How Germany plans to offer employees up to a year's paid leave for further training
German Labour Minister Hubertus Heil wants to make it possible for employees in Germany to take paid leave to complete further training for up to a year – or two years part-time.
The SPD politician told the German Press Agency (DPA) in Berlin: “We will make educational time in Germany possible, following the Austrian model."
In Austria, employees can take a career break for a maximum of one year for training or for continuing education - or part-time leave for up to two years. Those who take such "educational leave" are entitled to a so-called “continuing education" allowance.
Heil announced that in Germany, too, employees should, in the future, be able to take a year of further vocational training if they and their employer have agreed on this beforehand.
The initiative would be funded by the Federal Employment Agency and employees would receive payments in the same amount of the higher-level unemployment benefits during their career break - i.e. 60 percent of income for single persons and 67 percent for people with a child.
The proposed education time will be introduced alongside other measures as part of the Continuing Education Act. The new law is expected to be passed by the federal cabinet in the next few weeks.
With the new law, Heil hopes to “open up additional opportunities for employees in view of the shortage of skilled workers in Germany”, he said.
A major shortage of skilled workers is currently causing huge problems for companies in Germany and the government is preparing a range of new measures - including immigration law reforms - to boost skilled labour.
Covering relocation costs for trainees'
As well as financing career breaks, the Continuing Education Act will also help young people in search of apprenticeships with relocation costs.
Heil said that the law would include a "training guarantee“ which would “promote the mobility and career orientation of young people".
Currently, there are significant regional differences in the distribution of apprenticeships; in regions with full employment, companies sometimes can't find trainees, while in structurally weak regions, young people looking are finding it extremely difficult to find a training position, the Labor Minister explained.
Mobility support for internships would help with this, he said.
"If someone can't find a training position in the northern Ruhr region, for example, but there is an opportunity in Cologne to complete an internship for career orientation, then we will support that by taking on accommodation and mobility costs," Heil said.
€771 million for new law
According to Heil, the cost of the Continuing Education Act for the Federal Employment Agency will amount to around €771 million annually until 2026. €190 million would be added from the federal budget, which would be offset by social security contributions and tax revenues from the creation of employment, he said.
Overall, according to Heil, the structural change in the economy should be flanked by a "whole new toolbox" for continuing education. Funding opportunities should be simplified and Germany should become a "republic of continuing education", he said.