Working in Germany For Members

Bildungsurlaub: What is Germany's 'education holiday' and how can I use it?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
Bildungsurlaub: What is Germany's 'education holiday' and how can I use it?
Taking Bildungsurlaub in the right place is still work, but might offer better scenery. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Patrick Seeger

Depending on the German state you live in, you may be entitled to extra time off work - provided you use that time for further training and education. We break it down for you.


What does Bildungsurlaub mean?

Perhaps one of the most underused entitlements in Germany is Bildungsurlaub. Literally translated, it means “education holiday,” although “educational leave” would probably be a better description.

What exactly is it?

Depending on which of Germany’s 16 federal states you live in, your employer needs to give you a certain number of paid days off work for you to take educational courses or training to help you do your job better - as long as you request it.

This time - typically five days a year in most cases - comes in addition to any regular paid holiday or public holiday entitlements you have. All employees except civil servants are entitled regardless of nationality. But not all states have it. A total of 14 of Germany’s 16 states offer the concept of Bildungsurlaub, with Bavaria and Saxony being the only two exceptions.


That means if you are entitled to 25 paid holidays, for example, you can take those and still have whatever days for Bildungsurlaub you’re owed on top of that. In that example, the employer pays for 30 days of holiday for you - although you need to be in education or training for five of them.

Depending on the federal state you’re in and how long you’ve been with your employer, you can sometimes carry over five unused Bildungsurlaub days from one year into the next. That way, you can take a two-week course that might help you make more progress in a certain subject.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Bildungsurlaub

Students study from a textbook at a school in Munich

Students study from a German textbook at a language school in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

What kind of education or courses qualify?

There is a catch. You are, of course, required to actually do some learning during this time away from your workplace. You also have to get your employer’s approval and they can refuse if they don’t feel the training you choose is relevant.

Language courses are often safe bets - especially for foreigners in Germany who are looking to brush up on their German language skills with intensive courses that cover more ground than even a month of evening classes. Language schools sometimes offer specifically tailored one or two week courses for this purpose. 

But there could be many other available trainings out there - on everything from coding, web design, computer applications, leadership, and financial management. The trick is to simply make sure that the provider of the course in question is recognised in your employer’s federal state. So if you live in Brandenburg, but work in Berlin, make sure Berlin recognises your course, for example. allows users to search for possible courses and filter results by the type of course, the time it’s offered, and what federal state needs to recognise the course.

What about the “holiday” part of it?

Perhaps the most fun filter though is where the course is offered.

If your federal state recognises a Spanish course offered in sunny Spain and you can make a case for the course being relevant to your work, you’re perfectly entitled to enrol. That means that while you might be spending a certain number of hours a day in your course, you still have some time for a sunny stroll or tapas on the beach after you close your books.


How do I use it?

Taking Bildungsurlaub can be complicated. That may be part of why only about two percent of people in Germany who are entitled to Bildungsurlaub actually use it, according to Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB), the German Trade Union Confederation.

First, find an accredited course you’re interested in and register your interest with the course provider. Ask them to give you documents you can send to your employer. You need to send these at least four to eight weeks in advance and your employer has two to three weeks to respond.

If they approve you, you can head on the course. But be sure to get a confirmation of your attendance as your presence is mandatory to get your paid days. Once you get back, make a copy of your attendance contribution and hand it to your employer.


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