'It's easier to be sacked here than you think'
Published on: 28 Oct 2013 11:38 CET
Under the German system the Protection against Unfair Dismissals Act restricts the ways employers can lay off their workers, but only after the worker completes a six-month probation.
Employment lawyer Franziska Voltolini from Berlin legal firm Mayr told The Local: "The bureaucratic hurdles for employers are a little higher than in the United States or Britain. But it is a myth that it is almost impossible to be fired [in Germany]."
If you suspect you have been wrongfully dismissed, you have to act within three weeks, she said. "The best place to go for advice is a lawyer who is a certified specialist for employment law," she added.
Unless you qualify for "extraordinary dismissal", allowed only in case of criminal activity, theft, abuse or serious breach of trust, there are three ways you can earn the sack.
First, you can be dismissed for personal reasons, usually long-term illness. If you have been consistently sick and unable to work for six weeks or more, the employer has grounds to sack, but they are obligated to try and "rehabilitate" you first, which can include paying for treatments to get you back to work.
Second, you can be let go for conduct reasons - repeated misdemeanours such as late arrival, breach of confidentiality or pretending to be ill can all get you the boot.
However, this is almost always run on a warning system to give employees a chance to change their ways.
The third way an employer can fire you is for "operational" reasons, when the company is downsizing.
There are strict rules on this. To start with, the employer has to prove the position is no longer needed.
They then have to offer the employee another available job before firing them. And after that, you still might get a special "dismissal with a choice of changed employment" to avoid the sack.
When making layoffs, German companies have by law to rank employees by their social obligations and situation, awarding points for children, disability, age and length of service, before sacking the lowest-scoring workers first.
This means even if your position is eliminated, it might actually be someone else with fewer obligations, or better chance of re-employment who gets the sack.
If you are sacked within the six-month probation, you are only entitled to two weeks’ notice, but after that, statutory notice gets longer, the longer you have worked for the company. It can be up to seven months for 20 years of service.
And if you are sacked there are specific rules as to how it is done. The written notice has to be signed by the boss and the original copy given to the employee in person.
The company has to prove they followed these rules exactly, in case the worker files for unfair dismissal.
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