What to do when you are fired in Germany

What to do when you lose your job, how to inform Arbeitsagentur, if you can sue your employer for wrongful termination and things you should not do

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.

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 inform Arbeitsagentur that you will be unemployed soon, so you can start to process to qualify for unemployment benefits.

  • 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
In wenigen Schritten ⬢arbeitsuchend melden ⬢arbeitslos melden und ⬢Arbeitslosengeld (Alg 1) beantragen.

If you register in person, you need to:

  • Bring Passport or National ID
  • Your residence permit like Blue Card, Permanent Residence, Visa, etc
  • 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.

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.

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