L as in Limitation period
How long do I have to claim my outstanding entitlements?
If you want to protect your rights, you generally have to do so in due time.
What is a limitation period?
In employment contracts or collective agreements, there is often a limitation period that regulates the time period in which employees and employers may demand fulfillment of their claims. These clauses often also specify the form in which a claim must be asserted, whether the demand must be made in writing (on paper with a handwritten signature) or in text form (e.g. by e-mail).
In some cases, employment contracts contain two-stage limitation periods. These stipulate that the claim is forfeited after it has been asserted for the first time if it is not brought before the labor court within a certain period of time.
Limitation periods in employment contracts may not be shorter than three months; shorter preclusive periods may be agreed upon in collective agreements or works agreements. Exclusion periods that are too short are invalid. In this case, claims can still be asserted or sued for after the limitation period has expired.
However, limitation periods do not cover all claims arising from the employment relationship: limitation periods may not exclude claims that employees cannot legally relinquish (e.g. claims to the minimum wage).
When do claims in the employment relationship become time-barred?
If the employment contract does not contain a limitation period, claims can be asserted within three years from the end of the year in which they arose. A salary claim that arose in January 2022 must therefore be filed no later than December 31, 2025.
Please note: This is a very general overview on the subject of limitation periods under 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.