What about daily work times?

Work times for young people (trainees under 18) are limited to eight hours per day, and 40 hours per week. If work time is less than eight hours on one work day, it can be extended to 8 1/2 hours on other days during the same work week. If a work day is not worked due to a public holiday, missed work time may be shared among the working days of five consecutive weeks, including the week in which the public holiday fell. Work time is not allowed to exceed 8 1/2 hours per day and an average of 40 hours per week over the five weeks. Working days are Monday to Saturday.

Young people may not work between 8pm and 6am in accordance with §14 of the Youth Workers Protection Act (JArbSchG) – unfortunately, there are a lot of exceptions to this rule, e.g. gastronomy, hotels, businesses with permanent shift work (e.g. hospitals), and bakeries. If you have any questions about your training, you should contact your union.

There are also limitations on work times for trainees over the age of 18. Once you reach the age of 18, you are covered by the Working Times Act (ArbZG). According to this, daily work times are limited to eight hours. However, they may be extended to ten hours as long as you work an average of eight hours per working day across 24 weeks or 6 calendar months. The Working Times Act therefore makes it possible to work up to 60 hours per week (in a 6-day working week) and/or an average of 48 hours per week.

This is just the legal framework for working times. Tariff contracts mostly call for a weekly work time of between 35 and 39 hours. There could be different work time models within businesses due to operational agreements. Generally, your training contract will lay out your weekly work time as a slightly lower number of hours. Do not let your employer make you do overtime or additional work – you have the right to your free time. You are a trainee to learn a career, not to simply graft.

§ 17 of the Occupational Training Act states: “Any activity beyond the agreed daily training time must be compensated either in monetary remuneration or in free time”. Any exceeding of your contractually agreed training times is not allowed unless you are compensated.

What happens if your employer suddenly sends you home as there is “no work”, or allocates less than your agreed weekly training time (e.g. to “save” hours for later)? Is there such a thing as undertime?

Being sent home because there isn’t enough work does not mean that you have to recover the time or that your wages will be docked. The trainer alone carries the risk of not being able to occupy you – they cannot pass this onto you by making you make up the time or docking your pay (§19, paragraph 1, section 2, letter a) of the BBiG and §615 of the BGB).

Because “work time” during training serves the purpose of teaching you everything you need to know for your career, it should not be possible that a rota does not include your monthly work time. You could argue, for example, that daily work time must be laid out in the training contract (§11, paragraph 1, section 4 of the BBiG), and that this makes the trainer responsible for teaching you everything you need for your occupational training at all times – and that they did not fulfil this obligation if they did not train you within the agreed time.

You could also argue that reduced remuneration due to insufficient work time caused by the employer is no longer reasonable pay (not high enough) in the sense of §17, paragraph 1 of the BBiG. In such a case, it is mostly presumed that planned training is cancelled and therefore you keep your claim to full compensation and do not have to make up these hours.

If one of these cases does apply, you should declare either in writing or in the presence of a reliable witness your willingness to complete your training on the days in question to the extent outlined in your contract (the full daily work time). You should then exercise your claim to full remuneration and/or full work time in writing to your trainer. If you need any help with this, or if your trainer still wants to dock your pay or make you make up the hours, please contact your works/staff council and union.

Young people generally may not be employed on Saturdays and Sundays. There are, however, many exceptions in the Youth Workers Protection Act (§16 and §17 of the JArbSchG). You can only ever work 5 days in the week; if you work Saturday or Sunday, you must have another day off in the week.

The law also grants you breaks during work time.

The following break regulations apply to young trainees under 18 years of age:

  • a 30-minute break in a work day of 4.5 to 6 hours
  • a 60-minute break in a work day of more than 6 hours

The Youth Workers Protection Act (§11 of the JArbSchG) contains more information.

The following applies to adult trainees (over the age of 18):

  • a break of at least 30 minutes in a work day of more than 6 hours
  • a break of 45 minutes in a work day of more than 9 hours

This is laid out in the Working Times Act (§4 of the ArbZG).

These break times can be split up for adults and young people in training, but instalments should be at least 15 minutes long. Smaller breaks are not counted as official breaks. Tariff contracts and operational agreements often include better regulations – simply ask your union or works/staff council.

 How does vocational school time affect working time?