At 41.1 working hours in Germany per week, it’s just short of the European average. Despite a relatively short working week, the country maintains high labour productivity. In a nutshell: Germans have found the balance between work and life. It should hardly be surprising that Germany is preferred by young expats who are eager to join the labour market without missing out on life.
To give you a better understanding of what we're talking about, we've created an overview of the average working week in Germany. You'll soon get a feel of the amount of hours you'll be working depending on your industry and what to do with your overtime.
Like just about everything else in Germany, working hours in Germany are protected by legislation: the Working Hours Act ("Arbeitszeitgesetz"). This legislation ensures fair working conditions for employees.
According to the Working Hours Act, a work week can't exceed 48 hours weekly or 8 hours daily over an average period of 6 months.”
Something that's illegal is working on Sundays or national holidays. This means that an average working week runs from Monday to Saturday (in office jobs rather Friday). It won't take you long to realise that Sundays are absolute rest days in Germany - and that you won't even be able to do your groceries. Time for you to lean back and find your cosy Sunday routine!
Did you know that in 2018 one of the largest trade unions in Germany has made a call for a four-day week? Even better: the largest metalworkers' union in Germany has actually won a legal battle for the right to have a 28-hour week. You never know, perhaps a four-day week will soon become part of your day-to-day career in Germany!
Naturally, the hours worked in Germany vary depending on whether you work full-time or part-time. An average working week in Germany as a full-time employee is between 36 and 40 hours, with working days in Germany between 7 and 8 hours.
A full-time employee in Germany has an average working week of 40 hours.”
University students can also work during their studies but the requirements are different. Students coming from EU/EEA countries, can work up to 20 hours per week. Whereas students coming from non-EU/EEA countries can work to up to 120 full days/240 half days per year.
As soon as your average working week in Germany falls below 30 hours, you're considered a part-time employee.
Are you employed by a company for more than 6 months? Then you have the right to request a reduction in your average working week from your employer.
Sometimes you work more than 8 hours as you have to top off a project or put the finishing touches on your pitch. This can happen from time to time but what happens to your overtime?
A regulation concerning your overtime is usually stipulated in your employment contract.”
As a rule, your overtime is either compensated with time off or with monetary compensation.
Like other European countries, German employees are increasingly being encouraged to follow flexible working hours. In most cases, there's a type of working time account where you can keep track of your working hours but are free to determine when your most productive time is. Bye 9-to-5-jobs!
Good to know: There's a maximum of overtime hours you can work. Your weekly working hours shouldn't exceed 60 hours and over a six-month period, they cannot be more than 48 hours in total.”
Indeed, you wouldn't be starting a career in Germany if the Working Hours Act didn't also set a legal framework for companies here.
If your average working day in Germany is between 6 and 9 hours, you have to take a thirty-minute break.
Are you working more than 9 hours? Then you're entitled to a 45-minute break after 6 hours of work - and have at least 11 hours between your shifts.
Yes, with its average working week, the working hours in Germany are below the European average of 36.4 hours per week. But where exactly does Germany rank in the comparison?
If we take a look at the average working week in the European countries,
a full-time employee in the EU has an average working week of 36.4 hours per year.”
Greek employees have the longest average working week with 40.1 hours, followed by Romania (39.8), Poland (39.7), and Bulgaria (39.5).
The countries with the shortest average working week are the Netherlands (32.2), Austria (33.7) and Norway (33.9). Germany ranks 4th with an average work week of 34.6 hours.
However, these facts and figures only become somewhat more representative once we move away from comparing the average working week in Germany with other European countries and instead break it down into full and part-time work.
The average working week of full-time employees in the EU is 40.5 hours. Slightly bizarre but with an average working week of 40.5, full-timers in Germany match the European average!
The shortest average full-time working weeks in Europe:
And those with the highest average working weeks in Europe:
In other words, Greece has the longest working week in Europe, with around 43.2 hours per week, and Finlans the shortest with 38.9 hours.
The average working hours in Germany differ greatly from industry to industry, so employees can expect to work different hours.
The workload is by far most striking in agriculture, forestry and fisheries: with an average of 48.8 hours per week, this industry is well above the average of the overall economy.
The second-longest working hours are recorded in the service sector with an average of 42.5 hours, followed by construction and housing with an average working week in Germany of 42.1 hours, trade and commerce with 41.9 hours and the information and communications sector with 41.8 hours a week.
Full-time work was shortest in manufacturing (40.3) and in public administration, education and health care (40.6 hours). That was about 8 hours less per week than the top industries for the longest working hours!
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