Despite the German reputation for efficiency and hard work, the average hours per worker per week are in fact lower than in many countries. German law allows a maximum of 48 hours per week – 8 hours per day from Monday to Saturday – although most businesses work 40 hours over a five-day week. Under certain circumstances, the working week may be extended to 60 hours. Working times are usually flexible, although regular breaks must be observed. Some companies restrict the number of hours employees can work, and if overtime is permitted it is usually compensated with additional time off.
Holiday entitlement in Germany is considered fairly generous, with full-time employees who work six days per week entitled to a minimum of 24 days of paid leave per year. Those who work five days are entitled to 20 days per year, while those on part-time hours receive pro-rated holiday allowances. Sick leave and maternity leave allowances are also comparatively generous. However, there may be restrictions on taking leave during the first six months of a new contract, so make sure you check with your employer.
The number of public holidays in Germany varies between states. There are nine nationally observed public holidays, while local holidays mean some states enjoy 13 days off.
Public holiday dates
New Year's Day: 1st January
Epiphany: 6th January (Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt only)
Good Friday: 3rd April
Easter Monday: 6th April
Labour Day: 1st May
Ascension Day: 14th May
Whit Monday: 25th May
Corpus Christi Day: 4th June (Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland only)
Assumption Day: 15th August (Bavaria and Saarland only)
German Unity Day: 3rd October
Reformation Day: 31st October (Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia only)
All Saints’ Day: 1st November (Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland only)
Christmas Day: 25th December
Boxing Day: 26th December
Visas and eligibility to work
Freedom of movement within the European Union means that the majority of EU citizens are permitted to enter Germany without additional documentation, but people from many non-member states will require an entry visa. You can check your eligibility to travel on the Federal Foreign Office website. To remain in Germany in the long term, non-EU citizens will also need a residence permit, which may be granted on a temporary or permanent basis. EU citizens no longer require this permit, but like everyone else they must register with their local residents’ registration office – usually located in the town or city hall. Although there are some restrictions on foreign workers in Germany, highly-qualified individuals may be eligible to apply under the Blue Card scheme.
In Germany the tax year runs from 1 January to 31 December. You will need to apply for a Taxpayer ID Number and your employer will then deduct income tax from your wages using the ELStAM system. The amount of tax you pay will depend on your income and residency status. You are usually considered a resident for tax purposes after 6 months of working in Germany. Non-residents are taxed on their German income only, but are not eligible for the tax free personal allowance afforded to residents.
Pension contributions are deducted from the wages of almost all workers in Germany as part of the social security system, which also covers health, nursing care, unemployment and accident insurance. The amount paid to each insurance fund is a fixed percentage of your total wage, although this is split between employee and employer contributions. Most foreign nationals will pay in the same as German citizens, but there are some exceptions. For example, foreign workers who are temporarily seconded to a German branch of their employer may be able to continue contributing to their pension fund at home while they are in Germany. For more information, visit the Deutsche Rentenversicherung website.
The German social security system is accessible to foreign nationals, with unemployment and incapacity support among the benefits that can be claimed. However, while some benefits are granted immediately, others are only available after a certain duration of residency. Visit the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs website to find out more.
Since 2006, the rights of disabled workers in Germany have been protected under the General Equal Treatment Act, which also prohibits discrimination against any person for reasons of ethnicity, gender, religion or ideology, age or sexual orientation. Employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments to support disabled workers, in line with EU directives.