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Hours of Work

General

Standard hours

Monday to Saturday are considered the legal working days, but most employees typically work from Monday to Friday.

Workdays usually start between 8-9 am and finish between 5-6 pm. Lunch breaks are 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Maximum hours

Working hours should not exceed 8 hours daily. They can be extended to 10 hours daily as long as the weekly hours are not more than 48.

Overtime compensation

Germany does not have regulations on overtime compensation that entitles employees to overtime pay. If there are no other employment contract provisions, overtime has to be compensated with the regular salary. 

The employment contract can state that a certain amount of overtime (up to 15% of the regular working time) is compensated with the regular monthly salary. In this case, employers only have to pay overtime above this amount. If the compensation exceeds the contribution ceiling in the pension insurance (2021: €7,100 (West) and €6,750 (East) per year), the entire overtime may be compensated by the regular monthly salary, which should be indicated n the contract.

Sunday working

Working on Sundays or public holidays is generally prohibited, with a few exceptions. If an employee does work, the employer must compensate the employee with corresponding time off within the following two weeks for working on Sunday or eight weeks for working during a public holiday.

Break rights

The employer must guarantee an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours between workdays. 

Shifts that are between 6-9 hours come with one 30-minute break or two 15-minute breaks. There should be a minimum 45-minute break after the first six hours for shifts longer than nine hours.

The working hours of pregnant women or nursing mothers, as well as employees or trainees under 18 years of age, cannot be extended beyond eight hours.

Night workers

Night work is only allowed for 8 hours per working day. It can be increased to 10 hours, provided the employee's average shift duration in the following month doesn't exceed eight hours. The employer must grant the night worker an appropriate number of paid days off for hours worked during the night time or a suitable supplement to their salary to which they are entitled.

 

Time Tracking Obligations

Employers must record the working time that exceeds the maximum daily working time of 8 hours (hard-copy or digitally), get the employee to sign it and keep a record for two years.

On May 14 2019, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) created a law that requires employers in every EU member country to set up an objective, reliable and accessible system to time track employees' working hours. The implementation of such systems and the form they take is up to the member states to determine. The objective is to control how many employees work overtime and the state of their health, and to make sure they are paid accordingly, while not exceeding the maximum hours worked. This law does not apply to senior executives.

There is (still) no statute mandating that employers record all employee working time in Germany. However, a first instance labour court determined on February 20, 2020, that an employer is required to provide objective, reliable, and accessible records of an employee working time following the EU Working Time Directive. According to it, a failure to do so shifts the burden of proof to the employer on unpaid wages claims. While it is not clear whether other courts will reach similar decisions, this ruling puts the employer under some risk of liability if they cannot provide records that establish the actual working time in unpaid wage disputes.

The employer may leave the time-tracking to the employee. However, if they notice that this does not work, they must intervene. Many companies already have delegation models, but these often only exist on paper and might not be sufficient.

Penalties

Employers may be fined up to €15,000 if they are not complying with working time documentation. However, such fines are very rare. German authorities rarely verify compliance.

As for the new ECJ ruling, it remains to be seen whether further and stricter sanctions will be imposed in the future if employers do not introduce a working time recording system.

This page was last updated on 9th March, 2021. If you have questions about this page, send us an email.