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WORKING IN GERMANY

EXPLAINED: The rules in Germany around ‘mini’ and ‘midi-jobs’

So-called “mini-jobs” are widely used in Germany so employers can bring on part-time employees - whose smaller earnings are then generally exempt from tax. But how does the scheme work?

A person pouring a beer.
Lots of people who work in the hospitality industry have mini-jobs. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

Germany introduced mini-jobs in 2002 as a way for employers to get part-time workers more easily, and for those same workers to enjoy the flexible working arrangements part-time work can sometimes offer, with certain exemptions from tax.

But Germany’s complex social welfare setup means taking and declaring mini-jobs isn’t always straightforward. We break down the most common questions.

What are mini and midi-jobs?

Mini-jobs are designed to be casual side jobs for earning a little extra income. They can be particularly attractive for students, but mini-jobbers come from all walks of life.

Workers can’t earn more that €450 a month from their mini-job, or work more than 70 days at one mini-job in a year. Shorter-term mini-jobs, such as seasonal work around Christmas holidays or in summer, are possible but cannot exceed three consecutive months in a year.

Retail stores or bars that need a little extra help during a busy period are some of the most common mini-job providers, but mini-jobs exist in almost every sector in Germany. The German Retail Association estimates that over 800,000 people work mini-jobs across the country.

Jobs where someone earns between €450 and €1,300 per month are known as “midi-jobs.” They’re another category of part-time work in Germany where the worker doesn’t quite make enough to be subject to full obligations – and protections – under German labour law. Unlike mini-jobs, they are subject to certain rules on tax and social security contributions on a “sliding scale.”

Although the current monthly income limits are €450 for mini-jobs and €1,300 for midi-jobs, the newly elected federal government has plans to increase these amounts to €520 and €1,600, respectively.

READ ALSO: Wages, rent and pensions: What will the new German government mean for your wallet?

What rights and obligations do mini-jobbers have?

In Germany, employees typically pay social security contributions as a portion of their income deducted from their monthly pay. A worker’s company also pays into these contributions, which cover both an employee’s public health insurance and their pension insurance.

Certain freelancers, such as musicians, artists, and writers, can make these contributions through the German Artists Social Insurance Fund (Kunstlersozialkasse). Mini-jobs are exempt from this, meaning neither the worker nor the employer have to pay these contributions, making mini-job income largely tax exempt.

A mini-jobber’s employer will typically take off a flat tax of two percent of gross income off the employee’s pay and send the money to the government. In many cases, this is all the tax a mini-jobber will have to pay.

The flip side of this is that mini-jobbers have no recourse to unemployment insurance, for example. A Federal Labour Court has also recently ruled that mini-jobbers are not entitled to wage compensation if the business they’re working for has to close due to Covid-19 restrictions. Mini-jobbers are also not entitled to Kurzarbeit benefits—a German scheme where companies receive public money to help pay their workers in return for not laying them off.

READ ALSO: Job news in Germany: Mini-jobbers lose out in Covid closures and VW layoffs

In areas that don’t involve tax and social security contributions, mini-jobbers enjoy broadly the same rights and obligations as other part-time employees. These include protections against wrongful dismissal, continued payments if the worker’s child gets sick, and renumeration for working on a Sunday or public holiday.

They are also covered by the employer’s insurance if an accident happens either at work or on their commute. Mini-jobbers also receive paid vacation days that are prorated based on how much they work relative to a full-time employee.

They must also be paid the statutory minimum wage (currently €9.60, but the government wants to raise this to €12 by the end of the year). Germany’s recent “3G” rule for workplaces, where employees must be vaccinated, recovered, or present a recent negative test for Covid-19 when showing up to work, also applies to mini-jobbers.

READ ALSO: German employers weigh up legal challenge to €12 an hour minimum wage

What if a have a mini-job alongside my regular one, or if I work more than one mini-job?

A worker in Germany who has a job where they pay regular social security contributions can hold a mini-job on top of this but will typically need the consent of their main employer. Someone working more than one mini-job will be exempt from having to pay social insurance contributions up to the first €450 they earn a month. They’ll typically have to pay tax and social insurance on anything they earn on top of this, even if it comes from another mini-job.

A “midi-jobber,” or someone who is earning between €450 and €1,300 per month, must typically pay tax and social security contributions on whatever income they earn that’s over €450, with the first €450 being exempt. Social insurance contributions on money earned that’s between €450 and €1,300 per month are typically reduced though. On the flip side, a midi-jobber will be entitled to certain levels of pension and unemployment insurance that a mini-jobber is not.

Can you hold a mini-job while receiving unemployment benefits?

Yes, but you must notify your local Jobcentre before you take on the mini-job. If you don’t, your benefits could be reduced. Furthermore you can only work less than 15 hours a week, or will no longer be considered unemployed. You will also not be able to keep most of the income you earn above €100 a month, depending on what unemployment benefit you are receiving.

Vocabulary

Mini-jobs/midi-jobs or marginal employment – (die) geringfügige Beschäftigung

Part-time workers – (die) Teilzeitbeschäftige

Side job – (der) Nebenjob

Sliding contribution scale – (die) Gleitzone

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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WORKING IN GERMANY

‘Lack of diversity is a problem’: What it’s like to work at a Berlin tech startup

Many foreigners dream of finding a job in Germany's growing startup scene. But aside from promises of free pizza, what's the culture like, is the pay good - and do you need to speak German? We spoke to two foreigners working at tech startups in Berlin to find out.

'Lack of diversity is a problem': What it's like to work at a Berlin tech startup

With over €5.1 billion in venture capital fund investments raised last year, the startup industry in Germany’s capital is booming. Startups are the fastest-growing job sector in Berlin, and more than 78,000 people are now employed in the sector.

The sector attracts highly qualified, ambitious people from all over the globe. But what is it really like to work for a Berlin startup?

We spoke to two insiders to find out. Gabriela, 36, is originally from Poland and has been a Business-to-Business Manager in a tech startup in Berlin since October last year. Giuseppe, also 36, is originally from Italy and has been working as a Human Resources Manager in various tech startups for the last seven years. 

Most important question first – do you actually get free pizza and office table tennis?

Giuseppe: These kinds of benefits have become a bit of a cliche that doesn’t really reflect the reality anymore. Yoga, soft drinks, and fruit baskets are nothing special. The real benefits are now to do with remote working and flexible working schedules. 

Gabriela: We haven’t really had many of these kinds of ‘incentives’ because we’ve been mainly working from home since I started. Only in the last month or so we’ve been going to the office at least once a week, and we do get free pizza and drinks once a month when the CEO’s give us their monthly update on how the business is going.

READ ALSO: The German regions attracting startups

Would you say that your work environment is diverse?

Gabriela: My team is a complete mix of people from different European countries. But the number of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) people on board is not very high and there is definitely a problem with the lack of female leadership, which the company is trying to address. The CEOs are all white Germans.

Giuseppe: (Lack of) diversity is still a big problem. Most of the CEOs and the highest earners are white – usually German – guys. Women and BAME people tend to occupy lower-paid jobs. It’s a systemic issue – and there is competition among a lot of startups that are trying to show who is more diverse. 

How much German is spoken in your company?

Gabriela: Hardly any. We speak all the time in English with each other and all of our meetings are in English.

Giuseppe: It’s the same with us. I’m hearing German less and less. 

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

Is there anything then that indicates that the company you’re working for is German?

Gabriela: I think the presence of a strong labour law reminds you that you’re in Germany. In our company, there’s an employees representation group and certain clear rules. You know that you won’t be suddenly dismissed once you’ve passed your probation time.

Giuseppe: Yes, the labour law is what I would point to. It’s not easy to get rid of employees in Germany – there is a more robust framework that affects the environment and culture. 

What is the salary like?

Gabriela: I think it’s competitive. My company does salary benchmarking every summer to see what the standard is across the industry and adjusts its pay accordingly.

Giuseppe: Salaries have gone up a lot in the last few years and you could even say they are booming now. A ‘normal’ engineer can expect to earn at least €85,000 per year, and if you are in a serious leadership position, you can expect to earn up to €180,000.

READ ALSO: Do internationals face discrimination in the workplace

A woman working from home throws money in the air. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

Would you say that it’s a high-pressure environment to work in?

Gabriela: For me, there isn’t the kind of pressure that if you don’t perform you won’t get the money you should be getting. Instead, my company is trying to get you to think that your own success is intertwined with the success of the company. There are good incentives to work hard and we have also a certain amount of shares in the company, so if it does well we benefit too.

Giuseppe: I personally feel pressure, but I love what I do, so for me it’s fine. But I have seen a lot of cases of people burning out – especially young people. I think because there are a lot of young managers, who get into leadership roles without having the tools or strength to resist the pressure.

How do you find the work-life balance? 

Giuseppe: I feel like I’m working all the time, but again, that’s because I love my job and I want to, it’s not necessarily the expectation, it’s not like in the US. In Berlin tech startups, there is a tendency to slow down around 6pm.

Gabriela: For me, the work-life balance compared to previous jobs is very good. Telecommuting is great, there are flexible starting times and last-minute holiday requests are usually approved. I think it’s very good for people with children and more complex schedules. 

How many days holiday do you get?

Gabriela: We get 28 days holiday per year.

Giuseppe: We get between 23 and 30 days holiday per year, depending on how long you’ve been working in the company.

What are the career progression opportunities like?

Gabriela: Very dynamic. For myself, I don’t see a clear career path at the moment, but I see a lot of movement happening and people moving to different roles. There is a feeling of being in a constant state of change. 

Giuseppe: If you join a startup at the right time, you can very easily become a manager very quickly.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to boost your career chances in Germany

What was different about working for a Berlin start-up than you expected?

Gabriela: I thought that working from home would be easier, because I hadn’t done that much before, but I find it much harder to be engaged than I expected. I think a lot of startups (in Berlin) are struggling now to find the right balance between the competing interests of their employees – some of whom want to be fully remote and others who want to come more regularly to the office.

Giuseppe: Before I started working for tech startups I had this romantic image that they were all led by geniuses with big ideas who started in their garages. But in reality, I’ve found this emotional, big-dreaming side to be lacking. There are a lot of people who work for startups who just see it like any other job.

A work team exchanging ideas with notes on a whiteboard.

A work team exchanging ideas with notes on a whiteboard. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

What are the best things about working for a Berlin tech start-up?

Giuseppe: You can make an impact with what you do, to build a product and say it’s mine. There is also creativity and freshness in the team dynamics. I was deeply unhappy in the years I spent working for big corporations because I didn’t know what the goal was. In startups, the objectives are clear.

Gabriela: You can grow with the company, and there are a lot of positions opening all the time, and it’s very common for startups to promote internal talent.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German regions attracting startups

What are the worst things about working for a Berlin tech start-up?

Gabriela: Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the pace of change. It sometimes feels like we are constantly onboarding new people or people are changing roles and there is a slightly chaotic feel to things. The buzzword “agility” is used and abused, and sometimes means staff is expected to go along with anything and everything.

Giuseppe: In the tech start-up world here there seem to be a lot of people who get into the top jobs because they speak a lot, not necessarily because they are the most competent. There is a lot of networking and self-promotion required to push yourself forward. It’s also not a good environment for people who don’t like change, because things change a lot. 

Do you think Berlin is a good place for foreigners to work?

Gabriela: Yes, definitely. You have a lot of choice when it comes to places to work – so it’s unlikely you’ll have to stick at a job which
you don’t like. It’s also a big help for foreigners that most startups in Berlin don’t require German language skills.

Giuseppe: Definitely. For me, the mix of cultures and ideas in the workplace is really inspiring and motivating. And, of course, the city of Berlin itself is full of cultural events and has a great night life – so it’s a great place to live for when you want to detach from work too.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about joining a tech start-up in Berlin?

Giuseppe: Try to develop an entrepreneurial mindset instead of an employee mindset as soon as possible. Always look for opportunities, don’t take things personally, don’t think about what happened yesterday, and focus on the now. 

Gabriela: Be open-minded and be prepared for change. 

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