However, there is a strong emphasis on efficiency, people tend to use their working time to be highly productive and there is little or no time spent socializing or chatting. The exception to this is during break periods, which are usually 15 minutes, with 45 minutes for lunch.
Management culture in Germany is usually highly hierarchical. Germans like to work on well-thought-out plans and make factually-based decisions. Orderly and well scheduled meetings form a large part of what tends to be a consensual, group approach to decision-making. Punctuality is expected and lateness is not tolerated, so be careful, especially if you're from a country where this is endemic!
Salaries (Lohn/Gehalt) in Germany are among the highest in the world. Most jobs for graduates start from €30,000/year. Student jobs or unqualified work is generally paid around €6-15/hour. Salaries are usually talked about gross (Brutto), i.e. before deductions for tax and social security. Be aware that taxes, depending on your salary, can be more than 50% of your gross salary, so don't get gross and net figures confused!
Salary is stated monthly in your employment contract, which should also detail special benefits, bonuses and salary reviews. Many employers pay 13 monthly payments a year, which is normally paid out in December for Christmas or split between summer and Christmas. In some management positions, you might even get a 14th salary.
It's difficult to get exact salary data for specific jobs or positions, which can be useful for negotiating salaries. Personalmarkt (www.personalmarkt.de) offers you a salary analysis for a fee that takes into account sector, education, work experience and the geographical region. This might be helpful for negotiating your future salary.
To enter employment, you need a work permit ( Arbeitsgenehmigung or Arbeitserlaubnis) or a residency permit that allows you to work (see our section on work permits). You also require a tax card ( Lohnsteuerkarte) and a social security number( Sozialversicherungsnummer). Tax cards are issued by the city/regional authority where you are registered as living. Social security numbers are issued by pension insurance institutions.
When an employee first enters employment, the employer generally makes their registration for them and provides a social security number and identity card. Queries should be directed to your employer, your health insurance company or your state insurance institution.
Germany has one of the most highly regulated labour markets in the world, with its Labour law designed to protect employees. Whether or not an employment contract exists, all employees have basic rights to:
- sick pay
- chose to work part-time
- receive training
- receive maternity/paternity leave and related employment protection
Periods of notice are also laid down under law, but companies can agree longer periods of notice under individual or collective labour law agreements. Working conditions which do not reach the legal minimum standard are not permitted and are not legally binding.
Collective Labour Agreements
There is also a collective labour law which stems from the laws protecting collective labour agreements and the framework for the rights of employees at their place of work ( Betriebsverfassungsrecht). The laws governing collective labour agreements allow both partners (trade unions and employers' federations or individual employers) to make their own labour agreements. Labour agreements regulate wages, working hours, holidays and notice periods. Most employees work under a labour agreement, although in recent years more companies have received exemptions in order to negotiate their own agreements.
Framework for Employee Rights
The Betriebsverfassungsrecht regulates the relationship between employee and employer in the workplace. Employees are represented by the works council ( Betriebsrat) whose members are elected by the workforce. Among other things, it is responsible for protecting employee rights in the workplace. Management must also consult with the Betriebsrat about issues regarding staff or the company. If you have problems in your workplace, you should consult your Betriebsrat for advice and help.
In firms with 2,000 or more employees, the 1976 Codetermination or Worker's Participation Law ( Mitbestimmungsgesetz) applies. This law requires that the company's supervisory board contains a certain number of employee representatives. The principle of Codetermination means that unions and employees have a say in company policy, as well as sharing responsibility for the firm. For more on the reality of working in Germany, visit on website on cultural adaptation, AdaptingAbroad.com.