This page is all about getting paid in Germany and what you need to understand what is goes with it.

My employment contract talks about a gross income and a net income. What are they taking off my salary?

Your net income is the gross salary minus compulsory deductions for income tax, and social security benefits. Social security consists of four different kinds of insurances: unemployment insurance, retirement insurance, health insurance and nursing care insurance. You generally only pay half of the premiums for these insurances; your employer generally pays the other half.

Having had a couple of interviews, I have left some of them with the assumption that the employer is reluctant to talk about money. Can it be that I will have a job without remuneration?

If you give in to working for free then “yes”. §612 BGB determines payment as a cardinal duty of the employer to pay his employee. This stipulates the general attitude that nobody is to be employed without payment. Normally, the salary is a matter of negotiation between employer and employee, but every region in Germany has a customary amount for each position. In the end, the only room for negotiation will be around the customary maximum. Bring in your advantages and compare them with your colleagues. To determine this customary maximum, ask either respectively the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Industrie und Handelskammer), other competent professional chambers in your city, or friends working in your field.  Besides all that, when you are entering Germany, you will not be permitted to work for free as this would torpedeo the German labor market and is absolutely not wanted by the German government.

Recently I noticed my boss is earning a mint since I’m in the company. I believe he’s cheating me of my fair part on his profits. I want more money than we originally agreed! My boss said that it’s none of my business how much he earns. Who’s right?

Well, your boss is right. It is really none of your business how much he earns. Of course, you have a legitimate but never enforceable interest to know if he writes black or red numbers. This characterizes a businessperson in that he gains all the profits of his enterprise. Understanding your wish to earn more because the company is in such good shape, the only thing you can do to give your income a boost is to apply for a raise. But you cannot demand this, only negotiate it. Never will the sole reason, prosperity of the company, constitute an argument.  

Being used to only receiving my salary, my boss wanted to reward me with extra gratifications like Christmas money, a cell phone, and a company’s car (even for private use). Is that normal in Germany? At home, we would call this salary sacrifices.

Yes, this happens often. Depending on the circumstances, the extra gratification will stay a voluntary payment or become part of your contract. For example, if the employer pays his employees Christmas money without reservation for three consecutive years, then this gives rise to a so-called “established practice” and you will be able to claim the Christmas money in the future. If the employer increases your monthly payment, particularly at a time where pay hikes are customary, then this would give you the right to claim the increased salary in the future. In other cases, you have no right to claim the benefit but must consider it instead a reward. Some gratifications are for long-time service to the company, for special occasions, or even to keep you happy and on that job. It can happen that some gratifications are withheld from those who have been given notice.

How can I determine if my salary is correct?

The level of your salary or wage will be determined in accordance with the following rules and in the following order.

  1. Stipulations in your employment contract with all supplements,
  2. Internal wage systems (global commitments, company practice or company agreements),
  3. Tariff regulations, for all tariff-bound positions (§4 I TVG),
  4. Customary remuneration following §612 II BGB. This is a rule that will be applicable if your contract has an invalid salary clause or no clause at all.     
Due to a sudden pitch in demand, I worked 10 hours overtime. I asked my boss for some extra payment but he just had a blank face. Come on; now don’t tell me that I worked for nothing.

Overtime payment can be demanded even if your contract says nothing about it (§612 IV BGB). This requires that your boss ordered overtime or this is essential for operation. If you just worked later because you came in later after visiting the physician, that is exclusively your problem. Supposing you worked longer without right of payment, you cannot demand private time and leave work earlier. This would be a clear violation of your duties. In this situation, it is recommendable to negotiate that you might leave earlier sometime at a later time. The name of the game is to negotiate. It is even legal to write into a contract that unpaid overtime is included in the salary.

I have been working for the same employer for several years. I would not mind having a raise. Can I demand one? What is required for one?

If you are a member of a competent union and your employer is a member of a competent employers association, you are entitled to participate in any pay raises provided by the collective labor agreement concluded between the respective union and the employers association. In some cases, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labor declares such collective labor agreements, concluded between the respective union and employers association, as generally binding, in which case they would apply regardless of membership in a union/association (Gewerkschaft). Also, you may be entitled to certain benefits under a works’ agreement (Betriebsvereinbarung) negotiated between your employer and his works’ council (Betriebsrat). But even if no collective labor agreement applies, the so-called “employment law principle of equal treatment” prevents your employer from discriminating you when granting benefits according to a general rule. First, your employer may not apply a discriminatory rule. Secondly, if you satisfy the requirements of the rule, you are entitled to the benefit. However, if your employer grants pay raises on a case-by-case basis as opposed to applying a general rule, you will not have any claim to a rise whatsoever.


Authors: The Publisher / Fabian Stoffers

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