Jan 10, 2024

Working Hours Act in Germany: Information for International Employees

Looking across the border, Germany as a labor market offers numerous opportunities for Czech workers. However, in order to operate successfully in the German working world, it is important to understand the provisions of the Working Hours Act. This article serves as a guide for Czech employees and highlights the key aspects of the German Working Hours Act, from normal working hours to public holidays and special regulations.

Fundamentals of the Working Hours Act in Germany

The Working Hours Act (ArbZG) forms the legal basis for working time regulations in Germany. It was created to regulate the working conditions of employees and to ensure that appropriate standards for working hours are observed.

The Working Hours Act lays down general principles for working hours. It provides guidelines on the maximum number of hours that may be worked per day and per week in order to protect employees from overwork. It also defines rest periods and contains provisions for special cases such as overtime. 

Overall, it serves to protect the health, safety, and well-being of employees by laying down clear guidelines for the organization of working time. The law is intended to ensure that employees have adequate recovery time and are not overworked.

Regular Working Hours and Overtime

The regular working hours in Germany are eight hours per day and 48 hours per week. These hours will not be exceeded unless there are special circumstances.

The term Überstunden (overtime) describes additional working hours that exceed the regular working hours. Employees have the right to refuse to work overtime unless there is an express agreement or there are exceptional circumstances. It is crucial that overtime is adequately compensated and that employees know and can enforce their rights with regard to additional working hours.

  • Employees receive time off or additional salary payments in compensation for overtime.

In most cases, these 48 hours are spread over the working days Monday to Friday. In some sectors, such as the healthcare and hospitality industries, employees also work at weekends. These employees receive compensatory days off during the week.

  • Public holidays and Sundays are considered days off. Those who work on these days usually receive additional salary for the affected hours. More details on the German public holidays can be found here.

Fixed Breaks Between and During Working Days

According to the Working Hours Act, rest breaks are mandatory to ensure the health and well-being of employees. An uninterrupted rest period of at least eleven hours must be observed between two working days. This is supposed to ensure that employees have sufficient time for rest and leisure after work.

  • In special cases, it is possible to shorten this eleven-hour rest period, for example in the event of acute shortages in the healthcare sector. However, the shortened rest period must then be compensated for with additional time off within 6 months.

Breaks are also mandatory during the working day in order to minimize fatigue and stress. Employees who work for more than six hours are entitled to a break of at least 30 minutes. This break can be divided into periods of at least 15 minutes.

  • For working times of more than nine hours, the minimum duration of the break increases to 45 minutes.

International employees should be aware that these rest breaks are required by law and that they have the right to take them. A good balance between work and rest contributes significantly to a healthy and productive working environment.

Vacations and Special Leave

The Working Hours Act in Germany guarantees employees a statutory minimum vacation entitlement. As a rule, this amounts to 24 working days per year for a working week of 48 hours and 20 working days for a working week of 40 hours. Employers are free to grant their employees more vacation days if they wish to. Employees are paid their regular salary during this period of leave.

  • In the case of part-time work or different working time models, the vacation entitlement is adjusted accordingly. Those who work fewer hours also receive fewer days’ leave.

In addition to regular leave, there is the option of special leave, which is granted for special life situations. This can include caring for relatives, your own wedding or other personal occasions, such as bereavement. 


Understanding the German Working Hours Act is crucial for Czech employees who want to work in the popular destination Germany. From normal working hours to overtime, public holidays and rest breaks, the law provides clear guidelines to protect employees. It not only ensures adequate rest periods, but also fair compensation for additional hours worked.

By being aware of vacation regulations and special leave, employees can plan their recovery times better. A good balance between work and rest not only contributes to individual health, but also promotes a productive working environment.

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