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HomeGerman FinanceIn Germany, every employee has the right to part-time work

In Germany, every employee has the right to part-time work

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Part-time work can appeal to both people and employers, providing a better work-life balance and allowing firms to adjust to demand changes.

There are many sensible reasons not to work 40 hours a week: more time for the family, a hobby, animals or further education. However, part-time work and positions are rarely advertised, and anyone who applies for a full-time position and asks about part-time in an interview is often rejected. But these companies fail to recognize that part-time employees are more motivated, more productive and less likely to be ill – this was the result of a study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB).

When are you entitled to part-time work?

In principle, every employee has a legal right to reduce the working hours specified in the employment contract – and not just during or after parental leave or to care for relatives. This also applies to employees in managerial positions (Section 6 TzBfG). Likewise, temporary employees or employees who already work part-time can request to work fewer hours per week.

Two requirements must be met in order to be eligible for part-time work:

  1. The employment relationship has been in existence for more than six months (Section 8 (1) TzBfG).
  2. The employer has more than 15 employees (Section 8 (7) TzBfG).

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Part-time work does have a few disadvantages

Many employees fear disadvantages if they go part-time. Employees with part-time jobs often have limited opportunities for advancement. That is why executives in particular shy away from reducing their working hours. The legislature sees it differently: Those who work part-time must therefore not be treated worse or disadvantaged (§§ 4 Paragraph 1, 5 TzBfG).

How do you apply for part time work?

If the requirements are met, all you have to do is tell your boss that you want to reduce working hours. You also have to specify how many hours you want to work in the future and how they should be distributed. The best way to do this is in writing or by email – text form has been sufficient since January 1, 2020 – and at least three months in advance (Section 8 (2) TzBfG).

You don’t have to give a reason. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to justify your wish with three short sentences. You can use our sample letter to apply for part-time work.

If your employer agrees, he must adapt the employment contract accordingly. If he does not reject your application at least one month before the desired start (an email is sufficient), the agreed working hours will automatically be reduced, as you applied for (Section 8 (5) sentence 2 TzBfG).

Anyone who has already reduced the hours can only submit a new application after two years (waiting period). Even if your employer rightly rejected your application for operational reasons, you can only try again two years later (Section 8 (6) TzBfG).

How to apply for part-time bridge work

The so-called part-time bridge has existed since January 1, 2019. This also gives you the option of reducing your working hours for a certain period of time in order to then return to your original working hours (Section 9a TzBfG).

Two prerequisites must be met for the part-time bridge:

  1. The employment relationship has been in existence for more than six months (Section 9a (1) TzBfG).
  2. The employer has more than 45 employees (Section 9a (1) TzBfG).

You have to specify in the application the period in which you want to work less: at least one year and a maximum of five years. You should submit the application by email or letter three months before the desired reduction in working hours.

Your employer will discuss your desire for part-time work with you and draw up a corresponding agreement. He must inform you of his decision at least one month before the start of part-time work. If he does not report or comment by then, the part-time bridge applies as you applied for.

For operational reasons, the employer may also reject your application or because, for example, so many other employees are already working part-time on the bridge (Section 9a (2) TzBfG).

After the agreed part-time bridge has expired, you will automatically return to the working hours originally agreed in the employment contract.

What effects does part-time work have on your salary?

Those who reduce their hours earn less. However, he receives the same hourly wage, i.e. a salary that your employer may only reduce in accordance with the reduced working hours.

Increase in net hourly wages

In certain constellations, your net hourly wage increases. Example: If you have received 3,000 euros gross with 40 hours per week, you earn exactly 750 euros less gross with 30 hours. Because of the tax progression, for example, as a childless employee with tax class IV, you will only receive around 424 euros less net.

This means you work 25 percent less, but only suffer a net loss of around 19 percent.

In order to be able to better estimate the financial consequences, the Federal Ministry of Labor offers the part-time calculator 2021. You can use it to calculate how your net salary would change if you worked part-time.

Holiday and Christmas bonus

If your employer pays holiday pay or Christmas pay, you are also entitled to it as a part-time employee. However, according to the case law of the Federal Labor Court, the employer may reduce the vacation pay proportionately according to the working hours (judgment of April 15, 2003, Az. 9 AZR 548/01). For example, if someone works 20 hours a week, they are entitled to at least half of the vacation pay compared to a colleague who works full-time.

Part time and overtime

As a part-time worker, you must not be disadvantaged when you work overtime. If you work longer, you should have the overtime compensated for in your free time – like all other employees. Some companies also offer to pay overtime as an additional salary.

Important for all employees for whom there are overtime surcharges according to the employment or collective agreement: Even as a part-time worker, you are entitled to surcharges – from the first overtime hour (BAG, judgment of December 19, 2018, Az. 10 AZR 231/18).

How does part-time wok affect your pension?

If you earn less with your part-time work, you also pay less into the statutory pension. Basically, fewer points in your retirement account also mean less money in old age. But not always, because with part-time parents, child consideration periods can at least partially compensate for the missing pension points, as our simplified example shows.

Example 1: An employee earns 41,541 euros gross annually. This corresponds to the average salary in 2021. For this sum, she receives exactly one earnings point on the pension account.

If she works 20 percent less for three years, she collects 0.8 pension points per year – a total of 2.4 points. Compared to her full-time pension points, she earns 0.6 pension points less in the three years working part-time. Since one pension point is worth 34.19 euros (pension value West), she receives 20.51 euros less gross pension per month. Extrapolated over 25 years, she would be missing around 6,150 euros.

As the mother of a child, the pension insurance credits her with three years of child-rearing periods (Section 70 (2) SGB VI) – at least almost three pension points – and a maximum of ten years of child care periods (Section 70 (3a) SGB VI). Taken individually, the times do not justify a pension entitlement.

In combination with part-time work, however, they mean an increase of 0.6 earnings points for employees. What she lacks in pension later due to part-time work is compensated for by the periods taken into account in our example.

However, if you only work part-time for several years and earn less, you have to reckon with significantly less pension – this cannot be compensated for even by childcare and childcare periods. Also a simplified example (no increase in salary and consideration of inflation).

Example 2: An employee earns 32,000 euros gross per year and works full-time for her entire professional life. After the birth of her two children, she takes one year of parental leave each time. At 67, she stopped working and then received a gross pension of almost 1,500 euros per month.

If she were to cut her working hours in half for ten years, she would forego a gross pension of just under 123 euros per month at old age. That doesn’t sound like a big loss, especially because she only worked 2.5 days a week for over ten years. But extrapolated to 25 years of retirement, that’s 37,000 euros that are missing in old age.

The calculation of the pension amount depends on many factors. Before you reduce your working hours, you should therefore seek advice from the pension insurance company. Find out what effects part-time work has on your pension entitlement.

How much vacation time do you get for part-time work?

In many employment contracts it is stated that the employee receives annual leave of, for example, 30 working days per calendar year for a five-day week. Then it may be unclear to the employee who works 20 hours a week how many vacation days they are actually entitled to. The number of vacation days depends on how many days the employee works.

Example 1: If an employee works four hours a day five days a week and a full-time employee in the company has 30 days of vacation, the part-time employee is not only entitled to 15 days of vacation, but also to 30 days. If the employee wants to go on vacation for two weeks part-time, he applies for ten vacation days – just like the full-time employees.

Example 2: If an employee works five hours four days a week and a full-time employee has 30 days of vacation, the part-time employee is entitled to 24 days of vacation (30 x 4: 5 = 24 vacation days). If the employee wants to go on vacation for two weeks part-time, he applies for eight vacation days. For the remaining two days, he does not have to apply for a vacation, as he would not have to work on those days anyway. So, he can travel the entire two weeks.

Example 3: If an employee works eight hours on two days a week and four hours on one day with a vacation entitlement of 30 days for a full-time employee, he is entitled to 18 days’ vacation (30 x 3: 5 = 18 vacation days). If the employee wants to go on vacation for two weeks part-time, he applies for six vacation days and can relax for two weeks.

Students who work part-time and are paid by the hour are also entitled to paid leave.

From part-time work back to full-time work?

Once part time, always part time? The way back or into full-time for the first time has not been so easy for part-time workers. There is no legal right to an extension of working hours. If you want to work longer, you can tell the employer, but the employer does not have to agree. Only if there is a vacancy does he have to give preference to the employee who has previously worked part-time if they are equally qualified (Section 9 TzBfG).

With the law on the further development of part-time law, the legislature wanted to defuse the part-time trap. It introduced bridge part-time work, but only partially solved the problem. Since January 1, 2019, employees have been able to work less for a while and then return to full-time.

However, this does not apply to smaller companies with fewer than 45 employees. As before, such employees can only work full-time again if the employer agrees.

Nor does it help workers who started part-time but would like to work longer. Women in particular are still affected by this: According to the Federal Statistical Office, 72 percent of mothers with children who do not yet go to school work on a part-time basis, whereas only around 7 percent of fathers work less for family reasons (as of 2019).

Express work during parental leave

You are privileged during parental leave. You mostly get parental allowance and it is easier to work part-time. Special regulations from the Federal Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act (§ 15 BEEG) apply.

If more than 15 employees work for your employer, you have a legal right to reduce your working hours to 15 to 30 hours a week. To do this, however, you have to be employed for at least six months. The notification period is shorter.

For the period up to the child’s third year of life, you only need to inform your boss in writing seven weeks in advance that you want to work part-time. The employer may only reject your request if there are urgent operational reasons.

You also have the right to return to the working hours that were agreed before the start of parental leave, even after parental leave.

What to do if the employer refuses?

If your boss does not believe in part-time and is initially blocked, you have to know that you are legally in a good position. This applies to all professional groups, including qualified jobs and managerial positions – and that applies to both women and men. The employer cannot simply say no. Outside of parental leave, he is obliged to agree to part-time work, provided that there are no operational reasons to the contrary.

The law gives examples of operational reasons

  • A significant impairment of the organization,
  • A significant impairment of the workflow,
  • A significant impairment of safety in operation or
  • The incurrence of disproportionately high costs for the employer.

Employers often reject the desire to work part-time because, for example, corporate customers expect to have a permanent contact person during the entire normal working hours, because they cannot find a suitable replacement or because the training effort is too great. However, the employer must provide concrete evidence of this. Often it fails because he does not present a comprehensible, operational organizational concept from which the employee necessarily has to work 40 hours.

The guidelines of the Federal Labor Court do not make it easy for employers either. If he or she already employs a part-time employee in similar or comparable areas, he or she cannot generally refuse the part-time request. In many cases it is worth talking to the boss in peace.

By the way: the employer cannot simply reject the application. The legislator obliges him to negotiate with the employee (§ 8 Abs. 3 TzBfG). Perhaps you will agree on a 35-hour week instead of a 30-hour week, provided you have been working 40 hours so far.

If there is no agreement in sight, your last resort is to go to the labor court. The court would then check whether your employer was actually allowed to refuse. He would then have to explain and prove that he has operational reasons for his no.

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Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.
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