Should Germany ensure workers get a day off for every public holiday?

With German Reunification Day falling on a Saturday this year, we asked The Local readers if they think Germany should allow for a replacement day off on a weekday. Here's the verdict.

Should Germany ensure workers get a day off for every public holiday?
We love our Feiertage, Germany! Photo: DPA

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We all love Germany's public holidays (gesetzliche Feiertage), whether it's Tag der Arbeit (Labour Day), Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) or Erster und Zweiter Weihnachtstag (Christmas Day and Boxing Day).

But one major difference I noticed about living in Germany compared to my home country of Scotland, is that when a public holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday it is not transferred to a week day.

This weekend we can see this in action: October 3rd is Tag der Deutschen Einheit or German Unity Day. It's a huge event marking the date when East and West Germany came together to form the modern-day Bundesrepublik.

Unlike some other holidays that are regionally celebrated (for example only Berlin has Frauentag or Women's Day), German Unity Day is a nationwide public holiday, meaning shops and offices are closed.

But this year since it's on a Saturday, most people don't actually get the holiday… because it's on the weekend anyway.

In my opinion, days off for public holidays should be given on weekdays so that the majority of workers can benefit. That's surely the point in them. I don't think it's really fair that in 2019 I had more days off than in 2020. It should remain consistent.

Of course people who work in shops will get the day off on Saturday because everything will be closed. But to make up for being shut on Saturday, many retailers in Germany are opening on Sunday October 4th (when usually they would be shut). So it doesn't really equal a public holiday for the likes of supermarket employees and other retail workers.

READ ALSO: What and when are Germany's 2020 public holidays?

Understandably, emergency workers and those in some other sectors do not get public holidays off but they should get them included in their annual leave so they benefit from the holiday another time.

I tweeted my thoughts on this earlier this week and lots of people had strong opinions. So at The Local Germany we did a poll. Here are the results:

So the vast majority – more than 70 percent – of people who took part in our online poll said Germany should change this system and move public holidays to weekdays to avoid 'losing' days off. Around 26 percent said things should remain the same.

'The day off should be transferred to Monday'

Lots of people shared my opinion on changing the system for a variety of reasons:

Meanwhile, independent shops have pointed they lose an important day of trade if the shop has to be closed on Saturday.

Some people, however, believe the system is fine.

And for freelancers it's not so bad.

Newspaper Berliner Zeitung joked about how long the queues are at the few shops open on public holidays. 

Some people pointed out that Germany has a generous number of public holidays (compared to the UK and some other countries).

More 'lost' holidays

Some people noted that residents in some parts of Germany also “lose out” on Reformationstag (Reformation Day) on October 31st this year because it falls on a Saturday (it's celebrated in nine states). And Allerheiligen (All Saints Day) on November 1st which falls on Sunday (it's celebrated in five states).

Plus the second Christmas Day or Boxing Day on December 26th falls on a Saturday this year so that one is out the window too.

And let's not get started on next year and the one after…

Meanwhile, the Berliner Zeitung pointed out that for those of us who haven't stocked up on food before the shops shut on Saturday, we could queue for a very long time at the few shops that remain open on holidays… and maybe we'll meet the love of our life.

What's the solution?

Of course employers can choose to give their employees a day off when a public holiday falls on the weekend, for example it could be transferred to the nearest Monday. This would be especially welcome at times like the festive period when respite from work is especially appreciated.

But as workers we can't rely on all employers doing that, or giving public holiday days that don't fall on weekends as part of annual leave.

Perhaps it's because I grew up in a different and country and culture that I feel strongly about it. But I seriously think politicians in Germany should consider changing this system.

Do you agree or do you have a different opinion? We'd be really interested in your thoughts. Let us know by emailing [email protected]

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Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!