Vacation days in Germany: How many are you entitled to?


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Like most European countries, Germans enjoy far more vacation days compared to a country like the US. Read more on vacation days in Germanybelow.

Workers have vacations so they can relax and stay healthy. In contrast to the self-employed or freelance workers, vacation for employees means a break without financial losses.

The employer continues to pay the salary during the vacation. Every employee in Germany had an average of 28 days of vacation in 2020.

Vacation days in Germany: Brief overview

  • For a five-day week, employees are entitled to at least 20 days of paid vacation. More than 30 vacation days are more common.
  • Employers are generally not allowed to pay out vacation days, not even for mini-jobs.
  • Vacation days can expire on December 31; Most employers allow remaining vacation days to be carried over to the following year – until March 31st.

This is how you do it

  • You should apply for leave in good time and coordinate with your colleagues. You can use our sample letter for the application.
  • If you cannot take some vacation days in the calendar year, have the remaining vacation time carried over to the new year in good time.
  • If you have expired vacation days in the last three years, you have the chance to have them credited back to your vacation account.

How many days of vacation are you entitled to?

vacation days in germany

The statutory vacation entitlement comprises 24 paid working days per year. However, the Federal Holiday Act is based on a six-day week (Section 3 BUrlG), which is rather unusual today.

20 days minimum vacation – if you only work five days a week as an employee, you are entitled to at least 20 paid vacation days per year. Severely disabled employees have an additional holiday of five days (Section 208 (1) SGB IX), i.e., a total of 25 days for full-time work.

30 days of vacation usual – In many collective agreements or employment contracts, employers grant 30 days of vacation.

Special leave – Some employees are entitled to special leave on special occasions, such as their own wedding or the birth of a child. These additional vacation days are only available if this is stated in the collective bargaining or employment contract. Sometimes special leave is also regulated in a works agreement.

Reductions in vacation entitlements

In special situations, your employer can reduce your vacation entitlement.

Parental leave – During parental leave, vacation entitlements also arise. However, the employer may shorten it – for every full month of parental leave by one twelfth of the annual leave (Section 17 (1) BEEG). This regulation does not violate European law (BAG, judgment of March 19, 2019, Az. 9 AZR 362/18). If the employer wants to cut, he must inform the employee of this, but not necessarily when they start parental leave.

Sabbatical year – Anyone who takes a longer unpaid special leave or a so-called sabbatical whose employment relationship is suspended. Therefore, the employee does not acquire a right to minimum vacation in the time in which he is not working (BAG, judgment of March 19, 2019, Az. 9 AZR 315/17).

Short-time work – It is controversial whether your employer can reduce your vacation entitlement accordingly for the duration of short-time work. According to a ruling by the Düsseldorf Regional Labor Court, short-time workers are to be treated like employees who temporarily work part-time; then the vacation will also be reduced proportionally (judgment of March 12, 2021, Az. 6 Sa 824/20). Ultimately, only a ruling by the Federal Labor Court will provide clarity. Until then, you should write to your boss that you do not agree with the cut.


How much vacation do you have with a mini job or part-time?

Those who work part-time can have as many vacation days as a full-time employee. But to do this, he has to work every working day of the week. If he works fewer days, the vacation is reduced accordingly. So it doesn’t depend on the hours someone works part-time, but on the days. Therefore, if you work 20 hours a week, you do not automatically have half of the vacation days as a full-time employee.

Example 1: A clerk works 20 hours, three days a week. The full-time employees have 30 days of vacation for a five-day week. The part-time colleague is entitled to 18 paid vacation days (30 days × 3 days ÷ 5 = 18 days).

Example 2: An agent works 20 hours, five days a week. He has the same annual vacation entitlement as a full-time employee, namely 30 days.

The vacation entitlement of part-time workers is mathematically only worth fewer hours of work. The vacation law does not recognize half days of vacation and also no vacation hours. Fractions of vacation days that add up to at least half a day are rounded up to full vacation days (Section 5 (2) BUrlG).

Even mini jobbers can apply for leave. For them it is also important how many days they work per week. With the vacation calculator of the mini job center you can calculate your vacation entitlement.

If the number of working days in the week is always different, the vacation is calculated over the year. According to the Federal Labor Court, employees have to work 260 working days in a year with a five-day week and 312 working days with a six-day week.

The formula for the minimum vacation for a five-day week is: 20 vacation days × actual working days ÷ 260 annual working days.

Example: A mini-jobber had already worked 18 days by June 30th this year. Full-time employees work five days a week: 20 vacation days × 18 working days ÷ 260 = 1.38 vacation days, rounded off 1 vacation day.

In the first half of the year, the mini jobber worked a day off. The employer also has to pay the vacation days: As a rule, the amount of vacation pay is based on the average salary in the last 13 weeks before the start of the vacation.

When are you entitled to vacation?

vacation days in germany

The full vacation entitlement arises for the first time after six months since the beginning of the employment relationship (§ 4 BUrlG). This often means that employers impose a six-month holiday ban during the probationary period or employees mistakenly assume that they are initially not allowed to take holiday.

This has the undesirable side effect that new employees accumulate vacation entitlements and these then accumulate. It is therefore now common for employees to be able to apply for leave during their probationary period. However, the employer does not have to approve it.

However, new colleagues already acquire vacation entitlement – one twelfth of the annual vacation for each month (Section 5 BUrlG).

How do you apply for leave?

Most employers offer ready-made forms to fill out for vacation requests or use special HR management programs that you can use to request and manage your vacation. If you have to write your vacation request yourself, you can use our vacation request template.

Once the waiting period of six months has been met, your employer must generally also approve your request for leave. Under no circumstances are you allowed to take a leave of absence yourself, for example because the boss has left your application. Anyone who takes a vacation that has not been approved by the employer on their own initiative risks termination without notice (BAG, judgment of January 22, 1998, Az. 2 ABR 19/97).

Vacation lock – In rare cases, the employer may impose a vacation lock. This is only possible for urgent operational reasons (Section 7 (1) BurlG). Examples of this are waves of illness or company holidays, but also a special-order situation.

Who gets vacation pay?

Put simply, those who are on vacation continue to receive their salaries. This is also called vacation pay. With vacation pay, however, something else is meant – in addition to the normal wage, the employer pays an amount that you can spend on vacation, for example.

This is a special achievement by the employer, comparable to the Christmas bonus. It is often in the collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, and the employer sometimes pays vacation pay on the basis of a works agreement. Employees are not entitled to this.

Pay off vacation

You have to take the vacation days and are usually not allowed to have them paid out to you – not even as a mini-jobber (Section 7 (4) BUrlG). However, if you can no longer take part or all of your vacation, for example because you have resigned yourself and still have to train a successor, the employer must pay you the vacation that was not taken. This is also called vacation compensation.

According to the Federal Holiday Act, the decisive factor is the average earnings per working day that you have earned as an employee in the last 13 weeks before leaving (Section 11 BUrlG).

Calculation formula for a five-day week: total earnings for the last 13 weeks ÷ 65 days = wage entitlement per day in euros. This euro amount is then multiplied by the number of vacation days.

Example: You earn 3,000 euros gross per month, i.e. 9,000 euros gross in the last three months. When the employment relationship ends, you still have twelve days of vacation. For a five-day week, the following calculation results: 9,000 euros ÷ 65 days = 138.46 euros per working day. For the twelve days of vacation you will receive 1,661.54 euros.

If you actually still had the opportunity to take your remaining vacation before your last day of employment, then the employer does not have to pay anything.

Can you carry over remaining leave to the following year?

vacation days in germany

According to the law, you can save your vacation entitlement beyond December 31, but actually only if there were urgent operational or personal reasons for not being able to take the vacation (Section 7 (3) sentence 2 BUrlG). You have until March 31 of the following year to use up the vacation days transferred from the previous year. Otherwise it lapses (BAG, judgment of December 7, 1993, 9 AZR 683/92).

In collective bargaining or employment contracts there are often provisions that make it easier for employees to transfer vacation entitlements. A typical clause in the employment contract is as follows:

“In justified exceptional cases, it is possible for the employee to take the vacation with the prior consent of the employer at the beginning of the following year, but no later than March 31st.”

In practice, many employers do not pay attention to whether there is really a justified exception; You agree that employees can take remaining vacation days with them into the new year.

Transfer to the following year due to permanent illness

People who have been sick for several months or the entire year are also entitled to vacation. Due to personal obstacles, the vacation days are generally carried over to the following year until March 31st.

But what happens if you are on sick leave longer than the end of March? Even then, you do not lose your entitlement to paid annual leave and you can take the vacation days when you are healthy again and can come to work (ECJ, judgment of January 20, 2009, Az. C-350/06 and C-520/06 ).

Despite this case law, employees cannot accumulate vacation entitlements indefinitely. No later than 15 months after the end of the working year in which the vacation entitlements were acquired, it ends (BAG, judgment of August 7, 2012, Az. 9 AZR 353/10). This is the so-called 15-month case law of the Federal Labor Court.

Example: An employee has been sick since January 2019 and will return to work on April 1, 2020. For 2019 he has full vacation entitlement. Like the 2020 vacation, these days generally expire on March 31, 2021.

Transfer of vacation days due to maternity leave

The same applies to an employee who can no longer take her vacation during the year because she has become pregnant and is no longer allowed to work due to an employment ban under the Maternity Protection Act (BAG, judgment of August 9, 2016, Az. 9 AZR 575 / 15).

The vacation then does not expire at the end of the year and also not on March 31 of the following year. Rather, after the maternity leave period has expired, the employee can claim the remaining vacation in the current or in the next vacation year (Section 24 sentence 2 MuSchG). So make sure that your boss doesn’t just count the vacation days against the time of the ban.

Transfer of vacation days due to parental leave

If an employee takes parental leave, the leave not yet taken does not expire. After returning from parental leave, the employee is also entitled to the old vacation days (Section 17 (2) BEEG).

If you haven’t completely taken your vacation before parental leave, you should make a note of how many vacation days you still had. After returning from parental leave, you should inform your employer that you still have remaining vacation days, even if these are no longer visible in your vacation account.

Sunset clause in the employment contract

Many employment contracts have a so-called sunset or exclusion clause. After that, claims that you do not assert within a certain period of time, usually three months, expire. This also applies to vacation entitlement.

Therefore, you should talk to the employer or the HR department about the vacation entitlements you have accumulated and report them in good time if you can return to work after a long illness or if you are still entitled to vacation days after being given notice. Because a tariff exclusion period also applies to holiday compensation claims (BAG, judgment of October 27, 2020, Az. 9 AZR 531/19).

When do vacation days expire?

According to a DGB study, every third employee lets his vacation entitlement expire. This benefits the employers financially and is not really intended that way. Employees who take time to relax outside of the weekends are permanently healthy. That’s why you should also take your vacation.

Important: If you still have remaining vacation days at the end of the year, they no longer automatically expire (ECJ, judgment of November 6, 2018, Az. C-619/16 and C-684/16; BAG, judgment of February 19, 2019 , Az. 9 AZR 541/15). Because employers have a duty of care.

Before the end of the year, they should ask the employees to use the vacation days and point out that days not taken will expire. If the employer does not comply with this obligation to cooperate, the employee’s vacation entitlement remains, according to the case law, and does not expire.

If you have expired vacation days in the past three years and your employer has not pointed this out to you, you can try to have the days credited back to your vacation account. In principle, claims expire after three years. Vacation entitlements could not grow indefinitely, even if employers were completely inactive.

The question of the statute of limitations has not been clarified. The Federal Labor Court has submitted the question to the European Court of Justice (decision of September 29, 2020, Az. 9 AZR 266/20). It remains to be seen how he decides.

What applies to vacation when changing jobs?

How are the vacation entitlements distributed if you change jobs in the course of the year? The number of vacation days depends on when you left your old employer.

Change in the first half of the year – If you leave your old employer before June 30, you have a pro-rata vacation entitlement of one twelfth of the annual vacation for each month that you work for the company. He can then claim the remainder of the annual vacation from the new employer, also one twelfth of the annual vacation for each full month in his company.

Change in the second half of the year – If you leave your old job after July 1st, you are entitled to full vacation entitlement with the old employer. So you can take the entire vacation until you leave – mostly to the annoyance of the old employer.

Example: A clerk quit her old employer on July 31st and starts a new job on August 1st. According to both the old and the new employment contract, she is entitled to 30 days of paid vacation. She has already taken 24 vacation days with her old employer.

The new employer only has to grant six days of vacation because she has already taken the other days with her old employer.

In order for this to work, the old employer must give the employee a certificate of the vacation granted or paid for in the current calendar year when the employment relationship ends (Section 6 (2) BUrlG).

The certificate is important for employees. If you want to apply for leave to the new employer and do not present the certificate, the new employer may refuse the leave. Without a certificate, he can assume that you have already taken full leave with your old employer (BAG, judgment of December 16, 2014, Az. 9 AZR 295/13).

Too much vacation taken – Anyone who leaves the company before June 30, but has already used up all of their annual vacation, does not have to reimburse the excessively taken days (Section 5 (3) BUrlG).

What if you get sick while on vacation?

“A good employee only gets sick on vacation,” is an employer saying. The law sees it differently: If you get sick while on vacation, you cannot recover. Therefore, the vacation days remain if the employee presents a medical certificate (§ 9 BUrlG).

What you need to consider in this case, we have summarized in our article Sick on vacation.

The same applies to cures or other preventive medical care or rehabilitation measures. The employer may not count these days against the annual leave (§ 10 BUrlG). However, this only applies if the employee is entitled to continued payment in the event of illness.

Can the vacation entitlement be inherited?

It can happen that someone dies in the middle of working life. It is important for heirs to know: Remaining vacation time does not expire with the death of an employee, rather claims for vacation not taken are transferred to the heirs (BAG, judgment of January 22, 2019, Az. 9 AZR 45/16). The Federal Labor Court has thus followed the case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ, judgment of November 6, 2018, Az. C-569/16 and C-570/16).

Heirs are entitled to compensation from the old boss of the deceased. This also applies to additional leave that severely disabled people are entitled to. You may have to prove the status of the heir with a certificate of inheritance. The heirs should not give away the money.

Michelle Halterman
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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