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Leave in Germany

Holiday Leave in Germany

Employees are entitled to a minimum of 24 days off for a 6-day work week and 20 days for a 5-day one. In reality, most employees receive 25-30 days of leave, even on a 5-day workweek. Employers may provide additional leave to employees who perform intense or dangerous work. Severely disabled employees are entitled to 5 additional days of paid time off.

Employers are not obliged to grant paid time off to employees during the first six months of their employment. Employees must request vacation time in advance and have it approved by the employer. Employers can reject holiday request based on operational reasons or if other employees have already requested the same time off.

If an employee has already taken their vacation entitlement for that year while working at a previous company, they are not entitled to more days off. The previous employer must certify how many days off the employee has already taken.

Holiday pay is based on the employee's average salary for the 13 weeks leading to the leave. Often companies will offer a small vacation bonus as a perk. Employees must take their annual leave within the calendar year, and any unused leave is in general lot. 

A recent Federal Labour Court decision determined that employees can only lose holiday time if the employer requested them to take it and informed them that they would lose it otherwise. Therefore, the employers should remind employees in the second half of the year as well as in the last quarter to take time off.

If an employee didn't use their annual leave due to operational or personal reasons, they can carry them to the next calendar year but must take them by March 31st. 

Need help understanding holiday leave in Germany and any additional agreements?

Our experts can take you through all employment regulations in Germany, including holiday and other paid leave


Public holidays

German public holidays differ based on the state. However, there are nine national public holidays that all states follow.

Most employees are not required to work during a bank holiday, and the ones that are must receive compensatory time off within eight weeks. Holidays falling on weekends do not typically transfer to the weekday.

Germany Public Holiday Calendar 2024

01/01/2024MondayNew Year's DayNeujahr
06/01/2024SaturdayEpiphanyHeilige Drei Könige
08/03/2024FridayInternational Women's DayInternationaler Frauentag
29/03/2024FridayGood FridayKarfreitag
31/03/2024SundayEaster SundayOstersonntag
01/04/2024MondayEaster MondayOstermontag
01/05/2024WednesdayLabour DayTag der Arbeit
09/05/2024ThursdayAscension DayChristi Himmelfahrt
20/05/2024MondayWhit MondayPfingstmontag
30/05/2024ThursdayCorpus ChristiFronleichnam
15/08/2024ThursdayAssumption DayMariä Himmelfahrt
20/09/2024FridayWorld Children's DayWeltkindertag
03/10/2024ThursdayGerman Unity DayTag der Deutschen Einheit
31/10/2024ThursdayReformation DayReformationstag
01/11/2024FridayAll Saints' DayAllerheiligen
20/11/2024WednesdayRepentance and Prayer DayBuß- und Bettag
25/12/2024WednesdayChristmas DayErster Weihnachtstag
26/12/2024ThursdaySt. Stephen's DayZweiter Weihnachtstag

Christmas Eve and New Years Eve are not statutory holidays. However, most companies treat these days as half or even full holidays.

Types of Leave in Germany

Sick leave

The Continued Remuneration Act (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz) grants employees six weeks' statutory sick pay for anyone employed for a minimum of 4 weeks. Employees receive their full salary during the first six weeks. After that, the employee gets the benefit directly from the health insurance. The rate is 70% of the employee's gross salary (until the social security ceiling) but not more than 90% of the net salary.

If the employee falls ill again due to the same illness, the six-week period will only recommence after six months from the last sick leave or if a year has passed since the start of the sick leave.

If the employee falls ill due to a new illness, the six-week period automatically restarts. Following the end of the six weeks, employees are entitled to private insurance sickness benefits. This is not something that is usually mentioned in the employment agreement since it is a matter of law in Germany.

If an employee cannot perform their duties due to physical or mental illness, they can take time off from work as long as they inform their employer immediately. If the employee is absent from work for more than three consecutive days, they must submit a doctor's note to the employer.

Employers with 30 or fewer employees can recover up to 80% of any statutory sick pay paid out by claiming their costs sharing fund.

Maternity leave

During the six weeks prior and the eight weeks following the child's birth (12 weeks in case of premature or multiple births), pregnant employees are entitled to maternity leave and pay. The pay is equivalent to their monthly salary three months before the start of maternity leave. Before the child is born, the mother may elect to continue working, which must be stated in writing. However, after the child is born, the mother is not allowed to work.

Maternity leave starts automatically and does not require any notice. If the pregnant woman has a medical certificate stating that employment may endanger her health or that of the unborn child, the employer will likely be prohibited from employing her even before the start of the six weeks.

It is illegal to terminate an employee during pregnancy and until four months after the child is born (also applies to miscarriage) unless approved by the government, which is extremely rare. The pregnant employee, on the other hand, has unrestricted right to terminate the employment.

The maternity payment is split between the employer and the Health Insurance Company. Employees that are insured by the statutory insurance company receive a daily net amount of €13 taxfree. The difference will be contributed by the employer but will be reimbursed by the authorities.

Paternity leave

There's no statutory paternity leave in Germany. Therefore, most fathers use their parental leave and pay when their child is born. 

Parental leave

Employees are entitled to a parental allowance from the state after birth or adoption. Parental leave can be taken by the parents together or separately, at once or can be divided up. The state parental payment is 65% of the employee's average income in the 12 months before the child's birth. The state allowance varies between €300 to €1,800, depending on the salary of the employee. It's paid for the first 12 months of the parental leave or 14 months if the father takes at least two months of parental leave.

Natural and adoptive parents are entitled to receive up to three years of unpaid leave from the moment the child is born until it reaches the age of three. They have the option of saving up to 12 months of parental leave to be used after the child turns three, but before they turn eight. Full-time, part-time, fixed-term, marginal and apprentice employees can all benefit from parental leave. They cannot be terminated while on parental leave, and are entitled to the same work hours upon return. 

Employees have the legal right to work up to 32 hours part-time for at least two months. The employee must request parental leave at least seven weeks in advance for children under three years and 13 weeks in advance for children between 3 and 8. The employer can only deny the request within four weeks, stating in writing the grounds for denial.

Parental Allowance Plus

An additional option was made available for parents of children born after July 1st 2015, giving them the right to receive the parental allowance leave for up to 24 months. If both parents take it together, it can be shared between parents for up to 28 months. However, the amount of parental Allowance Plus is half of the standard parental allowance.

Carer's leave

Employees can take unpaid time off from work to care for their loved ones. The options are short or long term care leave.

  • Short-term: Up to 10 days of unpaid leave. No social insurance contributions occur during this period, but the employee's insurance cover is maintained.
  • Long-term: Up to 6 months of complete or partial leave. The employer must be informed at least 10 working days in advance. In companies with fewer than 15 employees, the employer has the right to reject the leave. Leave is unpaid, and no social insurance contributions are made during the absence. Arrangements for a partial leave have to be set up in writing for both parties involved. In general, the employer must comply with the employee's wishes unless there are strong internal reasons for refusal. The employee can still benefit from health insurance contributions towards their carer's leave or statutory long-term care insurance fund and unemployment benefits. Carers on leave are subject to pension contributions if delivering second-degree care for more than 10 hours per week.

In both cases, employees are protected against dismissal from the date they inform the employer about their impending leave. An employee can only take a carer's leave once for the same person in need of care.

Force majeure leave

Employees can take 3-5 days to deal with urgent family matters within a year while receiving their regular pay.

Bereavement leave

Two days is usually given for mourning and funeral for a close relative, but specifics should be written in the employment contract.

Work-related injury

Work injuries are covered by statutory accident insurance as part of the national social security and contributions are made according to income and risk assessment. The eave is compensated for the first six weeks of the injury.

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