Skip to content

When can your employer reduce your salary in Germany?

Salary reduced by employer. Work in Germany. In Germany, people work around 34.7 hours per week on average, according to a study by the Federal Statistical Office – Destatis. This study looked at both part-time and full-time workers. When we look at these groups individually, full-time workers put in an average of 40.4 hours per week, while part-time workers work around 20.8 hours. But what happens if we work more or fewer hours? When can your salary be reduced by your employer?

Following a court ruling in September 2022, employers in the EU must now track the working hours of their employees. Companies have the freedom to choose how they maintain these records. The key condition is that the tracking is done “systematically” and covers all the actual hours worked by the employees.
Read also: What is the average income in Germany? Here’s all you need to know

Salary Changes Based on Working Hours

Workers who put in overtime now have the option to inform their employer by logging their additional hours and, if needed, request compensation (either in the form of payment or extra time off). Conversely, those who work fewer hours than specified in their contract, resulting in “minus hours,” should be aware of the potential consequences.

In these situations, the employer has the option to subtract unpaid hours from your salary. However, this is subject to specific conditions, such as when the employee fails to make up for the missed hours within a set time period by working extra hours or when they reach a particular minimum limit of working hours.

It’s important to highlight that unworked hours must be due to the employee’s actions or negligence. This implies that the hours were not missed because of their fault, such as leaving work early or skipping a lunch break. In situations where external factors, like an office internet outage or a machine failure, occur and it’s not the employee’s responsibility, unworked hours should not be attributed to the employee’s fault.

Unworked hours do not equate to taking time off

Unworked hours cannot be subtracted from leave. A significant 1997 decision by the Federal Labor Court created this principle. Consequently, leave cannot be retroactively declared to offset the working time account. If you were absent from work for multiple days or worked only part of a day, you cannot later classify those unworked hours as leave.
Read also: How and where to apply for the EU Blue Card to work in Germany

Repeatedly violating the contractually agreed working hours may, in extreme cases, lead to a warning or even termination without notice. In case of employment termination, regardless of which party initiates it, the unworked hours accrued can be subtracted from the final salary.