Working hours in Germany

Working hours in Germany

On average, employees in Germany have some of the shortest working hours in Europe. Couple this with high productivity levels, and it seems that Germans strike an ideal work-life balance. The page looks at working hours, overtime and related regulations in Germany.

Full-time work in Germany

The average working week in Germany is between 36 and 40 hours. The majority of full-time jobs in Germany are seven or eight hours a day, five days a week, with an hour or 30 minutes’ break at lunchtime.

Some companies may operate a longer working week, but compensate their employees with a higher salary or additional annual holiday leave. Self-employed workers often work more than 48 hours per week.

Part-time work in Germany

Anyone working in Germany for less than 30 hours per week is considered a part-time employee. Once you have been at your company for six months, you have the right to request a reduction to your weekly working hours (as long as the company employs more than 15 people).

Part-time work is becoming more popular, as freelancing and job-sharing become more prevalent. The generous provision in Germany for parental allowance also combines well with part-time work. In 2018, Germany’s biggest metalwork union won a legal battle to be granted the right to a 28-hour week.

Legal limits to working hours in Germany

In Germany there are strict legal limits on working hours: you are not permitted to work more than eight hours per day. The working week runs from Monday to Saturday, and employees must not work more than 48 hours per week. This can be extended to 10 hours per day, if within six months (or 24 weeks) the overall average working time does not exceed eight hours per day.

Work on Sundays and public holidays is largely prohibited, except for workers in the service industry. Work on Sundays must be compensated by corresponding time off within the following two weeks.

If you work between six and nine hours you are entitled to a 30-minute break, which you can also split into two breaks of 15 minutes. If you work more than nine hours, you are entitled to a 45-minute break after six hours of work. You must receive a break of more than 11 hours between work shifts.

Working overtime in Germany

Overtime work must also conform to the maximum working hours specified above (i.e. no more than 60 hours a week, averaging out to 48 hours over a 6-month period). Overtime will usually be compensated with time off in lieu, although some companies will pay for any overtime hours worked.

Your right to compensation for hours worked overtime will be specified in your employment contract. Some companies maintain that a small amount of overtime is a normal part of the job and will not provide additional remuneration.

If you have any concerns with the amount of (unpaid) overtime you are working, it is best to speak with your employer. You might also consider consulting with a lawyer.      

Flexible hours in Germany

Many companies in Germany will allow you to work flexibly rather than sticking rigidly to the standard working day. This might include:

  • Working from home
  • Working longer days in exchange for days off
  • Time off in lieu

Read also