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Probezeit: The probation period rules new employees in Germany need to know

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
Probezeit: The probation period rules new employees in Germany need to know
During the Probezeit, an employer doesn't have to give a reason for a Kündigung, or termination. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

New Year, new job? Many people in Germany begin work for a new employer at the beginning of the year - what exactly are the rules for the probation period and in which cases do they not apply?

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For many people in Germany, January marks not only the time for a new gym membership or push to eat vegan, but also a clean slate with a new employer.

As with in many other countries, the newbie employee must first make it through the Probezeit before they’re entitled to the full benefits and legal protections of an unbefristeter Arbeitsvertrag, or unlimited contract. 

How long does the Probezeit last?

A standard Probezeit lasts for six months, but ultimately it’s up to the employer to decide. In most cases it can’t exceed half a year, but can very well be only one or two months if that's what the employer specifies.

Unlike the period of time following Probezeit - which comes with very strong legal protections - a new employee can be let go with only two weeks notice and the employer isn’t required to give any reason.

READ ALSO: What happens to your work permit if you lose your job in Germany?

Even if many employers make use of the Probezeit when hiring new employees, it's not an obligation. It also does not come into force automatically, but must always be agreed individually in the employment contract (Arbeitsvertrag).

If the contract does not contain a provision on the Probezeit then consider yourself lucky: it simply does not exist.

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Can a Probezeit be extended?

But what happens if an employer is still not sure after the probationary period whether they want to take on the new employee.

Is an extension of the trial period then possible?

Yes, but only under certain conditions, Johannes Schipp, a lawyer for employment law in Gütersloh, told DPA. For example, if the probationary period is three months, the employer can extend it to six months.

However, according to Schipp, this can only occur with the employee's consent, as the Arbeitnehmer must also sign the revised employment contract or a corresponding amendment.

However, the employer can actually "more or less enforce" this, said Schipp - namely by announcing that otherwise the employment relationship will be terminated (through what's known as a Kündigung) otherwise.

A woman in Germany uses a phone and laptop. Germany is working on a digital strategy.

A Probezeit in Germany usually lasts no longer than six months. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

Which group of people is exempt from Probezeit rules?

However, the situation is different for pregnant women: According to Section 17 of the Maternity Protection Act (Mutterschutz), employers are prohibited from dismissing a pregnant employee - a regulation which also applies during the Probezeit.

Therefore, the dismissal of a pregnant woman is invalid in any case up to four months after giving birth. According to Schipp, if an employer wants to terminate a pregnant woman for reasons of insolvency, this is "only possible under employment law if the responsible occupational health and safety authority agrees".

But the pregnancy itself may not be the subject of the dismissal.

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Which rules apply for a longer Probezeit?

But even with an agreed-upon Probezeit of longer than six months, certain protections apply.

"This means that if I have been there for six months, even if the probationary period is longer, I have protection against dismissal at the end of the six-month period," said Schipp.

If the employer then wants to dismiss the employee, they need grounds for dismissal even during an extended Probezeit, "unless it is a small company, i.e. if no more than ten people are employed," said Schipp.

However, there is one restriction: if a lower salary was agreed for the probationary period, this agreement could theoretically be extended beyond the six months, according to Schipp.

READ ALSO: Q&A: How foreign jobseekers in Germany can maximise their chances in 2024

With reporting from DPA.

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