5 Key Facts about the New Minimum Wage in Germany

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Tia Robinson and Stephan Brenner are from Expath, a startup helping new arrivals get settled in Germany.  In addition to German language classes and interpretation services, Expath offers workshops and 1-to-1 coaching on finding a job, getting a work or residency permit, finding a flat, taxes, insurance, and more.

Is your New Year’s Resolution to earn more money?   You may get some surprising assistance – from the German government!  Germany launched its first-ever minimum wage laws on January 1st, 2015.  Check out the following facts to learn more about how the new laws may affect you.

ONE – what’s the change?

The new minimum wage of €8.50 per hour took effect on January 1st, 2015.  That means that for a 40-hour work week, employees should earn €1.473 ‘brutto’ (before taxes) per month.

TWO – who’s affected?

The minimum wage covers almost every sector and type of employment, including part-time and full-time employment, most internships and mini-jobs.  The government estimates that over three million workers will benefit from the new laws.

The minimum wage also applies to interns who have finished their vocational training or university education (‘eine abgeschlossene Ausbildung oder Hochschulausbildung’).

Mini-jobs (€450 jobs) are also affected, in that the hours will be more carefully regulated so that these types of employees also earn €8.50 per hour. This means that anyone working a mini-job can work a maximum of 12 hours per week.   Your employer should have you carefully note your hours (day & exact times) but, if not, be sure to do this on your own for your records. Information about mini-jobs can be found on the Minijob Zentrale’s site.

THREE – who’s excluded?

Freelancers and the self-employed are not covered under the new law.

A few exceptions for internships apply for all those without a completed course of studies (‘Schule, Ausbildung or Studium’). Here, the minimum wage does not apply to internships of fewer than three months that accompany your studies, or serve to help you choose a profession or course of studies (‘Orientierungspraktikum’). Internships that are required for completing a course of studies (‘Pflichtpraktikum’) are also exempt from the new laws. Additionally, workers under 18 years old are exempt from the minimum wage laws. Internships for those with a completed university degree must meet the minimum wage requirements from the beginning.

A few key industries which had previously agreed upon industry minimum wages under €8.50 will have until 2017 to slowly transition to the new minimum wage.  This includes hairstylists (currently €7.50 in Berlin); temp workers (€7.86 until April 2015, then €8.20); land-, forest- or garden workers (€7.20), and a few others.

The minimum wage law also does not apply for the first six months to those who have been unemployed for 12 months or longer (‘Langzeitarbeitslose’) and are re-entering the job market.

Further information on exceptions can be found here in German.

FOUR – what’s the catch?

This news should make many thousands of low-earning workers leap for joy and will largely mean an end to Germany’s ‘Generation Praktikum’ of highly-qualified young graduates slogging through one €500 internship after another.   However, the tradeoff may be that companies are able to offer fewer positions overall – or begin offering only 3-month internships – as the higher salary costs could be a significant burden to startups on a shoestring budget.

Another potential drawback could be that additional wage costs for workers are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices – meaning possible increases in food, entertainment, or service costs.

FIVE – where can I get more information?

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) has set up an informational website here. They also have a hotline open Monday-Thursday from 8am – 8pm to answer your questions, though in German only: 030 60 28 00 28. You can send an Email in English though they will provide an answer back in German.   Locally, the Chamber of Commerce can provide general information about the new.

For general information in English, try contacting the German Customs Administration, or Zoll, which is the government organization officially responsible for monitoring working conditions, including the minimum wage.  They can be reached via email at: enquiries.english@zoll.de.

For specific legal advice about how the new laws apply to your own job or company, it’s best to consult a specialist in labor law (Arbeitsrecht).

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Kārlis Dambrāns