W as in Working hours

How long can my employer make me work?

The hours an employee has to work depend, on the one hand, on the employment contract. The contractually agreed times are relevant, for example, for the calculation of remuneration. The contract also determines the working hours that the employer can demand from the employee.

The maximum time an employee may work is on the other hand also determined and limited by the Working Hours Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, ArbZG). This law serves to protect the health of employees and is intended to ensure that minimum rest periods are being observed. Violations of this Act are administrative offences, hence fines or other penalties may be imposed on the employer.

What are the maximum working hours and minimum rest periods prescribed by the law?

The most important provisions are:

  • The working time may not exceed eight hours per day and 48 hours per week. In exceptional cases, the daily working time may be extended to up to ten hours if this is compensated for within a limited period of time.
  • Work must be interrupted for at least 30 minutes after six hours at the latest.
  • If the working time exceeds nine hours, the break must be at least 45 minutes.
  • After finishing work, employees must be granted a work-free rest period of at least eleven hours.
  • Work on Sundays is permitted only in exceptional cases. In any case, at least 15 Sundays per year must remain free of work.

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.