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.
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.
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 (http://www.bmas.de/EN/Home/home.html) to find out more.