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EXPLAINED: what you need to know about Germany’s ‘Kurzarbeit’ job support scheme

During the pandemic, any international resident living in Germany will have become familiar with the words ‘pandemie’ (pandemic), ‘maskenpflicht’ (compulsory masks) and ‘impfstoffe’ (vaccines). You may also have heard ‘Kurzarbeit’ being discussed, especially if you're an employee.

EXPLAINED: what you need to know about Germany's 'Kurzarbeit' job support scheme
Photo: Getty Images
Together with the tax-filing app Taxfix, The Local presents answers to the key questions regarding what has become an important job-saving measure. Taxfix is also offering readers of The Local either a free or discounted tax return
 
What is Kurzarbeit’? 
 
Kurzarbeit, or ‘short work’, is far from a new idea in Germany – it became fully established in 1924 as a response to the economic crisis of the Weimar Republic. But it has risen to a new level of prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic. 
 
Essentially, in order to deal with a shortage of work, company employees are put on reduced hours. The federal government then steps in to pay around 60 percent of their salary for a set period of time – normally a year. This payment is known as ‘Kurzarbeitergeld’ (short-time worker payment) and is paid directly into your bank account. 
 
In 2020, 16 percent of the German workforce were on ‘Kurzarbeit’ as a result of the pandemic – that’s around 7.3 million people. 
 
Who is eligible for ‘Kurzarbeit’?
 
All full-time or part-time employees who have had their hours reduced, and that have not been made redundant can apply for ‘Kurzarbeit’. You must also be making contributions to social security, and the loss to your gross monthly salary must be over ten percent. 
 
Freelancers, interns, students and other types of workers are not eligible to receive ‘Kurzarbeit’. However, the federal government has other forms of aid available to these workers. 
 
Taxfix is offering a free tax return to those on Kurzarbeit, by clicking hereNot on Kurzarbeit? Taxfix is offering a 15% discount on your return when you use this link and the code 'TX_Localtaxes'
 
Does the amount of Kurzarbeit vary? 
 
Yes. The monthly ‘Kurzarbeitergeld’ is normally calculated at 60 percent of your monthly net salary at the time it takes effect. 
 
However, there are some things that can alter the percentage. For example, parents with one child receive 67 percent of their monthly salary, and this percentage grows over the duration of ‘Kurzarbeit’. 
 
Photo: Getty Images
 
Can I take another job while I’m receiving Kurzarbeit?
 
If your job isn’t affected by workplace agreements, you can take a part-time job while on ‘Kurzarbeit’ to make up for the loss to your income. 
 
If you took on a part-time job during the crisis, you can earn up to the full amount of your previous monthly income. 
 
Just note that your main employer must agree to you taking a second job. The pay from your part-time job can also impact the amount of ‘Kurzarbeitergeld’ that you receive. 
 
What happens if I can’t live on ‘Kurzarbeitergeld’? 
 
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has loosened the requirements for benefits, meaning that there is no means testing, and you don’t even need to have made an in-person appointment to claim benefits. Talking to your local ‘Agentur fur Arbeit’ (Federal Work Agency) office by phone or website chat can give you a clear idea of what benefits you’re entitled to, and how to claim them.
 
 
Does ‘Kurzarbeit’ have any impact on the taxes I pay? 
 
Yes. ‘Kurzarbeit’ is available because almost everybody who works pays a form of social security, deducted from salaries at the source – meaning your workplace pays it to the government. This money is considered tax-free. 
 
If your tax rate changes because of going onto ‘Kurzarbeit’, you’ll almost certainly need to submit a tax return for 2020 – even if you don’t normally. If you don’t have a tax advisor – which probably means most of us – you’ll need to submit a tax return by July 31st, 2021.
 
There are many options available to those who wish to do their own taxes in Germany. These encompass paper kits, websites and, increasingly, user-friendly apps such as Taxfix. 
 
Taxfix is available via their website and their app, which can be downloaded here. It has the benefit of being designed for English-speaking expats, and the average return takes only 22 minutes to complete. Filing a return with an estimated refund of under €50 is free of charge, and there is a flat rate of €39.99 for other returns.
 
In support of those affected, Taxfix is offering a free tax return to those on Kurzarbeit, by clicking hereNot on Kurzarbeit? You can also benefit, as Taxfix is offering a 15% discount on your return when you use this link and the code 'TX_Localtaxes'
 
 
 
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WORKING IN GERMANY

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck! 

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