If you lost your job, you're already in a difficult position. German bureaucracy does not give you a lot of time to process it. There are things you must do almost immediately when you lose a job, either if your employment contract is terminated or if you have been part of layoffs.
This article is not a legal consultation, please reach out to a lawyer or legal consultant for advice.
Dealing with termination notice
What is Arbeitslosigkeit?
Arbeitslosigkeit is your unemployment status. You must communicate your unemployment status to the employment office.
What is Arbeitssuchend?
Arbeitssuchend means that you are seeking a job. You must register as Arbeitssuchend to claim benefits if you are unemployed, or soon will be unemployed.
What should I do when I am fired?
You must register as Arbeitslos within 1 day of you knowing that you will be unemployed
You can do this online, in person or over telephone
You must register as Arbeitssuchend within 3 days of knowing that you will be unemployed
In some cases for Arbeitssuchend, if you have a longer notice period, you can register later as long as it is no later than 3 months from when your employment ends.
If you work in Germany as a foreigner, you have to inform Ausländerbehörde
Try to find a job in Germany
You can do it here: Arbeitsuchendmeldung
If you register in person, you need to:
Bring Passport or National ID
Bring your Anmeldung
Inform your health insurance
When you are unemployed, your health insurance payment will reduce. Once you have received notice of termination, inform your health insurance provider. If you qualify for unemployment benefits, Arbeitsagentur will cover your payments. If not, you will receive a bill.
What you should not do when you are fired
Do not sign the cancellation agreement (Aufhebungsvereinbarung) or the termination agreement (Aufhebungsvertrag). If you receive this, contact a lawyer to see if it is fair.
If you do sign it, then:
You cannot sue your employer for termination
You cannot claim unemployment benefits immediately - you will receive a blocking period
You can sign the confirmation of termination notice, that says you've been let go and when it will be your last working day.
If you feel that the termination is unfair, you have options: read about suing your employer
Can I be fired due to my performance?
Yes. If you are not in your probation period, your employer must give you at least one written warning (Abwarnung / Abmahnung) on why they are warning you and only if it was necessary. Your employer must also provide you feedback on how you can improve and ideally keep your job as well.
Poor job performance is difficult for the employer to prove. The task must have been clearly defined and you must have done it poorly and could have been done better. You can read more on Personio (German).
How long will I receive my salary?
You should receive your salary until the last day of your employment. This is usually when your notice period ends.
What happens if I don't inform Arbeitsagentur immediately?
If you don't inform Arbeitsagentur within the specified timelines, they will add a blocking period (Sperrzeit). This prevents you from claiming benefits. The usual blocking period is around 3 months.
When do I have to register as Arbeitslos?
If you are fired on July 17th and your notice period is 3 months, you can do this within July 31st.
If you are fired on July 30th and your notice period is 3 months, you must do this within August 2nd.
How your employer can fire you
What is the notice period for termination for Employers?
Your employer has to follow the notice period (Kündigungsfrist). The only way your employer can avoid the notice period is if you are fired for "extraordinary causes" (außerordentlich Kündigung). This is extremely difficult & rare.
Otherwise, the notice period for a normal termination with permanent contract is
2 weeks in Probation Period
4 weeks from the 15th or end of a month
3 months if you agreed to a similar length for your notice period
If you didn't agree to any notice period on your contract, then the legal requirements take over. According to § 622, here's a translation on notice period for employers.
(1) The employment relationship of a worker or a salaried employee (employee) may be terminated with four weeks' notice to the fifteenth or to the end of a calendar month.
(2) For termination by the employer, the period of notice shall be if the employment relationship in the enterprise or business has existed
- for two years, one month to the end of a calendar month,
- five years, two months to the end of a calendar month,
- eight years, three months to the end of a calendar month,
- passed ten years, four months to the end of a calendar month,
- passed twelve years, five months to the end of a calendar month,
- passed fifteen years, six months to the end of a calendar month,
- having passed 20 years, seven months to the end of a calendar month.
(3) During an agreed probationary period, for a maximum of six months, the employment relationship may be terminated with two weeks' notice.
(4) Regulations deviating from Paragraphs 1 to 3 may be agreed by collective bargaining agreement. Within the scope of such a collective agreement, the deviating provisions of the collective agreement shall apply between employers and employees not bound by the collective agreement if their application is agreed between them.
(5) A shorter period of notice than that specified in subsection 1 may be agreed by individual contract only,
- if an employee is employed on a temporary basis; this shall not apply if the employment relationship is continued beyond a period of three months
- if the employer generally employs no more than 20 employees, excluding those employed for vocational training, and the period of notice is not less than four weeks.
In determining the number of employees, part-time employees with a regular weekly working time of no more than 20 hours shall be taken into account at the rate of 0.5 and no more than 30 hours shall be taken into account at the rate of 0.75.
The individual contractual agreement of longer notice periods than those specified in paragraphs 1 to 3 shall remain unaffected.
(6) No longer notice period may be agreed for termination of the employment relationship by the employee than for termination by the employer.
You can read more about the notice period for Employees.
Can my employer fire me through email or whatsapp?
No. Your employer must follow these steps:
Provide a physical copy (paper)
Must be handed in person
Must have confirmation that you received it
Must have a physical signature
If your employer tries to fire you over email, phone, whatsapp, etc., then it is not valid.
Can my employer fire me during probation period?
Yes, without specific reasons also. Probation period (Probezeit) is a special case.
Suing your employer
Can I sue my employer for trying to fire me?
Yes, if you think that the termination of your employment is unfair. If you are part of a workers council (Betriebsrat), they can help you.
If not, you can sue personally by hiring a lawyer. Or make use of these:
Is there a deadline to sue my employer?
If you choose to sue your employer, you must do this within 3 weeks of receiving your termination letter.
If you received your termination notice on July 17th and your last day of employment is October 30th (3 months notice period), you have to sue your employer before August 7th.
How much does it cost?
An hour of a lawyer can cost around 180€ or more. If you have legal insurance or you are part of an association, it costs less overall and they cover the charges.
If you pay by yourself and you win your case against the employer, your employer will have to pay back the money you spent on legal charges.