You have applied for a job and been accepted. Congratulations! Nothing now stands between you and a career in Germany. All that is left to do now is to sign the job contract. Before you do, here are a few things to look out for.
Read the work contract thoroughly
It is most unusual for a work contract to be delivered orally in Germany. This is why serious employers will always send you a written contract. Read the contract thoroughly from start to finish before signing it. If you do not understand something, this is not a problem: ask the company’s personnel department or the personnel officer about it.
What you should find in a work contract
Every work contract should contain the following information:
- Name and address: yours and that of the company
- Date on which the contract starts: the date on which you officially become an employee of the company (that means: starting from which date is the contract valid?)
- Term of contract: is your contract only valid for a certain period of time? When does it end? The term of the contract must be agreed in writing, otherwise it is considered to be valid for an undetermined period of time.
- Trial period: How long does the trial period last? This is the period during which you or the company can terminate the contract relatively quickly.
- Place of work: where will you be working? If you are to work in different places, this should be stated in the contract.
- Job description: what tasks will you be expected to do in the company?
- Remuneration: how much will you be paid for your work? Will the company pay you supplements or bonuses, for example at Christmas or for working weekends, on top of your normal pay? When does the company pay you – for example, at the end or beginning of the month? Note: the work contract usually states the gross remuneration. From this, certain amounts will be deducted for tax and social contributions, such as health insurance, long-term care insurance, a pension scheme and unemployment insurance.
- Working hours: how many hours a week will you be expected to work?
- Holiday: how many days’ leave are you entitled to per year?
- Notice period: how long in advance must you notify the company, or the company notify you, that the work contract is going to be cancelled?
- Collective agreements and works agreements: often, in addition to the work contract, special regulations also apply. For example, in many branches of industry, employer associations and trades unions have reached collective agreements.These agreements may regulate questions of remuneration, bonuses or holidays.Companies can also sign special agreements with their Employee Councils, which represent the interests of the employees. These are called works agreements.You can ask your employer if these agreements also apply to you.This may also be stated in your work contract.
Recognition of vocational credentials in Germany
There are all kinds of different names all over the world for similar professional qualifications. For example, do you know what “Dipl-Ing.” is? It is the conventional university qualification for German engineers. It is unlikely that your professional qualification will be familiar to every German company. That means that the company will read the name of the qualification in your application and still not know what you can do and whether you are sufficiently qualified for the job. So here’s our tip: have your qualification recognised. You can find out how to do that here.
Must I have my qualification recognised?
For many qualifications, it is helpful to have them recognised. For others, it is an actual requirement for being able to work in Germany. It really depends on your profession:
- Who needs recognition? In Germany, certain professions are “regulated”. Germans and foreign nationals may only work in these professions if they have a very precise qualification. This applies to professions such as doctors and lawyers. It also applies to different masters of manual trades if they work as independent contractors. If you want to work in one of these regulated professions, you need to have your professional qualification recognised in Germany.
- For whom is recognition helpful? Most professions are not regulated. If you are going to work as a business manager, IT specialist or baker, for example, you will not need to have your qualifications recognised. However, it may still make sense to have your qualifications recognised – even in cases of partial equivalence. Recognition will help companies understand your skills and qualifications, so that you can leave a good impression as you apply for a job.
Please note: If you would like to relocate to Germany from a non-EU country, and if your qualification is non-academic, you will have to have it recognised before taking up employment in Germany.
However, recognition of your vocational credentials alone is not sufficient if you would like to work in Germany. In order to obtain a residence permit with permission to work you will need to meet a number of additional criteria.
Looking for a job
You will find job advertisements in daily newspapers and above all on the internet. You can also find work through temporary employment agencies. These companies “hire out” their employees to other companies.
Job advertisements can often be found in the weekend editions of newspapers. Job advertisements can also often be found on the internet. There are various job portals on the internet that will help you to find you a job according to your qualifications and/or in a specific region. You can register with some websites to be automatically informed by e-mail whenever there is a new advertisement for the type of job you are looking for.
In addition you can find out about job vacancies in companies in your region by consulting the companies’ websites. You will find the job advertisements listed under “Jobs” or “Karriere”.
Or put an advertisement in a newspaper in the “Stellengesuche” column (situations wanted) or draw up a profile of yourself on a job portal on the internet. In this way, you can present your skills and qualifications and describe the type of work you are looking for. You could also try approaching potential employers directly and talking to them face-to-face.
A large number of jobs, based throughout Germany, are also advertised in the following newspapers/journals:
- Süddeutsche Zeitung
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
- Frankfurter Rundschau
- Die Zeit (published on Thursdays)
- Arbeitsmarkt-Hefte des Wissenschaftsladen Bonn (for the areas of: education, culture, social services; environmental protection and natural sciences; published on Tuesdays)
There are sometimes unreliable advertisements on the internet or in daily newspapers (e.g. for working from home). You should therefore make detailed enquiries about the kind of work involved before signing any contract.
Looking for an apprenticeship
If you would like to start a vocational training course in Germany, you can find out more information about the different career options in the careers information centres (BIZ) at employment agencies (Agenturen für Arbeit). Under the “Berufsfindung” tab on the http://www.ausbildung.net website, you will find “Hilfe bei der Berufswahl” (help in choosing a career). The site also provides a lot of further information about training.
On the internet there are also training exchanges run by the Chambers of Industry and Commerce (Industrie- und Handelskammer) and the Chambers of Trade (Handwerkskammer) that can also help you to find an apprenticeship position.
Please bear in mind that it is often necessary to apply for a training place a year before the training course is due to start. If for example you would like to begin training in September 2012 you must start looking for a training institution by summer 2011 at the latest. (Teaser for transition between school/training).
You can find out further information about local services in your area from:
- the Migration Advisory Service for Adult Immigrants and the Youth Advisory Service
- the employment agency and job centres
- chambers of industry and commerce
- chambers of trade