Vacation entitlement all statutory provisions at a glance

Vacation entitlement: All regulations on vacation at a glanceFor many people, vacation is probably the best time of the year. In order to be able to take these days off, employees need appropriate time off from work – their vacation days. These are regulated by law in Germany and are intended for employees' recreation and their health well-being. However, there are some rules to follow when taking leave. Just because a certain number of vacation days is stipulated in the employment contract does not necessarily mean that employees can take it when they want to.

How is vacation regulated in labor law?

The subject of vacation is regulated in the Federal Vacation Act (BUrlg). It applies to all employees and addresses, among other things, the points:

– Minimum vacation entitlement – Carryover of vacation to the next calendar year – Time of vacation – Compensation for vacation in the event of premature termination of employment – Illness during vacation – Amount of pay during vacation

In many companies, however, the Federal Leave Act only forms the basis for regulating the subject of leave. Many collective bargaining agreements and contracts concluded in the free economy are often more generous than the Federal Leave Act provides for.

How many vacation days are employees legally entitled to? The number of vacation days is set by law. Depends on the number of weekly working days. Companies are free to decide whether to authorize additional vacation days beyond this statutory minimum entitlement. Not only full-time employees, but also part-time employees, interns, marginal part-time employees and trainees are entitled to vacation.

The statutory minimum number of vacation days is as follows
four weeks per year. How these four weeks are calculated depends on how many days per week an employee works.

Minimum number of vacation days by law

As already mentioned, this is merely the legal minimum. What employers grant beyond that is up to them.

Vacation days for minors and severely disabled persons

In addition, special rules set by law apply to certain groups of people:

Minors receive 25 to 30 working days of vacation per year, depending on age. Vocational students receive one additional vacation day for each day they are at vocational school. Severely disabled persons are entitled to 5 additional vacation days in addition to the statutory entitlement of four weeks.

Vacation days in the case of a part-time position

For part-time employees, this means they don't have to give up vacation, nor do they have less vacation than their full-time colleagues. Your statutory vacation entitlement is also four weeks per year. To take four weeks off, someone with a five-day week needs 20 vacation days. Someone with a four-day week only needs 16 days for four weeks off, since one day a week is free for him anyway.

Even part-time employees are entitled to vacation © BUSARA – Adobe Stock

How many hours someone works per day is irrelevant. The vacation entitlement always refers to having a full day off, regardless of whether this includes five or eight working hours.

The statutory vacation entitlement does not exist until six months have elapsed

A special feature applies with regard to the statutory vacation entitlement: it only exists after the employment relationship has existed for six months. Thus, employees must wait six months after starting a new job before taking vacation for the first time. Once these six months have passed, employees can theoretically take their entire annual leave in one go. However, this is often not possible for operational reasons.

Many companies grant their employees exceptions to the 6-month rule and let them take at least a few days. Otherwise, the entire number of vacation days must be squeezed into just a few months or even taken into the next year, which leads to too great an imbalance. Suppose a new employee starts a new job in July. Receives 30 vacation days per calendar year. For the current half year that he is working in the company, his vacation entitlement is therefore 15 days. If he cannot take a single day of vacation in that six-month period at the company, he is entitled to 45 days of vacation next year. Because this can lead to staffing shortages, many companies grant their employees exceptions and let them take, for example, the number of days they have already earned per month. With 30 vacation days per year, this is 2.5 days per month, so that employees can take 10 days of vacation after four months, for example. However, this is not possible in every company; it is up to the employer whether or not to allow this deviation from the law.

Can vacation days be carried over into the next year?

Employees must take their vacation in the current calendar year. If operational reasons or reasons related to the employee make it necessary, the vacation days can be taken into the next calendar year. If the remaining vacation is carried over, it must be taken in the first three months of the following year, i.e. by the 31st day. March, may be taken. If it cannot be taken by then for operational reasons, it expires after that date. The employer is then obligated to pay compensation, which usually consists of back pay for the elapsed vacation days.

Vacation entitlement may be forfeited if it is not taken. However, this only applies to vacation granted by the employer in addition to the minimum vacation required by law. These two types of leave are also shown separately in the employment contract to make it clear which leave is the statutory part and which is the leave granted in addition to it. The statutory vacation is only forfeited if there is a longer period of incapacity for work. This is then the case after 15 months, i.e. on the 31st day of the month.03. of the calendar year after next.

How is vacation compensated?

Vacation entitlement means paid time off from work. The payment for this period is as follows:

– During the vacation, the employer receives the average remuneration of the last three months. – However, this compensation refers exclusively to the salary, i.e. the fixed salary. – Expenses, travel allowances or paid overtime are not included in this allowance.

Employers may grant their employees vacation pay in addition to the continued payment of the average salary. This may amount to 0.5 percent or 0.7 percent of the monthly fixed salary, some companies even grant a full additional salary.

What applies when employees become ill while on vacation?

There is probably nothing more annoying than getting sick on a vacation you have been looking forward to for a long time. For employees, however, there is a small consolation – sick days are not vacation days. If the leave was registered and approved as vacation and an employee then becomes ill, then the leave must be granted again. The prerequisite is that the employee submits a certificate and proves the inability to work. So if someone falls ill while on vacation abroad, they should get proof from a foreign doctor to prove their inability to work.

Getting sick on vacation is a major annoyance © epixproductions – Adobe Stock

Many foreign certificates do not meet the requirements, as they only certify the illness, but not the inability to work. However, employees should pay close attention to this, as this is the only way they can actually take the vacation days again at another time. It is crucial that the employee informs the employer directly from the leave about his illness or. Incapacity for work informed. Submits the certificate as soon as possible. Anyone who plays tricks with this ie risks termination without notice.

Can the employer refuse a vacation request?

Anyone who submits a vacation request does so in the best hope that it will be approved for the desired period of time. Finally, the employee's vacation wishes must be taken into account and employers have little power to deny them their wishes.

When a vacation request can be rejected

However, there are two exceptions that regularly occur in companies:

– Urgent business needs may require a leave suspension for a period of time or result in employees being asked to take their leave at another time. These can be projects, large assignments, or crisis situations where every helping hand is needed. It is also common practice in many companies, such as banks, to impose time-limited vacation blocks for the end of the year. – Employers can require employees to take their vacation at a different time if other employees have priority in scheduling their vacation days from a social point of view. This is true, for example, with employees who have children and rely on taking their vacation during vacation periods. Employees without children can be asked to choose a different period than the one in which all colleagues with children are absent. Even if a colleague is caring for his or her parents and needs days off to do so, this may take precedence over other employees' vacation requests.

If employees take their leave following rehabilitation or medical care, employers must grant them that leave. Vacation blocks are subject to legal requirements. Must be well justified. If there is a works council in the company, it must also have approved the blocking.

How many weeks at a time can employees take off??

If you want to take three, four or five weeks off at a time, you will quickly run up against limits in the company. After all, there usually has to be a substitute, and taking an employee out of the company's operations for a month or more is not always so easy to implement. However, if it is possible and the employer grants it, employees can also take longer days off at a stretch. It is important to consider the recovery factor of vacation and that it may be exhausting, if a large part of the annual leave has already been used up in February, to work through another ten months without longer periods of leave. In principle, however, employees can schedule their vacation as they wish, provided that this is operationally feasible.

The only requirement according to the Federal Leave Act regarding the duration of a vacation is that it should be granted contiguously in the best case. Exceptions are urgent operational circumstances or personal reasons of the employee, which make it necessary that the vacation is divided up. If the leave cannot be granted consecutively for these reasons, but the employee is entitled to more than twelve working days of leave, one of the parts of the leave must include at least twelve consecutive working days.

Strengthen employee satisfaction with a good vacation policy

Employees are most satisfied when it comes to vacation when they can take their vacation as they wish. This is not always 100% possible, but in most cases good solutions can be found.

Employers should take care to ensure that they allow employees to take their vacation time to actually recover. Requiring them to be available or to handle e-mails while on vacation is not conducive to the right to rest and can have a negative impact on the employee's motivation. If something like this becomes necessary for very important employees, it is best to document a certain level of availability already in the employment contract. Bringing employees back from vacation is not an option. Once leave has been granted, it can only be revoked by the employer in an emergency.

Employee satisfaction is directly linked to freedom in vacation planning © Kurhan – Adobe Stock

Can employees be obligated to take vacation?

In fact, employers must be guided by their employees when it comes to vacation requests. However, there is also the situation in which employers can force their employees to take vacation days. However, this is only possible if there is an urgent business need. These concerns must be proven in order to really enforce company leave. Reasons for compulsory leave can be different:

– The company works as a subcontractor for a company and if this company takes company vacations, its own order situation also drops sharply. – If the customer frequency or order situation drops sharply, for example in the summer or between Christmas and New Year's Eve, company vacations can be imposed. – Employees need the employer's presence in order to work, such as in a doctor's office. If the doctor is not there, the practice staff cannot work either and accordingly can be required to take compulsory leave. – Crisis situations such as the loss of very large customers or orders can also make compulsory leave necessary if it prevents employees from having to be put on short-time working or even dismissed. However, careful consideration is required here, as the disruption to operations or lull in orders must be unforeseen and sudden, and does not apply if it could have been prevented by management.

A maximum of 3/5 of annual leave may be set by employers as company leave. Calculated on 30 vacation days, this is a maximum of 18 days that the employer can set. It must also be taken into account that employees are entitled to take at least 12 consecutive working days off.

In addition, employers must give as much advance notice as possible of company leave. Six months in advance is recommended, a year is even better. It is best for employers to anchor company leave in the employment contract. So the employee knows from the outset what to expect. It is watertight for the employer.

When must special leave be approved?

Taking special leave does not per se mean being able to hope for continued wage payment. For example, extended leave for a sabbatical is not something for which employers must continue to pay wages. However, if an employee goes to the funeral of a close family member for one day, the wage for that day is usually paid further. With regard to the subject of special leave, it is first crucial to determine whether employees

1. to be able to demand release from work obligations, and 2. Whether they need to be paid for it.

Eligibility for special leave may arise based on a variety of bases:

– Legal provisions – Employment contract – Collective agreement – Works agreement – Labor law principle of equal treatment

A crucial provision recorded in the BGB states that the employee's obligation to work ceases if it is impossible for him to perform. This is the case, for example, in the event of illness. The employee can also refuse to perform work if it is unreasonable to expect him or her to do so.

No salary is paid for some special leave © Me studio – Adobe Stock

Reasons justifying special leave

Reasons for prevention are not mentioned in the law, but they are usually the following:

– Wedding or registration of a civil partnership – Birth of a child – Communion or confirmation of a child – Illness of a child – Traffic accident for which the employee was not responsible – Death of a close relative – Funeral – House fire or burglary – Moving house – Care of relatives in need of care – Visits to the doctor – Performance of government duties such as an appointment as a witness in court – Unjustly suffered pre-trial detention – Golden wedding anniversary of parents – Job search

During the illness of a child in need of care, employees may take 10 days (per child) of special leave. For this, they are entitled to sick pay, which is why the employee's continued payment is not up to the employer. For the other occasions, employees may be released from their work duties, but the employer is not obliged to continue paying wages. This depends on other factors related to special leave.

When must the special leave be compensated?

In some cases, employers are required to continue paying wages. These are:

– Additional leave for severely disabled employees – Leave for trainees to attend vocational school classes and examinations – Leave for educational leave in accordance with the relevant laws of the Lander – Leave for works council members to perform their duties – Leave for mothers during the pre- and post-natal protection periods

For cases such as deaths, traffic accidents or other unforeseen events, the continuation of payment depends on how long the employee is prevented from working. An exact period is not defined. This is where the dialogue between employer and employee becomes important.

Unpaid leave is a matter of negotiation

If employees wish to take unpaid leave, this is a matter for negotiation between the employee and the employer. There is no legal right to unpaid leave. Unpaid leave can be taken for a few days, but it can also be relevant for a few weeks or months if employees express this wish.

How is a sabbatical compensated?

A sabbatical, or extended time off from work, is something that must be discussed with the employer. In some cases, the right to a sabbatical is stipulated in the employment contract, but here, too, operational requirements must be taken into account. On the other hand, it does not mean that employees cannot take a sabbatical just because it is not in their employment contract. It is often a matter of company policy whether or not employers allow their employees to take extended sabbaticals. The reasons for which employees want to be released from their job for a few months are usually these:

– Travel – Retraining, further education or training – Private time-out to increase creativity and motivation – Care for sick or dependent relatives – Realizing a personal project – Voluntary or social commitment – Research – Professional reorientation – etc.

Allowing employees to take longer career breaks can greatly increase employee satisfaction. Employer and employee must consider together exactly how the sabbatical will be structured. There is the possibility of releasing the employee, not paying him a salary during the time off and having him pay into the health insurance himself. Alternatively, the wage can be saved. For example, in the six months before the sabbatical, the employee receives only 50% of his or her salary. He then receives the other 50% during the six months of sabbatical. In this case, he can also remain insured through the employer. In any case, these models all provide for special arrangements with regard to vacation and should be planned thoroughly.

Can vacation be taken by the hour?

Employees cannot take their vacation by the hour because it is not recreational leave. It is not possible, for example, with a contractually agreed number of hours of 38 hours, to simply work only 37.5 hours each day and compensate for the remaining half hour with vacation time.

Half vacation days are also not provided for according to the law, which only recognizes whole days. However, there are internal company agreements according to which half days of vacation can also be taken. However, these vacation days always depend on the vacation day quota that companies grant their employees over and above the statutory minimum entitlement.

In many companies, half vacation days become relevant at Christmas and New Year's Eve. Christmas and New Year's Eve are not public holidays. Accordingly, employees must take vacation on these days if they want to have time off. In many companies, however, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are only half working days and accordingly only half a vacation day is due in each case. But these agreements are made internally. Are not based on federal vacation law. Some companies also "give" their employees these two days and grant a day off without having to submit vacation for it.

Is special leave possible in the heat?

When summer temperatures climb above the 30 degree mark, many workplaces get cozy. The regulation of working time at high temperatures at the workplace is not governed by the Federal Vacation Act, but by the Workplace Ordinance. Finally, employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees work in a safe environment. From indoor temperatures beyond 30 degrees, an environment is no longer considered safe, as health can be damaged. Employers must therefore look at how they can lower temperatures.

If there is no air conditioning and the temperature in the room cannot be regulated, they can think about shortening the working hours. It may also be possible to equalize the workday so that employees start earlier and work longer, but take several hours off during the hot lunch period. However, heat-free is not something that immediately warrants the granting of special leave. Rather, employers should first see how they can take the burden of the heat off employees elsewhere.

How vacation entitlement is calculated upon termination?

An employee's vacation entitlement following termination is calculated based on the number of months of service in the current calendar year. If an employee who leaves on or after 01. January was employed in a company, before 30.06. If the employee does not take time off, he can take 1/12 of his vacation days per month that the employment relationship still exists.

Example: Notice on 01.05., the employer is employed from January to April and is thus entitled to his vacation days from the four months. With a five-day week and 20 statutory vacation days, this is 1.66 days per month, i.e. 6.66 vacation days that he can still take.

Note: By the way, vacation may not be rounded off.

If an employee is terminated in the second half of the year, he or she is entitled to his or her full annual leave, not just a pro-rated amount. If he leaves in August or September, he can take his 20 days of vacation, even if he is no longer employed by the company for the full year.

If an employee still has vacation entitlement but is unable to take it due to leaving the company in a timely manner, it must be compensated by the employer. This applies both to voluntary termination by the employee and to termination without notice.

Can vacation be paid out?

There is only one case in the labor law where the employer has to pay out the vacation to the employee, and that is when the employee resigns and there is not enough time left to take the vacation anymore. Employees are not entitled to have vacation paid out apart from that. The same applies to overtime. If it is possible from a company perspective to take vacation, then this takes precedence over any possible compensation.

You can only cash out your vacation in rare cases © Chinnapong – Adobe Stock

Buying vacation days from employees is only possible in exceptional cases, for example if operational reasons justify it. Employees must also try to take their vacation days. Simply putting it off until the end of the year and then asking for money doesn't work. Nevertheless, there are companies where vacation is "bought off".

This often happens when employees have particularly important positions and cannot be dispensed with. However, this is not recommended, as the employee's workload will continue to add up. Employers should rather encourage their employees to take their leave as well. This way, they benefit from a motivated, refreshed workforce and reduce the risk of burnout and other illnesses.

Is confidential leave the model of the future?

Trusted leave is familiar from hip, U.S. startups. In Germany, too, some companies try this model again and again. Trusted leave means that employees can take as much paid leave as they like.

What sounds practical and like a lot of flexibility is often difficult in reality. It is true that employers express a lot of trust in their employees with the trust leave model, which is often reflected in a particularly high level of satisfaction and also motivation. In addition, companies can use this model to position themselves as an attractive employer and attract young, talented professionals. However, there are also people who cannot handle this gift of trust.

In addition, in Germany, even with all trust, the statutory minimum vacation periods must be taken into account, so that employees must take at least 20 vacation days per year if they work a five-day week. Many employees also tend to take too little rather than too many vacation days when taking confidential leave. This is due to the fact that one does not want to let down one's colleagues, that one is worried that taking too much vacation could be seen negatively and much more.

As a human resources manager, it is challenging to motivate employees to take an appropriate amount of vacation time. Likewise, under this trust model, it is challenging to react correctly when an employee takes 44. Would like to take a vacation day for the current year. HR managers therefore have a lot of work to do on this ie, which is why it is best for them to define framework conditions for confidential leave.

Conclusion: Legal regulations on vacation

When it comes to vacation, there are many clear rules in employment law that protect both employers and employees. While a certain minimum entitlement to vacation days is given and employees can usually use it as they wish, employers benefit from refreshed and motivated employees. There are some exceptional cases where the company can determine when vacation should be taken or when no vacation should be taken, but the focus is usually on the employee's wishes.

There are also rules that make it easier for employees and employers to carry over vacation days to the following year, for sickness during vacation, for compensation for vacation days in the event of dismissal, and for special leave. However, there are also special cases in which a discretionary decision is made as to whether and for how long an employee can take paid leave.

Employers should make special rules such as sabbaticals, company vacations and other regulations watertight in the employment contract. This saves both parties from discussions or disagreements. Good leave management by employers can improve employee satisfaction. If employees have the feeling that they can take their vacation whenever they want, and are given a few vacation days above the legal minimum, there are usually no problems with this ie.

Trusted leave is a model that a company should consider carefully. On the one hand, it has a positive effect on employee satisfaction and can make the employer appear in an attractive light, which is particularly necessary in times of the "war of talents". However, not everyone can handle the trust given and even HR managers can reach their limits on this ie, which is why it is essential to set up framework conditions for it. The vacation entitlement is defined by law. Calculated on the basis of the number of working days per week.

The statutory minimum vacation is four weeks per year. Employers can, however, grant a higher number of vacation days.

Minors are entitled to 25 to 30 vacation days per year depending on their age.

Severely disabled employees have five additional vacation days in addition to the statutory minimum vacation.

In the case of urgent operational needs, an employer can refuse a vacation request. However, such a vacation block must be justified.

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