In the first few days in your new workplace you will get to know your new colleagues and your job. You can often address your colleagues informally after a few days (using the German “du”). Things are different when it comes to your superior, the boss. Formal terms are almost always used in this case – the German “Sie” form of address. However this varies depending on the company.
In Germany there is an employee protection policy: the company has to adhere to certain regulations regarding health and safety for its employees. For instance these include designated workwear, regular breaks and working hours. Large companies have an employee representation body, a works council. If you have a problem you can speak to the works council. The works council will then talk to your boss.
Working hours and holiday
The working hours depend on your profession. For instance as a nurse based in a hospital you work shifts: sometimes you work in the morning, sometimes evenings or nights. In an office your working hours are mostly regulated. You start in the morning and finish your working day after 8 or 9 hours. Offices often also have flexitime, i.e. you have flexible working hours. For instance you can start at 8 or 9 in the morning and leave earlier or later in the evening. Every job has at least one break, frequently a lunchbreak of 30 or 60 minutes. People usually work 38 – 40 hours per week.
Every employee has a specified amount of holiday in the year. You must request your annual leave and your boss must approve it. You can often take your holiday when you want to. But sometimes you cannot take holiday because there is too much work to be done in the company. Sometimes you have to take leave because the whole company is on holiday, which is the case in some companies at Christmas, for instance. You continue to receive your wages/salary during your annual leave. If you are off sick, you must inform your employer immediately and go to the doctor. The doctor issues you with a doctor’s certificate for your employer. You must hand the certificate in to the company as soon as possible. Employers frequently do not need a doctor’s certificate until you have been on sick leave for three days (see “Health” page).
In some professions you have to wear specific clothing for work, for instance on a building site to protect you from injury. Sometimes you also have to wear a uniform, for instance if you work at an airport. Or you have to wear a T-shirt with your company’s logo on it. This enables the customer to see that you are an employee.
If you are no longer able or willing to work for the company, you have to hand in your notice. Notice is always given in writing. And there is a period of notice. Normally the period of notice is 3 months.
Frequently asked questions
I have to take my child to kindergarten. Can I go to work later?
Not always. You can if you work flexitime. But you may not do so during core working hours, in other words the time during which you have to be at your desk. Ask your employer.
When do I have a break?
It varies. Usually you have half an hour or an hour per day, usually in the middle of the day. Breaks are unpaid.
My German is not very good. Can I speak English at work?
In large international companies that is often possible. But not all. Some employers pay for their staff to take a German course. You can sometimes speak English to your colleagues too, but not customers.
I have a child and cannot work 40 hours per week. What can I do?
Many companies offer part-time jobs. Then you work between 20 and 30 hours a week or less. Ask about this.
When do I get my salary or wages?
The salary/wages is paid into your account monthly. The exact date varies. Most companies pay the salary at the end of the month.