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Employment Agreement Essentials

Understand the key elements of employment contracts in Germany

Types of employment agreements

In Germany, a variety of employment agreements are available to cater to different needs and job types. Understanding these variations is crucial for both employers and employees to ensure a smooth working relationship. Here's a breakdown of the most common employment agreements in Germany:

Permanent Employment Contract (Unbefristeter Arbeitsvertrag)

The most sought-after contract, the Permanent Employment Contract, offers long-term job security with no predefined end date. It provides stability for employees and allows them to build a career within the company. Termination of such contracts by the employer requires strong justification and adherence to strict legal procedures outlined in the German Protection Against Unfair Dismissal Act (Kündigungsschutzgesetz - KSchG).

Fixed-Term Employment Contract (Befristeter Arbeitsvertrag)

Fixed-term contracts, unlike permanent contracts, have a predetermined end date. These are commonly used for project-based work, temporary positions, or seasonal roles. German law regulates the renewal and extension possibilities of fixed-term contracts to prevent their misuse as a way to avoid offering permanent positions.

Minijob Contracts

Minijobs are a specific category of marginal employment with a monthly income cap set at €530 (as of 2024). These part-time positions offer flexibility for both employers and employees. They come with simplified administrative procedures and reduced social security contributions.

Part-Time Contract

Part-time contracts allow employees to work a reduced number of hours compared to a full-time position. They offer flexibility for those seeking a work-life balance or pursuing studies alongside work. German law guarantees part-time employees equal treatment and prohibits discrimination based on working hours (§ 4 TzBfG).

Freelance Contracts

Freelance contracts are not employment contracts but service contracts. Freelancers (Freelancer) are self-employed individuals who provide services to a company but are not subject to company regulations or social security contributions. They are responsible for their taxes and social security payments.

In addition to these primary categories, collective bargaining agreements negotiated by employer associations and trade unions can introduce further specific employment contract variations within certain sectors. These agreements may regulate aspects like wages, working hours, and vacation entitlements.

Essential clauses

German employment law provides substantial rights to employees. For a clear and enforceable agreement, certain essential clauses should be incorporated in every German employment contract.

Basic Information

  • Contracting Parties: Clearly state the full names and addresses of both the employer and the employee.
  • Start Date: Explicitly mention the date when the employment relationship commences.

Contract Duration

  • Fixed-Term or Open-Ended: Specify whether the employment is for a fixed term or indefinite. Fixed-term contracts need a valid justification as per German law.

Job Description

  • Tasks and Responsibilities: Include a brief outline of the employee's duties and responsibilities to manage expectations and prevent future disputes.

Work Schedule

  • Place of Work: Specify the primary work location(s) in the contract.
  • Working Hours: Define the regular working hours, including breaks.
  • Overtime: Outline regulations regarding overtime work, compensation, and employee consent.


  • Salary: Clearly state the gross salary amount, payment frequency, and any additional benefits.
  • Payment Date: Mention the specific date when the salary will be paid.


  • Notice Periods: Specify the notice period required for termination by both the employer and the employee, adhering to German statutory minimums.

Additional Clauses

  • Severability Clause: Include a severability clause to ensure that the remaining parts of the contract remain valid if a specific clause is deemed unenforceable.

Probationary period

Probationary periods, or "Probezeit" as they are known in Germany, are a common feature in employment contracts. They serve as a trial period for both the employer and the employee to assess suitability for the role.


German law doesn't mandate a specific probationary period. However, it sets a maximum duration of six months. Three months is the most common probationary period offered in German employment contracts. Industry-specific collective bargaining agreements might dictate shorter probationary periods for certain positions.

Notice Periods During Probation

During probation, both employer and employee have a shorter notice period for termination compared to the standard notice period after the probationary period ends. The statutory notice period during probation is two weeks.

Termination During Probation

Employers are not required to provide a reason for terminating an employee's contract during probation. This applies vice versa as well; employees can resign with a two-week notice during probation.

Important Considerations

Probation periods can be extended, but this needs to be documented in writing and agreed upon by both parties. Always check if a relevant collective bargaining agreement applies, as it might influence the probationary period's terms. Probation periods for apprentices (Azubis) are shorter, typically ranging from one to four months.

Confidentiality and non compete clauses

Confidentiality and non-competition are two key areas often addressed in German employment agreements to protect the employer's interests. However, German law places stricter limitations on these clauses compared to some other jurisdictions.

Confidentiality Clauses

Confidentiality clauses in Germany are generally enforceable. They can restrict employees from disclosing confidential information belonging to the employer during and after their employment. This can include trade secrets, customer lists, and other sensitive data. The information protected by the clause must be clearly defined and the employer must have a legitimate interest in protecting the confidentiality of the information.

Non-Compete Clauses (Post-Termination)

German law places significant restrictions on post-termination non-compete clauses. These clauses restrict an employee's ability to work for a competitor or start their own competing business after leaving the company.

For a non-compete clause to be enforceable, it must be agreed upon in writing within the employment agreement. The employer must provide financial compensation to the employee during the non-compete period. This compensation must be at least 50% of the employee's previous salary. The non-compete period cannot exceed two years after termination. The clause must protect a legitimate interest of the employer, such as trade secrets or customer relationships.

Courts will consider the reasonableness of the clause's scope, including geographical limitations and the type of work restricted. A blanket ban on working in any capacity for a competitor is unlikely to be upheld.

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