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Working in Germany For Members

What are my rights to take breaks at work in Germany?

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
What are my rights to take breaks at work in Germany?
A nurse takes a much needed break during her shift. Photo by Go Nakamura / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP)

Workers in Germany don't need to feel guilty for taking breaks on the job - in fact daily rest time is regulated by law. Here are the rules for clocking out before the day is done.

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If you're counting down the minutes until your next break at work, rest assured that German labour law is on your side. In Germany, a work-life balance is not just reserved for a 'Feierabend', or sacred time-off after work, but also in breaks during the day.

German labour law applies to all workers employed in Germany, regardless of your residence status or country of origin.

According to information published by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundestagentur für Arbeit), all German laws and regulations concerning work are summarised in labour law, which is designed to give you comprehensive rights in relation to your employment contract, wages and holidays.

Basic rules about work schedules

Working hours in Germany are generally limited to an average of eight hours daily. But this can be extended to up to ten hours per day for short periods. 

A rest period of 11 hours is normally required between shifts. So if you work an evening shift until 11 pm the night before, an employer can’t require you to start a morning shift until 10 am the next day.

Workers are also generally entitled to paid leave – this is true even for seasonal workers. For full time employees, minimum requirements allow for two days of paid leave per month worked. 

READ ALSO: Vacation days in Germany: What to know about your rights as an employee

Additionally, if you are required to work on Sundays or public holidays, your employer must offer you a corresponding number of days off within the following eight weeks.

How much break time do I get?

In Germany, work shifts six to nine hours long must include a 30-minute break, and breaks must be offered no later than six hours after the shift starts. For shifts longer than nine hours, the break is extended to 45 minutes. 

It should be noted that these shift lengths are based on the number of hours worked in a single day. So a worker given two four hour shifts is entitled to a 30-minute break just as they would be if they worked one eight hour shift.

Labour law prohibits employees taking the break at the end of the day’s work in order to leave earlier. 

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Break time is not considered working time, and is not paid.

More information about working hours, breaks and labour law in Germany can be found at the Federal Employment Agency’s website.

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