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EXPLAINED: The 'special' days when you can get paid time off in Germany

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected] • 26 Sep, 2021 Updated Sun 26 Sep 2021 14:03 CEST
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It's not just for vacations or sick leave: there are many situations in Germany where you can take paid time off. We break them down.


All full-time employees in Germany who work a full-day week, are entitled to at least 20 paid vacation days by law. This is a bare minimum, however, with many companies offering between 25 and 30 days per year - or even more.

READ ALSO: Vacation days in Germany: what to know about your rights as an employee

Yet what about days which aren’t for holiday, but rather something that needs to be done during normal working hours, such as moving house or caring for a child who falls sick? And what about big life events, like weddings or religious ceremonies?

We’ve got some good news for you: these can qualify for paid-time off work outside of the normal holiday allowance - with a few exceptions. Here’s what qualifies for the so-called Sonderurlaub, or special holiday. 



While on the one hand it's an exciting time, moving house can be a real pain. Packing up all of your prized possessions takes time that many of those clocking in full time hours simply don’t have. 

That’s why you can take a sigh of relief to know that moving qualifies for a paid day off work under two core conditions: you are moving for your job - for example being transferred to another location - and the move needs to take place on a weekday or during work time, for example because you have to be out of your home by the end of the month. 

That said, Germany is a heavily unionized country, and each union has its own special rules and exceptions to the general law. For example, the union IG Metall grants its employees a day off work for a move, regardless if they are moving for work-related reasons or not.

Public sector service employees can also expect a day free from the job, even if they are just moving their belongings next door. 

In some cases when the move requires a great distance and effort, your employer can be reasonably expected to grant you a few days off of work. 


Photo: DPA

Have an urge to tie the knot on a Wednesday afternoon? Maybe you'll be more up for it when you learn it means a day off of work - in addition to the proper holiday time which we hope you also carve out for the Honeymoon. The same applies for civil unions. 

In some cases, this time off work can be granted for up to three days, in case you want to carve off more time following a typical Sunday celebration. Yet paid time off typically is not longer than a day. 

READ ALSO: 'Ja, ich will': Internationals share what it's like to get married in Germany

Special anniversaries

What better way to celebrate a work anniversary than not working? That’s at least the philosophy of most public sector jobs which will grant a day off of work for 25th and 40th anniversaries of time logged at work. Although if you reach the latter, we hope that you are well on your way to retirement soon!

The same applies to celebrating your own 25th wedding anniversary, or the 25th or 50th wedding anniversary of your parents. Some unions will also grant their employees a day off for these special celebrations, known respectively as silver and golden weddings in Germany. 


Birth of your own child

It should go without saying that, in addition to the generous Elternzeit (parental leave) that both parents are entitled to in Germany, you can also take time off for the birth of your child. This doesn’t just apply to the woman giving birth but also her partner. 

READ ALSO: What parents in Germany need to know when their child is sick

An injury

According to Section 616 of the German Civil Code, an employer must continue to pay a salary to the employee following an injury that prevents them from working under the following two conditions: the injury wasn’t caused by the employee themselves, and lasts “a relatively insignificant amount of time,” although in Germany this can mean up to six months. 

Doctor visits

Photo: DPA

Employees are also granted time off within the course of a working day for doctor and medical visits. For more intensive procedures that span more that part of a day - an operation, for example - the employee can receive up to a few days off of work.

Taking care of a sick family member

If a family member under your care falls sick and needs your care, you are entitled to up to 10 days Sonderurlaub, even on sudden notice, and up to six months unpaid time off from work.

Religious reasons

Employees can also take time off in order to attend religious ceremonies such as a communion or confirmation, although whether this is paid depends on the employer. They are also allowed to leave work during the day in order to pray as long as this has previously been communicated with the employer.

READ ALSO: These three German cities offer 'the best work-life balance'


In the sad event that someone close to you passes away, you are entitled a paid day of grievance leave. For close family members, this is usually two days. Of course, this is the bare minimum written into law, and many employers will also make exceptions based on the individual case. 

Other types of leave

Germany also grants a generous amount of paid leave for parents (Elternzeit), sick leave, educational leave (Bildungsurlaub), and unemployment.

You can visit our guides on the following and contact us at [email protected] with additional questions or comments.



Rachel Stern 2021/09/26 14:03

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