F as in Fixed term employment

Under what circumstances may my employment contract be limited in time?

An employment contract that is not concluded for an indefinite period of time but either has a fixed end date or whose termination depends on an event in the future is referred to as a fixed-term contract (Befristung). These end without the need for notice, thus expiring contracts are not subject to protection against dismissal. Therefore, fixed-term employment contracts are only admissible in certain situations. The Part-Time and Fixed-term Employment Act ( Teilzeit- und Befristungsgesetz, TzBfG) regulates the legal admissibility of fixed-term contracts.

Can an employment relationship be limited in time without an objective reason?

A term-limited contract can be agreed upon for up to two years without an objective reason. The prerequisite for this is that an employment contract has not already existed between the employer and the employee, even if this employment relationship dates back a long period of time.

What objective reason can be used for a time-limited employment relationship?

An objective reason for a term limit can be, among other things:

  • When the employer only has  temporary need for the work performance
  • When the employee is employed following his or her studies or training in order to make the transition easier for him/her.
  • When another employee has to be substituted temporarily
  • If the temporary employment is necessary due to the nature of the work
  • When the purpose of the employment relationship is to determine whether the employee is suitable for the job
  • When the employee wishes to do so.

If there is no objective reason for a fixed-term employment relationship, the term limitation is invalid, i.e. the employment relationship is deemed to be for an indefinite period. A fixed term that has only been agreed upon verbally is also invalid, as a fixed term must always be agreed upon in writing, that is on paper with a handwritten signature.

How much time do I have in order to appeal against the fixed term?

Legal action can be brought against a term-limited contract before the labor court. The action must be brought no later than three weeks after the end date. The labor court will then examine whether the expiration is valid or whether an unlimited employment relationship has been established.


Please note: This is a very general overview on german labor law. If you need help in your particular case, please do not hestitate to contact me or book your appointment. I’m happy to help.