Working time


The Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz) applies to almost all private-sector employees over the age of 18. For young people and defined groups (e.g. drivers of motor vehicles) separate working time provisions apply.

Working time is understood to mean the time from the beginning to the end of work, excluding breaks. The working day/working week is the working time within a period of 24 hours/a calendar week.


Normal working time is:

·        an eight-hour working day (working hours within a 24-hour period);

·        a 40-hour working week (working hours from Monday to Sunday inclusive).

Collective agreements in many industries have shortened the working day or working week, e.g. to 38 hours.


Maximum limits of twelve hours per day and 60 hours per week and the limit of 48 hours per week on average over a given period of 17 weeks apply.


Different working time agreements apply to certain sectors, such as tourism, the hotel and catering industry and retail. Ask the works council, the Chamber of Labour or your trade union what rule applies to your sector.


Breaks and rest periods:

If your working day is 6 hours or more, you are entitled to a break of at least half an hour.


This break is not paid and is not counted as part of total working hours.


At the end of the working day, employees are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of at least 11 hours. The weekly rest period is governed by the Rest Periods Act (Arbeitsruhegesetz). On weekends, you are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of 36 hours.

Here, too, there are many exceptions.


Part-time work

Part-time employees may not be treated any less favourably than full-time employees simply because they work part time.


Extra work:

Extra work is classed as any working time between the contractually agreed working time (e.g. 25 hours) and the working time reduced by a collective agreement (e.g. 38 hours) or the normal statutory working time. A statutory premium of 25% is applied to extra hours. However, you receive this premium only if you do not reduce the extra hours via time off in lieu within the quarter (or within another three-month period).



Overtime is accrued if the normal working time is exceeded. According to the Working Time Act, overtime is to be remunerated with a financial bonus or time credit (50% bonus or 1.5 hours of time credit per hour worked).


Shift work:

For shift work, the job is performed by several different workers over the course of a set period. In certain conditions, a shift of up to 12 hours is possible.



With the flexitime system, the employee is able to determine the beginning and end of their normal working hours each day, within an agreed timeframe. It is compulsory for the employee to be at work for the prescribed core period. The flexitime must be set down in a works agreement or a flexitime agreement.


Work at night, on Sundays and on public holidays:

Both men and women are allowed to work at night. However, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young people below the age of 18, for example, are not permitted to work at night or on Sundays or public holidays. Exceptions exist, for example, in the hotel and restaurant trade and in hospitals.


Short-time work:

Short-time work is when working hours in a company are reduced for a limited period of time. Short-time work serves to bridge economic disruptions and is intended to prevent employees from losing their jobs.