Article
30 Aug 2021

Notice Period

People sitting at the table with their laptops and working.

It can be a daunting situation when you decide that you want to leave your current job, be it for a new job or because you want to take a break. When you signed the initial employment contract, you agreed to a range of legal requirements.

One of those legal requirements was how long your notice period would be.

Each employment contract will have contractual obligations; some offer shorter notice periods, while others have longer notice periods. It will also tell you what benefits, notice pay, or severance you may be entitled to.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the standards you will see in an employment contract in terms of your notice period. 

What Is Standard Notice Period In Germany?

During the interview and hiring process, you will have the opportunity to negotiate your job offer or contract with human resources. Within that employment contract, you will have a section dedicated to the notice period and the acceptable forms of giving notice. 

The notice period you are required to give will be related to your status within the company.

In Germany, you will be referred to as the following:

  • Angestellter: full-time employee
  • Teilzeitbeschäftigter: part-time employee
  • Freiberufler: freelancer

And likely have one of the following contracts:

  • unbefristeter Vertrag: permanent contract
  • befristeter Vertrag: fixed-term contract

The amount of notice you give will be related to your contract type and the position within the company.

As such the notice period will vary. 

For a full-time employee with a permanent contract, it will look like this:

  • Two years of employment required one month of notice
  • Five years of employment will require two months of notice
  • Eight years will require three months of notice
  • Twelve years will require five months notice

The longer you work with a company, the longer your notice period will be. If a business relationship terminates, the minimum notice period is four weeks.

While on probation or a casual worker, you are typically required to give two weeks’ notice. For MD roles and Board Members, the notice can be as long as one year. 

How Much Notice Does An Employee Have To Give?

The minimum notice for employment contracts in Germany is four weeks unless the employee is on probation or a part-time or casual worker. 

The "Teilzeit- und Befristungsgesetz (TzBfG)": The Part-Time and Temporary Employment Act (TzBfG) allows employers to require a shorter notice period and therefore a faster termination of employment.

The four-week notice period is before the 15th or the last day of the calendar month.  

However, you will be required to give the notice period as outlined within your employment contract. 

 

Can Employees ‘Negotiate Out’ Of Their Notice Period?

Since the employer is legally obligated to pay you during the period of time, you are legally obliged to work the entire contractual notice period. 

However, since the notice period is designed for the protection of the employee, not the employer, you can still negotiate.

If you decide to hand in your notice, you can approach the company and discuss a leaving procedure. You may negotiate to take any leftover holiday days in the notice period, thus reducing it further.

It is always worth discussing what leaving the company might look like, as they may be willing to waive the notice period. This agreement is called an Aufhebungsvertrag (termination agreement). Both parties will need to agree to the terms of the contract.

Just be mindful you will not be paid for any of the remaining notice, and you may be subject to unemployment benefits blocking. 

Can Employees Refuse To Work During Their Notice Period?

If you refuse to work your notice, you are in breach of contract. By refusing to work your notice period, the current employer can sue you. 

During the notice period, your obligations to the employer and their obligations to you remain unchanged.

It is important to note that the company is legally entitled to impose a blocking period during the notice period if the employment is terminated (for whatever reason). A blocking period means that the former employee cannot receive unemployment benefits for a set amount of time.

The notice period is designed to enable the company to find a suitable replacement for the role.

It is also possible to take the matter to court, where the company will be required to prove that you are irreplaceable for the duration of your notice period. I.e., the company couldn’t find a replacement for you if you were to leave before the outlined notice period.

Do Employees Have to be Paid During Their Notice Period?

During your notice period, you will continue to perform the same duties, and your employer is required to continue to pay you for the work you do. 

You are entitled to your regular payments until the day that you leave. Unless it is clearly stated within the employment contract that the employer can reduce pay, you are entitled to full payment. 

What Happens if There’s a Dispute About Notice Pay?

There are sometimes going to be disputed when termination and notice periods arise. 

German employment law doesn’t have provisions for the termination of the employment relationship in return for severance pay. So, in this case, there is no legal entitlement to severance pay.

Unless you fall under one of these categories:

  • The employment contract states you are entitled to severance pay
  • The agreement between you, your trade union, and the employer has a severance pay option
  • You have a severance scheme within the company 
  • If you received a letter of dismissal from the company that names an amount you will be entitled to

Much like the severance pay, German employment law doesn’t recognize “pay in lieu of notice.”

Severance payment offers are seen as an amicable termination, impacting the unemployment benefits you may be entitled to.

You can contest the notice pay or severance you are offered; you will be required to file a dismissal protection suit. If you don’t challenge the payment in time, then you might lose the ability to claim severance at all.

It is an excellent idea to let professionals take over here, as you may receive four gross monthly salaries per year of employment - with a successful negotiation. 

How Much Is Notice Pay?

During the notice period, the amount you get paid will remain unchanged unless there are disputes and complications within the termination process. 

For the duration of your notice period, you will receive your entire regular monthly wage. 

Conclusion

Before you hand in your resignation letter, you must take the time to read your current employment contract. By doing your research, you will understand what you can expect from your new employer and what they will expect from you during the notice period. 

So on your last working day, you can walk away from your old employer on good terms and into your new role knowing that you did everything correctly.

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