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JOBS

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

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.

EXPLAINED: The 'special' days when you can get paid time off in Germany
You could get a day off when moving house in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

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. 

Moving

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. 

Weddings

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’

Death

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.

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For members

EDUCATION

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

Germany has a number of specialised nursery schools that focus primarily on helping children with their German language skills. Here's what foreigners need to know about them.

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

What even is a Sprach-Kita? 

A “Sprach-Kita”, or Language Kindergarten, is a special type of nursery school that’s been around in Germany since 2016 under the government’s Sprach-Kita Programme. The main aim is to help young children build up their German language skills to a level that will allow them to succeed at school. 

How is this different to a normal Kita or daycare centre?

Unlike most Kindergartens in Germany, Sprach-Kitas employ staff who are specifically trained in language teaching and acquisition. These specialists are paid for through Sprach-Kita Programme funding and help to shape the environment of the nursery school, making it easier for children to develop their German skills in an everyday setting.

The schools also have access to external support and advice on catering to children with language setbacks, and may work closely with parents to encourage further language development at home. 

Since the scheme was set up in 2016, around 7,000 nursery schools have successfully applied for “Sprach-Kita” status and received at least €25,000 funding through the programme. These were mostly Kitas that had already taken in a higher-than-average number of children from foreign backgrounds, such as those in popular migrant or expat areas.

Sprach-Kitas will generally be much more diverse and focus most heavily on children’s language skills, in addition to teaching young kids about cultural inclusivity.  

READ ALSO: ‘Multilingualism is an enrichment, not a deficit’: Raising bilingual kids in Germany

Who are Sprach-Kitas for?

Any young child in Germany is allowed to go to a Sprach-Kita, but the main target audience for these specialised nurseries are the children of foreign parents.

In households where German isn’t the main language spoken, children may struggle to keep up with their classmates at school due to their lower level of German fluency. That could be because the child has two international parents – such as a French mum and an English dad – or because the child has more contact with a parent who doesn’t speak German. 

According to recent statistics, around one in five nursery-age children in Germany doesn’t speak German with their parents at home. That equates to 675,000 children in total. In addition, around 40 percent of nursery school children come from a migrant background. 

Through the Sprach-Kita Programme, government is hoping to help these children integrate at an early age to set them up fully for life in Germany. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rise in multilingual children in Germany

Do I have to pay for a Sprach-Kita? 

Parents usually have to pay a monthly fee for their child to attend a German nursery school – and the same applies to Sprach-Kitas. The fee structure is generally set by the local government, meaning it can vary widely across different regions of the country.

However, you won’t pay any more (or less) for a Sprach-Kita than you would for an ordinary nursery school. 

Where can I find a Sprach-Kita?

Around one in eight Kindergartens in Germany is currently a Sprach-Kita, meaning they aren’t particularly hard to find.

To look for one near you, the best thing to do is to hop onto the government website and look on this interactive map detailing all of the Sprach-Kitas in Germany. 

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten.

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/mauritius images / Westend61 / M | Westend61 / Mareen Fischinger

However, partly due to staffing shortages, Kita places in Germany are highly competitive right now – so securing a place may involve getting in touch with a number of them at an early date. 

READ ALSO: How can Germany improve its Kitas amid teacher shortage?

Is there anything else I need to know?

Currently, the funding for the Sprach-Kita Programme is due to end at the end of 2022 – and it’s unclear what the fate of the existing language-focused nursery schools will be after this happens.

Though the three parties of the traffic-light coalition had pledged to extend the scheme in their coalition contract, it appears that the programme was one of the first victims of savage negotiations over next year’s budget.

That means the federal government are now hoping to transfer the responsibility for funding the language support over to the 16 states.  

“Responsibility in the area of daycare for children lies with the states and cannot be permanently financed by federal funding programmes,” a spokeswoman for the Family Ministry told Welt. 

The Ministry for Families has also pledged to make language acquisition a cornerstone of its forthcoming Good Childcare Act, which will see at least €2 billion in federal funding made available for nurseries in 2023 and 2024. 

That could make it possible for existing Sprach-Kitas to remain in place as specialised centres for language support. 

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