EXPLAINED: When will Germany raise the minimum wage?

The pledge to raise wages for Germany’s lowest earners to €12 per hour was a key electoral promise for Olaf Scholz’s SPD party, and now it looks set to come into force later this year. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: When will Germany raise the minimum wage?
A woman vacuums a corridor in a hotel. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Reinhardt

What’s going on?

On Wednesday, the German government wants to begin the process of raising the minimum wage to €12 per hour. The cabinet has approved a bill put forward by Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) that will see the minimum wage hiked in Germany on October 1st this year. 

Isn’t the minimum wage already set to rise?

That’s right. On January 1st 2022, the minimum wage in Germany increased from €9.60 to €9.82 and it is set to rise again on July 1st to €10.45. These increases were laid out in a law which came into force in November 2021, following the guidelines of the Minimum Wage Commission which decides on the regular increases to earnings on the basis of previous wage development.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the minimum wage will increase in Germany in 2022

But the plan to hike the minimum wage up to €12 is a change from the usual procedure and will mark a one-off increase of around 15 percent. When introducing the draft bill, Germany’s labour minister Hubertus Heil said that the minimum wage in Germany was below average compared to the rest of Europe – the additional increase of €1.55 is a one-time law would help address this.

According to the draft, the minimum wage will remain unchanged for 15 months and the next increase, due on January 1st 2024 will again be decided by the Minimum Wage Commission of employers and trade unions.

The plan for the one-time hike was a flagship pledge of the centre-left SPD in the run-up to the September 26th elections last year. It is one of the first and most significant policies of the new traffic-light coalition that is set to come into force.

Who will benefit from the €12 minimum wage?

According to the draft law, 6.2 million workers earn an hourly wage below €12 and around 111,000 are even dependent on basic income support despite full-time employment. The increase to €12 euros would help to ensure that all workers earn at least 60 percent of the average gross wage as, according to experts, a minimum wage that is below 60 percent of a country’s median wage could mean that many low-income earners end up poverty. 

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

Those who are employed as so-called minijobbers will also benefit from the wage increase. The coalition agreement of the SPD, Greens and the FDP states: “In future, the mini-job limit will be based on a weekly working time of ten hours at minimum wage conditions. When the minimum wage is raised, it will be accordingly increased to €520.”

That means the increase from €450 to €520 per month for mini-jobs is also set to come into force with the minimum wage rise on October 1st.

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Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?