When and how can my employer dismiss me?
Prospect of dismissal makes almost every employee nervous. But not every contract termination is legally valid. It is, therefore, crucial that you understand your rights and know what to do upon dismissal or in case you decide to quit your job.
What do I need to know?
In principle, workers in Germany enjoy substantial protection against dismissal. If you have been working in a company with more than ten employees for more than six months, you cannot simply be dismissed. To fire you, your employer needs one of the following reasons:
- Operational reasons: If your company receives fewer orders and, therefore, can no longer pay all employees, you may be dismissed.
- Worker's conducts: You may be dismissed due to, e.g. cheating or stealing from your employer, insulting or harassing your colleagues, missing work without valid justification, surfing the internet at work or violating the company regulations.
- Personal reasons: If you are no longer able to do your job due to your individual condition or situation, you can be dismissed- for instance, if you are ill for a very long time or in case you lose your work permit.
Important: Employers are not allowed to dismiss you because of your age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, origin or alike.
Regular termination must meet the following requirements:
- It must be communicated in writing.
- The period of cancellation (or "Kündigungsfrist", which is usually mentioned in your contract) must be observed. If you cannot find it specified in your contract, the statutory period of cancellation designated in §622 BGB applies to you. The statutory deadline depends on the duration of your employment. The longer you have been in your company, the longer your notice period.
- If there is a works council, they must be notified before the dismissal. You can find out more about the works councils and its tasks in our chapter "Works Council & Trade Union".
If you are dismissed, you should definitely seek legal advice. If your employer has not complied with all the formalities (e.g. the period of cancellation) or the reason for dismissal is not adequate, a so-called dismissal protection lawsuit ("Kündigungsschutzklage") can be worthwhile. But keep in mind that you have to react quickly. After receiving the dismissal notice, you only have three weeks to take legal action against it. You can seek support from one of the counselling centre’s of faire-integration.de.
For extraordinary dismissal or "außerordentlich Kündigung", a period of cancellation is not mandatory, i.e. your employer can ask you to stop coming to work the next day. But as you can guess, an extraordinary dismissal is only possible in severe cases. Your employer must have a significant reason that makes it impossible for him or her to continue working with you, for instance, because you have robbed your employer or insulted them publicly (e.g. on Facebook).
The trial period is thought to ensure employers and employees get to know each other in a quasi-non-binding fashion. During this period, therefore, both sides can terminate the employment relationship with a short cancellation period and without specific reasons. The duration of the trial period and the notice period applicable are usually specified in your employment contract. A trial period of more than six months is only permitted in exceptional cases.
Many companies offer their employees a so-called severance agreement instead of a dismissal. A severance agreement is a joint declaration by employers and employees that the employment relationship should be terminated. The severance agreements often include compensation for the employees- but meanwhile, one usually loses protection against dismissal and risk cuts in unemployment benefits. Once a severance agreement has been signed, it cannot be revoked and, in principle, cannot be challenged in court. It is therefore essential to the severance agreement carefully and seek advice before signing.
You must report yourself to the Employment Agency as a "job-seeker" no later than three days after receiving the dismissal notice per phone, online or directly on site. If you report too late, you risk cuts in your unemployment benefits. As soon as you are unemployed - i.e. at the latest, on the first day after cancellation of employment contract- you must visit your local employment agency. Only then can you receive unemployment benefits. You can find the employment agency responsible for you on the website of the Federal Employment Agency.
The general rule is that all companies should try to avoid dismissing severely disabled employees. A person with a degree of disability of at least 50 is considered severely disabled. You can find out more about degrees of disability in our chapter "Living with disabilities". An employer who wants to dismiss a severely disabled person must inform not only the works council but also the responsible Integration Office (“Integrationsamt”). The dismissal is, in principle, not valid without the approval of the Integration Office.
If you are a member of the works council, you can only be dismissed based on extraordinary grounds, for instance, when the entire company is shutting down. In the event of extraordinary dismissal, agreement of the works council or a labour court is also required. You can find out more in our chapter "Works Council & Trade Union".
Yes. When quitting, however, you must also observe the cancellation period. The cancellation period is usually specified in your employment contract. If no specific regulation is mentioned, the statutory cancellation period for you -as an employee- is four weeks to the 15th of a month or four weeks to the end of the month.
You need to quit your job in writing. You can find a sample letter for termination of an employment contract on karrierebibel.de.
Please note: You should only quit your job if you have a prospect of a new job. It is more difficult to apply for a new job when unemployment than if you still have your old job at the time of application. In addition, you will generally not receive unemployment benefit I for up to 12 weeks if you quit your job (rather than being dismissed by employer).
If you have been dismissed or at risk of dismissal, contact a counselling centre of the "Fair Integration" project. Their staff speak different languages and can support you free of charge regarding issues you face with your employer. You can find one of their counselling centres nearby at faire-integration.de. The staff there can also recommend a lawyer if you wish to take legal action against your employer.
In Germany, employees enjoy considerable protection against dismissal. If you are dismissed, you should definitely seek legal advice. You can find help in your area at the counselling centres’ of faire-integration.de.