the responsible employment agency within 3 days.

To meet this deadline, you can also register as a job seeker by phone (free service number: 0800 4 5555 000) or online. The personal appointment can take place at a later date. If you miss the deadline, you may face a waiting period during which you will not receive benefits under SGB III (unemployment benefits I).

Unemployment Benefits

In general, you must have worked for at least 12 months under social security conditions in the last 30 months. If you mainly held short-term employment contracts initially not exceeding 14 weeks, 6 months of employment may be sufficient under certain circumstances.

For more information on unemployment benefits, refer to the brochure for unemployed persons published by the Federal Employment Agency. You can take your entitlement to unemployment benefits to another EU country for 3 to 6 months to search for work there. This means you can take your unemployment benefits from another EU country to search for work in Germany. Similarly, you can take your German unemployment benefits to another EU country.

Note: If you want to take your unemployment benefits to another country, you must first contact your employment administration and meet certain conditions. Otherwise, you may lose your entitlement to benefits.

Basic Security

Basic security provides you with the minimum financial means you need to support yourself. Able-bodied persons seeking work who have no or insufficient entitlement to unemployment benefits or insufficient income receive unemployment benefits II under the Second Social Code (SGB II), also known as "Hartz IV."

Persons who, for example, due to illness or retirement age, are unable to work and therefore cannot work receive support under the Twelfth Social Code (SGB XII).

  • CAUTION: Special rules apply to EU citizens accessing these social benefits: You can receive benefits under the Second Social Code (SGB II) if you work in Germany but do not earn enough to cover your living expenses or if
  • you have worked in Germany for more than a year and become involuntarily unemployed. If you have worked for less than a year, benefits are limited to 6 months.

Caution: If you are in Germany solely for the purpose of seeking work and have not worked here long enough before, you will receive benefits under the SGB II (basic security) and SGB XII (social assistance) only after a lawful stay of 5 years in Germany.

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