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What is EURES

Germany

Source: EURES The European Job Mobility Portal. For up-to-date information visit the Living and Working Conditions section about Germany on the EURES Portal.

Finding a job

If you would like to work in Germany, you can find a lot of useful information on the website www.make-it-in-germany.com.

The website www.make-it-in-germany.comprovides a Quick-Check tool on training and employment opportunities in Germany, assistance on finding a job and information on living and working in Germany. Information is available not only in German, but also English, Spanish, French and 11 other languages.

We recommend that you visit www.make-it-in-germany.com and contact advisers who will support you in finding and applying for a job and provide guidance on living conditions in Germany.

You will find Germany’s biggest jobs portal at https://con.arbeitsagentur.de/prod/jobboerse/jobsuche-ui/.

If you are searching for jobs where organisations are explicitly looking for job seekers from the EURES area, we recommend that you consult the EURES portal.

Employers also advertise job vacancies in daily newspapers and on private online job exchanges.

In Germany, it is also common to send speculative applications to attract your dream employer’s attention. 

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Applying for a job

In Germany a written job application normally consists of a covering letter, a curriculum vitae with a photo and copies of qualifications, certificates, evidence of professional experience and work samples, where applicable.

The covering letter should not run to more than one side of A4. It should briefly and convincingly express why you are seeking a job, what interests you about the post advertised, and why you think you are the best person to do this job. Explain why you want to live in Germany. End your letter expressing the hope to be invited to a personal interview – and of course with ‘Mit freundlichen Grüßen’ [Yours sincerely].

The CV, in table format, should not be more than two pages long and should be written ‘in reverse chronological order’, meaning that the most recent information is listed first. Divide your CV into the following sections:

  • Contact information
  • Employment record
  • Schooling and vocational training and, where appropriate, tertiary education
  • Language skills (categorised into mother tongue, advanced working knowledge, spoken and written fluency, basic knowledge)
  • Other professional knowledge and experience (e.g. computer skills)
  • Hobbies and non-occupational activities (e.g. voluntary activities)

Do not forget to sign and date your CV.

Enclose with your application copies of supporting evidence for all the education and training courses, periods of practical training and previous jobs that are mentioned in your application. In some cases, for example when applying to a small business, you should have your qualifications and employer references translated into German. Even if you already have professional experience, you will often have to enclose your school certificates with the application.

Despite current trends towards anonymity in selection procedures, a friendly application photograph remains part and parcel of a job application in Germany. It is attached either to the cover sheet of the application folder or to the top right-hand corner of the curriculum vitae.

More and more German organisations now only accept applications made by email or via their company’s own online application forms.

When applying by email, it is advisable to compile a single PDF document containing all your application documents, such as covering letter, CV, certificates and references, and photograph, and send it as an attachment. If possible, you should ensure that the size of the file does not exceed two megabytes (2MB).

If an online application form is used, on the other hand, you should store the various application documents as separate PDF files so that you can upload them individually if needed.

You can often also request the name of the personal contact person by telephone. This means that your covering letter and application documents can be personally addressed.

Good luck!

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Finding accommodation

Finding accommodation in Germany is not always easy. If you are interested in accommodation, you will usually need to provide the following documents: application form (this is often given to you at the viewing), identity card or passport. proof of income. certificate to prove that you have not been in rent arrears and evidence of your credit rating (SCHUFA report). Do not forget to check whether the accommodation is offered unfurnished, partly furnished or fully furnished. Accommodation is often leased without kitchen appliances (cooker, sink, refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, etc.).

You will find advertisements for accommodation in the property sections of local daily newspapers and on the internet. In most cases, landlords also expect a one-off deposit of 2 to 3 months’ rent in addition to the actual rent. This serves as a guarantee for any damage to be repaired after moving out of the accommodation. The deposit is returned at the end of the lease period if the landlord has no complaints.

If you come to Germany alone and are prepared to live with other people, shared flats [Wohngemeinschaften] are a good alternative to a place of your own. In many university towns there are also accommodation agencies [Mitwohnzentralen] that can provide rooms or flats for a limited period of time on payment of a commission.

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Recognition of diplomas and qualifications

The importance of transparency and mutual recognition of diplomas as a crucial complement to the free movement of workers

The possibility of obtaining recognition of one’s qualifications and competences can play a vital role in the decision to take up work in another EU country. It is therefore necessary to develop a European system that will guarantee the mutual acceptance of professional competences in different Member States. Only such a system will ensure that a lack of recognition of professional qualifications will become an obstacle to workers’ mobility within the EU.

Main principles for the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU

As a basic principle, any EU citizen should be able to freely practice their profession in any Member State. Unfortunately the practical implementation of this principle is often hindered by national requirements for access to certain professions in the host country.

For the purpose of overcoming these differences, the EU has set up a system for the recognition of professional qualifications. Within the terms of this system, a distinction is made between regulated professions (professions for which certain qualifications are legally required) and professions that are not legally regulated in the host Member State.

Steps towards a transparency of qualifications in Europe

The European Union has taken important steps towards the objective of achieving transparency of qualifications in Europe:
- An increased co-operation in vocational education and training, with the intention to combine all instruments for transparency of certificates and diplomas, in one single, user-friendly tool. This includes, for example, the European CV or Europass Trainings.
- The development of concrete actions in the field of recognition and quality in vocational education and training.

Going beyond the differences in education and training systems throughout the EU

Education and training systems in the EU Member States still show substantial differences. The last enlargements of the EU, with different educational traditions, have further increased this diversity. This calls for a need to set up common rules to guarantee recognition of competences.

In order to overcome this diversity of national qualification standards, educational methods and training structures, the European Commission has put forward a series of instruments, aimed at ensuring better transparency and recognition of qualifications both for academic and professional purposes.

   1.The European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework is a key priority for the European Commission in the process of recognition of professional competences. The main objective of the framework is to create links between the different national qualification systems and guarantee a smooth transfer and recognition of diplomas.

   2.The National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARICs)

A network of National Academic Recognition Information Centres was established in 1984 at the initiative of the European Commission. The NARICs provide advice on the academic recognition of periods of study abroad. Located in all EU Member States as well as in the countries of the European Economic Area, NARICs play a vital role the process of recognition of qualifications in the EU.

   3.The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)

The European Credit Transfer System aims at facilitating the recognition of periods of study abroad. Introduced in 1989, it functions by describing an education programme and attaching credits to its components. It is a key complement to the highly acclaimed student mobility programme Erasmus.

   4.Europass

Europass is an instrument for ensuring the transparency of professional skills. It is composed of five standardised documents

  • a CV (Curriculum Vitae),
  • a language passport,
  • certificate supplements,
  • diploma supplements, and
  • a Europass-Mobility document.

The Europass system makes skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in the different parts of Europe. In every country of the European Union and the European Economic Area, national Europass centres have been established as the primary contact points for people seeking for information about the Europass system.

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Kinds of employment

The minimum age for regular employment in a business is 15. Although trainees work in a business as part of their vocational training, they are not employed in the conventional sense and they therefore enter into a vocational training contract with the company providing the training.

The majority of employees continue to have open-ended, full-time employment contracts with weekly working times that are generally 38-40 hours

According to the Federal Employment Agency’s projection, in December 2019 33.76 million employees required to pay social security insurance were registered. Year on year, this represented an increase of 474 000 or 1.4%.

At the beginning of 2019, the proportion of the labour force in part-time employment was 28.8%. Almost one in two working women (48%) worked part-time. This proportion was only 11% for men.

Part-time work has many facets. Alongside ‘regular’ part-time work which is subject to social security insurance, there are also so-called ‘mini jobs’ with which it is possible to earn up to EUR 450 a month. Some 7.6 million people are employed in ‘mini jobs’ at present, primarily in retail, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles, hotels and catering, healthcare and social work.

After a temporary slump as a result of the world economic crisis, the temporary employment sector has been growing rapidly again in Germany and now provides around 1 million people with a job.

Seasonal work

Fair mobility is important to us. German labour law also applies to harvest workers. This includes

  • Entitlement to paid holiday
  • Entitlement to unused holiday
  • Continued payment of wages in the event of illness

and much more. Here you will find all the important information pertaining to your employment contract, your pay, social security contributions, housing and working hours regulations.

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Employment Contract

In Germany, your employer does not have to give you a written employment contract. What you have agreed to verbally or by e-mail with your employer can also be considered an employment contract. However, the employer must provide you with the essential terms of the contract in writing after one month at the latest. Some employers don't do that, even though they have to. That is why you should ask your employer for a written employment contract. Your employer does not have to give you a contract in a language you understand. If the employment contract is written in a language that is foreign to you, tell the employer that you will bring the contract back signed after you have had it translated.

Make sure that the employment contract is signed by you and the employer. Be sure to get a signed copy of the contract to keep.

According to the law, an employment contract should contain the following information:

  • Name and address of you and your employer
  • Commencement and foreseeable duration of the employment relationship
  • Location of employment
  • Description of the work
  • Amount of wages and, if applicable, additional payments and their due date
  • Agreed working time, including a guaranteed minimum working time
  • Duration of holiday
  • Notice periods for the termination of the employment relationship
  • Reference to applicable collective agreements

Wages and Payment Date

In Germany, there is a minimum wage that is adjusted regularly. The statutory minimum wage also applies to all agricultural workers in Germany. Residence or nationality do not play a role. As of January 2021, the statutory hourly wage was raised to €9.50 gross (gross = wage without deductions). The minimum wage will rise to €9.60 gross on July 1, 2021, to €9.82 gross on January 1, 2022 and to €10.45 gross on July 1, 2022.

During the harvest, employers often specify how many kilos of fruit and vegetables a worker has to harvest and how much money (€) he or she will get for doing so. These kinds of so-called piecework wages are permissible. Nevertheless, the employer may not pay you less than the statutory minimum wage of currently €9.50 gross per hour. As an example, if you harvest so many boxes per hour that you earn more than the minimum hourly wage, the employer must pay you more accordingly.

The salary is usually paid by the 15th of the following month at the latest. Other agreements between you and the employer can also be made in the employment contract. Your employer is obliged to give you a pay slip together with payment of your wages. This way you can understand how your wages are calculated. A pay slip shall contain at least the following information:

  • Number of hours worked
  • Amount of your gross monthly wages
  • Amount of deductions for payroll taxes
  • Other deductions (for example, for accommodation and meals, advances)
  • Amount paid out (net wages)

Calculation of Working Time

Working time begins with work in the field. Travel time is only calculated as working time if it is a journey between two fields. The average working time is 8 hours per day; however, this can be temporarily extended to up to 10 hours per day. A rest period of 11 hours is normally prescribed between two shifts.

If you work 6 to 9 hours a day, you are entitled to a 30-minute break after 6 hours at the latest. If you work more than 9 hours a day, you are entitled to a break of 45 minutes. Breaks are not calculated as working time and are therefore not paid. For work on Sundays and public holidays, the employer must grant you substitute days off within 8 weeks.

German law requires that the beginning, end and duration of working time be recorded. Your employer will tell you how this is implemented in the company. This record is the basis for the correct payment of wages. If you want to verify how your wages were calculated, you should also note down the times for yourself:

  • Beginning and end of work
  • Beginning and end of breaks
  • Duration of working time per day (without breaks).

Duration of the Employment Relationship and Early Cessation/Termination

Your employment contract also states when the employment relationship begins and ends. The time period may be the duration of the harvest or a fixed date. Your employer and you as an employee must adhere to the contractually agreed full period of employment, unless the employment relationship is terminated with notice before the contractual end.

The employer and you as an employee can terminate the employment relationship. Notice of termination must always be given in writing on paper – not by e-mail. The notice must be signed by the person who wishes to end the employment relationship.

Certain notice periods must be observed when giving notice of termination. In the case of a temporary employment relationship in agriculture lasting less than 3 months, these periods can be very short. The period that applies in your case is stated in your employment contract.

You do not have to sign a notice of termination given to you by your employer. It may be that the termination is not valid because the employer made mistakes. If you receive a notice of termination, you should therefore contact the hotline https://www.fair-arbeiten.eu/de/article/471.hotline-für-saisonarbeiter-innen-in-der-landwirtschaft.html of the German Trade Union Confederation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund) or an Advisory Centre. Addresses and telephone numbers of Advisory Centres can be found on the website https://www.faire-mobilitaet.de/beratungsstellen.

For more information on the topic of termination and cessation, please visit the website of the German Trade Union Confederation https://www.fair-arbeiten.eu/de/article/15.kündigung.html.

Occupational Safety and Health

All tools and personal protective equipment required for the work are provided by the employer free of charge. You must also be provided with sufficient water when working in heat. When you receive your first monthly pay slip, make sure that nothing has been deducted from your wages for this.

Holiday

There is also a holiday entitlement under German labour law. This amounts to at least 2 days per full month of employment. Holiday may also be paid out at the end of employment.

Employment With or Without Social Security Contributions

In Germany, there is employment subject to social insurance and employment exempt from social insurance. Normally, employment is subject to compulsory insurance. To clarify whether you are subject to social insurance or not, a questionnaire is used to determine whether you are subject to compulsory insurance. The questionnaire can be downloaded in different languages from the website https://www.svlfg.de/auslaendische-saisonarbeitskraefte of the Social Insurance for Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture.

Illness

If you are employed by an employer or are a self-employed farmer in your country of origin, you are also covered by social security and health insurance in your country of origin during your work as a harvest worker. The proof of exemption from social security for the employer in Germany is the so-called A1 certificate. Apply for the A1 certificate at the responsible authority in your home country before you leave and bring it with you to Germany. You should also apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) so that you can see a doctor in Germany without any problems.

If you become ill during your employment, inform your employer, i.e. the farmer in Germany, immediately and see a doctor. They will examine you and – if you are ill – issue you a certificate of incapacity for work (“sick note”). You must submit the certificate of incapacity for work to the employer. Please find out whether you also have to send the sick note to your health insurance company.

If you work in the same company in Germany for more than 4 weeks and are put on sick leave by a doctor, you will continue to receive your wages for up to 6 weeks during the period of illness.

For more information, contact the German Trade Union Confederation’s hotline https://www.fair-arbeiten.eu/de/article/471.hotline-für-saisonarbeiter-innen-in-der-landwirtschaft.html or an Advisory Centre. Addresses and telephone numbers of Advisory Centres can be found on the website https://www.faire-mobilitaet.de/beratungsstellen.

Registration for Health / Accident Insurance

If you are working in Germany without social insurance and do not have valid health insurance coverage for Germany (foreign health insurance), your employer in Germany can provisionally take out private health insurance for harvest workers for you. The employer may not deduct the costs of this private health insurance from your salary.

Your employer must always insure you against accidents at work and pay the costs of accident insurance.

Housing and Meals

The costs for housing and meals must be regulated in an understandable way in a contract. If the employer offers you housing for rent, the employment contract must stipulate how much it costs and who pays for it. If the employer himself cannot offer you housing, he must ensure that you are provided with suitable housing.

The terms and conditions for the provision of the housing (type of housing, price/rent, rights and obligations) will be agreed between the landlord and you in a separate contract. If the employer provides housing and meals, he may deduct a reasonable amount for rent and meals from the wages. You must have enough money left over each month to live on. This limit is called the “garnishment exemption limit”.

If your employer wants to deduct the costs for rent and meals from your wages, this must be stipulated in the contract and must also be shown as such on the pay slip.

Taxes

Depending on your total wages, taxes may be due in Germany. These are deducted from your wages and your employer is obliged to pay them to the state.

Coronavirus Pandemic

Due to the coronavirus, the federal government has issued strict regulations that employers in agriculture are supposed to implement. These regulations are designed to protect you from contracting the virus – when you arrive, in your accommodation, at work as well as when you eat in your accommodation.

The implementation of the regulations is the responsibility of the respective federal states.

For more information on the regulations that apply in your region, contact your local health department. The respective contact information can be found on the website of the Robert Koch Institute https://tools.rki.de/plztool.

Important Links to Websites

Information concerning fair mobility

Information on labour law 

Information on coronavirus

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Employment contracts

An open-ended employment contract may be entered into orally or in writing. In the case of a fixed-term contract, however, the expiry date must always be set down in writing. If that is not done, the employment contract is deemed to be open-ended. The written form is compulsory for apprenticeship contracts.

If a written employment contract has not been concluded, the employer is required by the Nachweisgesetz [Proof of Employment Act] to set out the main terms of employment in writing no later than one month after the agreed start of employment, sign them and hand them over to the employee.

A written contract should contain the following details:

  • name and address of the employee
  • name and address of the organisation
  • place of work
  • description of duties
  • date on which employment commenced
  • duration of probationary period
  • in the case of fixed-term contracts: duration of the contract
  • in the case of open-ended contracts: notice period and date of termination
  • weekly or daily working hours
  • amount of remuneration and of any supplements
  • payment date and method
  • leave allowance
  • reference to collective agreements and to works and service agreements

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Working time

Working hours and breaks are stipulated in the Working Hours Act [Arbeitszeitgesetz]. This applies to workers and employees, as well as people in vocational training. Executive employees are not within the scope of this law.

At present the working week varies between 38 and 40 hours, depending on the collective wage agreement. As a rule, the working day should not exceed eight hours and is restricted by law to a maximum of ten hours. A break of at least 30 minutes is mandatory after six hours’ work, and a further break of 15 minutes after nine hours. A rest period of at least 11 hours must be observed after a full working day. Employees cannot normally be required to work on Sundays and public holidays.

For many workers, normal working hours in the form of eight working hours between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. over five weekdays are not the normal pattern. These workers include emergency and rescue services, fire brigade, public safety workers, hospitals, guesthouses, cultural institutions and transport, among others. However, workers must have at least 15 work-free Sundays.

Many workers now have flexible working hours, such as ‘flexitime’. ‘Flexitime’ generally provides for core hours during which all employees must be present at the organisation. Employees are given the opportunity to work more or fewer hours within fixed limits. As a rule, overtime hours can be accumulated to a limited extent and ‘taken off in lieu’ or paid out. Electronic time recording systems and working time accounts have been set up in businesses to record the hours of work performed by each individual. If such systems are not available, you should document your working hours yourself. The website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) has information on how to document your working time (sample sheet or app).

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Leave (annual leave, parental leave, etc.)

The statutory minimum entitlement to leave is 24 working days per year (Federal Holidays Act [Bundesurlaubsgesetz]). Special rules apply to certain groups of people, including young people under the age of 18 and disabled people.

Collective agreements stipulate leave of 30 working days for most employees. A person’s salary continues to be paid in full during this period. Anyone who consistently performs heavy or hazardous work will normally receive additional leave. Some collective wage agreements include arrangements for specific events in one’s private life. For instance, some organisations grant individual and additional special leave days for marriage, the death of a close relative or for moving house if you are transferred to a different location. Full entitlement to leave is acquired only after the employment relationship has been in existence for 6 months.

There is in principle a ban on working on public holidays, to which there are some exceptions. The Public Holidays Acts [Feiertagsgesetz] of the individual Länder [federal states] determine the dates of public holidays. The national public holidays are New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday, Labour Day, Ascension Day, Whit Sunday and Monday, German Unification Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

There are clear rules governing absence on grounds of illness. In the event of illness, an employee must inform the organisation of his/her incapacity for work and the anticipated duration of that incapacity as soon as possible. In the case of illness lasting longer than three days, an employee must submit a doctor’s certificate no later than the following working day.

During parental leave, parents can be released from work by their organisation to look after their child – the employment relationship is thus in abeyance during parental leave. However, ‘parental leave’ also gives employees the opportunity to work part-time so that they are able to devote themselves to their child and at the same time keep up with their jobs. Each parent is entitled to parental leave to look after and bring up their child until it reaches the age of three.

Employees can take educational leave for the purpose of their further training. The Länder have their own laws on educational leave which govern paid leave from work. You can use this for your own citizenship education, language courses (e.g. ‘German as a foreign language’) or for your further vocational training. As for annual leave, you should agree arrangements for educational leave with your employer at an early stage.

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Pay

Income earned is set by collective wage agreements or by individual agreements with the employer. Employers frequently pay remuneration exceeding the agreed pay scale to sought-after skilled workers. Higher wage and salary payments above the collectively agreed rate are characterised by the fact that collective wage agreements are applied in the company and therefore the employee’s basic remuneration is regulated collectively. A voluntary, freely agreed supplement is paid in addition to this basic remuneration.

Since 1 January 2020, the general statutory minimum wage has been EUR 9.35 gross per hour in accordance with the Minimum Wage Act [Mindestlohngesetz]. There are also generally applicable sectoral minimum wages in accordance with the Basic Collective Agreements Act [Basis Tarifvertragsgesetz], the Posting of Workers Act [Arbeitnehmerentsendegesetz] and the Act on the Provision of Temporary Workers [Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz].

Persons under the age of 18 without vocational training are exempt from the minimum wage in Germany. In addition, trainees and persons completing a compulsory internship have no right to the minimum wage. Only a voluntary work placement lasting longer than 3 months is remunerated at the minimum wage rate.

Trainees have been subject to a minimum training allowance [Mindestausbildungsvergütung (MAV)] since 2020. The Vocational Training Act [Berufsbildungsgesetz (BBiG)] (https://www.bmbf.de/upload_filestore/pub/Das_neue_Berufsbildungsgesetz_BBiG.pdf) stipulates a minimum training allowance for all vocational training contracts entered into after 1 January 2020. This amounts to EUR 515 in the first training year for vocational training positions taken up in 2020. This amount will gradually increase until 2023 (2021: EUR 550; 2022: EUR 585; 2023: EUR 620). An increase of 18 percent is planned for the second training year, 35 percent for the third and 40 percent for the fourth. The change in subsequent years is automatic and is linked to the average growth in contractually agreed training allowances (negotiated collectively and individually). Training companies subject to collective wage agreements may pay trainees the applicable collective training allowances even if these are less than the above-mentioned rates. Above the MAV, the agreed training allowance should not be more than 20 percent below the allowance stipulated in the relevant collective wage agreements

At present, minimum standards for working conditions (particularly wages and paid leave) exist only in individual sectors as a result of statutory rules of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Posting of Workers Act, 1996). They currently apply to, inter alia, the main and ancillary construction industry, cleaners, postal workers, the care sector, security services and waste management (including street cleaning and winter road maintenance).

Salaries are normally transferred into the employee’s current account in the middle of the month or at the end of the month. Under trade regulations, the employer is required to provide the employee with a statement setting out remuneration in a comprehensible text format. Wage tax, solidarity surcharge and, where appropriate, church tax, as well as the employee share of contributions for social security insurance (healthcare, pensions and nursing care insurance) and unemployment insurance are deducted from the agreed gross pay and transferred directly by the employer to the relevant administrations.

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End of employment

Open-ended employment relationships end upon termination by at least one contracting party (employee or employer), but no later than upon reaching the pensionable age.

Normally an open-ended employment relationship begins with a six-month probation period. During this trial period a reduced period of notice of 14 days applies. Termination of an employment relationship must be carried out in writing. The statutory periods of notice are laid down in the Civil Code [Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB)] Employees have to give four weeks’ notice to the fifteenth or last day of the month. The longer an employee has been with a business, the longer the periods of notice that have to be given by the employer.

Here is a short list of notice periods depending on the duration of the employment relationship:

0 to 6 months (probation period) 2 weeks to desired day

7 months to 2 years 4 weeks to the 15th or the end of the calendar month

2 years 1 month to the end of the calendar month

5 years 2 months to the end of the calendar month

8 years 3 months to the end of the calendar month

10 years 4 months to the end of the calendar month

12 years 5 months to the end of the calendar month

15 years 6 months to the end of the calendar month

20 years 7 months to the end of the calendar month

Fixed-term employment relationships with a written employment contract come to an end automatically when the agreed period expires. In those cases the organisation is not required to give notice of termination. When your employment ends, you are entitled to a reference.

The termination of working life and entitlement to the standard old-age pension are currently being changed in stages. For those born up until 1946, the retirement age was 65. The retirement age for those born after that year is gradually being increased at the moment. From 2019, the statutory retirement age for those born from 1964 onwards will be 67. However, early retirement is still possible, for example in the event of severe disability or contributions having been paid for many years. The longer contributions have been paid into the pension scheme, the higher the pension. Parental leave and the care of relatives are also taken into account as qualifying contributory periods.

In addition, a pension is payable for reduced capacity to work, for example if you can no longer work or can only work part-time on account of an illness or disability. The amount of the pension in that regard depends on your contributory periods and the degree of incapacity.

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The health system

Employees, including trainees, are required to pay social security contributions. This means that employers and employees pay a contribution to statutory pensions, unemployment, healthcare and nursing care insurance each month. The amount of contributions paid depends on your gross salary. The employer pays half of the contribution, with the employee paying the other half. Salary deductions for social security contributions are subject to an upper limit. This is known as the contribution assessment ceiling [Beitragsbemessungsgrenze].

If you intend to work in Germany, you must always take out health insurance as an employee (national health insurance) as soon as you sign an employment contract. To ensure that illness does not pose a financial risk, the statutory health insurance funds provide their members and their members’ families with cover in the event of illness. Non-working spouses and children can also be included in the insurance. As a member of the national health insurance scheme [Gesetzlichen Krankenversicherung (GKV)], you are automatically also covered for nursing care.

Employees can take out private insurance if their gross monthly income has exceeded the compulsory insurance limit of EUR 4 687.50 (assessment ceiling for 2020) for a whole year.

The self-employed, freelancers and artists are generally privately insured regardless of their income level, as are tenured civil servants and other persons entitled to receive benefits such as judges, members of a Landtag [regional assembly] and members of the Bundestag.

The compulsory insurance limit is set annually by the legislator. Employees who earn a salary above this compulsory insurance limit can take out voluntary insurance.

The contribution assessment ceiling for statutory pensions and unemployment insurance is EUR 6 900 (west) and EUR 6 450 (east) per month in 2020.

For a temporary stay in another Member State, EU citizens and citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) merely require a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in order to receive medical treatment if they fall ill.

You can find addresses and telephone numbers for doctor’s offices and dental practices in the local telephone directory. You should first make an appointment by telephone before visiting a doctor. For acute illnesses or accidents, you will be given an appointment immediately or on the same day. Otherwise, you will have to wait for several days or even weeks, particularly for specialists. Few practices are open on Saturdays, and only emergency services can be accessed on Sundays.

If, after being examined, you have received a prescription for the prescribed medication from the doctor, the pharmacies usually charge an additional fee of EUR 5 to 10 per item. In the case of minor disorders, you will receive non-prescription medicines. You can get a free consultation in all pharmacies, even without visiting a doctor.

If the doctor’s office is closed, the doctors on call will help you. You can contact the emergency services outside surgery hours (Monday to Friday), during the night, at the weekends and on public holidays using the telephone number 116117. You also have the option of going to the accident and emergency department of a hospital. Some pharmacies are also open at weekends and on public holidays. Further information can be found online.

If you require an ambulance, dial 112.

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Income and taxation

The average gross monthly earnings of full-time workers was EUR 3 994 in 2019. The difference between the average gross hourly rate of pay for men (EUR 22.16) and women (EUR 17.72) is 20 per cent.

According to the findings of the Federal Statistical Office for 2019, the average gross annual earnings for full-time employees vary from sector to sector. Here is a brief overview:

Manufacturing industry: EUR 54 718

Service sector: EUR 51 676

Public and personal services: EUR 51 279

Anyone residing in Germany or staying in Germany for more than 6 months in a calendar year must pay tax on their entire income from home and abroad. As an employee, tax is automatically deducted from wages. The amount of income tax is based on income level and marital status.

The filing of a tax return is voluntary in Germany. In some cases, there is an obligation to file a tax return by 31 July of the following year: for additional income apart from wages, unemployment benefit, sickness benefit or short-time allowance. In the case of several employment relationships or certain tax class combinations, the filing of a tax return is obligatory.

Employees who receive an income in Germany must pay tax. Individual living conditions are taken into account in calculating taxable income. Single people have to dig deepest into their pockets. Anyone who is married, is also the sole earner and has children gets off much more lightly.

The employer withholds income tax from each wage payment and pays the tax directly to the Tax Office [Finanzamt]. Everyone in employment is required to make a contribution towards social security. Half of contributions are paid by the employer and half by the employee. The total social security contribution is approximately 39.8% of gross wages/salary. At present the solidarity surcharge introduced in 1995 to build up the east German economy amounts to 5.5% of wage/income tax. Church members who are liable to taxation must also pay a church tax of between 8 and 9% of their tax liability, depending on the Land they live in. State collection of tax for religious communities is a peculiarity of the German system.

At the end of the year a tax return can be submitted to the tax office. The filing of a tax return is voluntary if one is not obligated by law to submit one.

Those who are not obliged to submit a tax return do not have to submit one, but can do so voluntarily.

The submission of a voluntary tax return is particularly worthwhile if, for example, the employee had to pay high advertising costs, special expenses or exceptional costs, or got married during the year. In these cases, a tax refund may be possible.

An obligation to submit a tax return exists, inter alia, in these cases:

  • The taxable supplementary income is above EUR 410.
  • An allowance was granted.
  • Unemployment benefit, sickness benefit or short-time allowance, etc. above EUR 410 was received.
  • There were parallel employment contracts with several employers.
  • There are capital gains for which no final withholding tax could be levied.
  • Unmarried or divorced parents want to transfer certain allowances for a child.
  • A spouse had tax code 5 or 6 all year or for some part of the year.
  • You have received a severance payment or a long-service bonus from a (former) employer, for which the special one-fifth rule had already been applied when deducting wage tax
  • Divorced or permanently separated parents (or both parents in the case of parents of illegitimate children) have requested that the ‘tax allowance for parents of children in education’ [Ausbildungsfreibetrag] or the lump-sum allowance for disabled persons [Behindertenpauschbetrag] be distributed in a proportion other than 50/50
  • You received special bonus payments and changed employer in the same year, and your new employer failed to account for the values of the previous employer when calculating wage tax
  • You became divorced over the course of the year or your partner died, and one of the spouses remarries in the same year
  • Your spouse is a taxpayer with restricted tax liability who lives in a foreign EU/EEA country and is registered on your wage tax card
  • Your place of residence or habitual residence is located abroad and you have applied for unlimited tax liability in Germany

Value-added tax (VAT) [Mehrwertsteuer (MwSt.)] on the purchase of goods and the use of services varies between 7% and 19%. The majority of goods and services in Germany are subject to 19% VAT. A rate of 7% applies to basic daily necessities such as bread, butter and milk. Sports and cultural events are also included in basic goods and services, so the reduced VAT rate applies to stadium, cinema and theatre tickets. Even newspapers, magazines and books are only taxed at 7%, as well as public transport within a 50-kilometre radius, which includes buses, trains, trams and even taxis. VAT of 19% is charged on the majority of goods and services in Germany.

Text last edited on: 06/2020

The education system

The area of preschool education is diverse and includes daycare centres [Kindertageseinrichtungen (KiTa)] for children aged between one and three - nurseries, childminders, mixed-age kindergartens or parenting initiatives - and, for children aged between three and six - predominantly kindergartens, but also childminders and preschool classes. Childcare costs vary depending on the local authority. Local authorities assume the bulk of the costs, regardless of whether childcare is provided by a municipal or private institution or a childminder. Parents pay a contribution calculated on the basis of their family income. Private kindergartens are often more expensive than municipal facilities.

With effect from 1 August 2019, under the Good Daycare Facilities Act [Gute-KiTa-Gesetz], all parents who receive child, housing or basic social benefits (unemployment allowance II) in respect of beneficiaries who are fit for work in accordance with Book II of the German Social Code [Zweiten Buch Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB II)], are exempt from KiTa fees.

Compulsory school begins with primary school [Grundschule] (Years 1 to 4) when a child reaches the age of six. In some Länder, there is also a 6-year primary school, or an orientation phase not attached to any school type [schulartunabhängige Orientierungsstufe] in Years 5 and 6; both count towards the junior secondary level.

Attendance at state schools is free of charge. Parents have to pay only for schoolbooks, additional teaching material and class excursions and trips.

After primary school the parents decide with the child which secondary school the child will attend. There is a choice between the secondary lower school [Hauptschule] (to Year 9 or 10), intermediate school [Realschule] (intermediate school-leaving certificate at the end of Year 10) or grammar school [Gymnasium] (ending with the Abitur [advanced certificate of education]), which – depending on the Land – goes up to Year 12 or 13. The Abitur allows immediate access to college or university education. A Realschule leaving certificate combined with a successfully completed apprenticeship also allows access to a university of applied sciences [Fachhochschule].

The comprehensive school [Gesamtschule] is a special form of school which offers several types of schooling (Hauptschule and Realschule leaving certificates and Abitur) under one roof from Year 5. Gesamtschulen do not exist in every Land.

In Germany, schools’ teaching hours are mainly between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Even though the demand for full-day schools and childcare services in the afternoon is high, it cannot be fully met nationwide, although there are major differences between the different Länder. There should be a legal entitlement to full-day childcare for primary school children by 2025.

Initial vocational training can be commenced after completing a school-leaving certificate (Hauptschule leaving certificate, Realschule leaving certificate, Abitur), that is to say from as early as the age of 15. It is provided as full-time and part-time vocational instruction at vocational schools and in businesses which offer training within the ‘dual system’. Training lasts between 2 and 3½ years. Young people can chose from among around 340 recognised apprenticeship trades. The term ‘recognised apprenticeship trade’ [anerkannter Ausbildungsberuf] is defined by the Federal Education Act [Bundesbildungsgesetz] and forms the legal basis for the content of in-house vocational training.

Germany has around 400 publicly funded or state-recognised higher education establishments. You will find an overview of the German higher education scene and the availability of courses at www.hochschulkompass.de.

Text last edited on: 06/2020

Cultural and social life

In Germany, most small towns have their own theatres, orchestras and museums. You will find a rich and varied cultural programme almost everywhere. In the large towns and cities there are opportunities to see interesting artists and exhibitions, theatre performances and film shows, which can be so numerous that it is difficult to make a choice.

In and around the cities there is a wealth of possible destinations that are accessible via well-maintained cycle paths, footpaths and hiking trails and which are worth discovering.

Many Germans enjoy spending their free time in clubs (as the saying goes: ‘When two Germans meet, they start a club’). In Germany there are 600 000 registered clubs. There is also a large number of unregistered clubs. As is to be expected, the most popular clubs are centred on sport.

A typical feature of Germany is Kneipen [pubs], some of which have small exhibitions, theatres, music cellars and revue clubs. Often the ‘alternative’ arts scene takes place in them, away from the major art and cultural institutions. Insiders among your acquaintances will give you the right addresses. In summer, beer gardens and wine bars in particular, where you can sit out until late in the evening, are very popular. You should definitely go to the various public festivals such as Fasching or Karneval in the winter, street festivals in the summer, and beer and wine festivals in the autumn.

Text last edited on: 06/2020

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