U as in Unemployment benefits

Which benefits can I file for in case I become unemployed?

Generally, anyone who becomes unemployed is entitled to unemployment benefits. Which benefits are paid and which government agency is responsible depends on a few factors. One of them is how long the unemployed person has worked and paid into the statutory unemployment insurance.

Who is entitled to unemployment benefits?

Anyone who has been employed for at least 12 months within the last 30 months and is subject to social insurance contributions (this excludes so called “mini-jobs”) is entitled to unemployment benefit I (“Arbeitslosengeld I”, abbreviated to ALG I) for six months. Anyone who has been employed for more than 24 months within the last five years and is subject to social insurance contributions is entitled to unemployment benefits for up to 12 months. From the age of 50, the entitlement to unemployment benefits may extend over a longer period of time.

How high is the unemployment benefit?

The amount of unemployment benefit is based on the average income of the last 12 months. As a rule of thumb, it is approximately 60% of the last net income for a childless unemployed person, and approximately 67% for an unemployed person with children.

Unemployment benefit I must be applied for at the Federal Employment Agency (“Bundesagentur für Arbeit”, formerly: “Arbeitsamt”). For this purpose, employees must register as jobseekers at least three months before termination of the employment relationship (this can be done online or on the phone – call 0800 4 555500), and at the latest on the first day of unemployment they must also register as unemployed (“arbeitslos”) (this can only be done in person at the local Federal Employment Agency).

If you do not meet these deadlines, you will be subject to a blocking period during which you will not receive any benefits. A blocking period can also be imposed on anyone who has contributed to unemployment by signing a termination agreement or who has given cause for dismissal through a breach of duty in the employment relationship.

Where can I apply for Hartz IV?

Basic benefits for job seekers (also “Arbeitslosengeld II”, abbreviated ALG II, also known as “Hartz IV”) is paid to those who are not entitled to Arbeitslosengeld I and who are in need. This means that it will be checked whether you have sufficient assets available or whether your spouse has sufficient income to cover the cost of living. Basic benefits must be claimed at the Job Center. For single adults it amounts to 446 Euros per month  plus the costs of accommodation (often limited by a maximum amount).


Please note: This is a very general overview on the subject of unemployment benefits 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.