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Jobs in Germany roundup: Berlin teacher shortage and what to know about holiday pay

From a teaching shortage to what employees should know about holiday pay entitlement, here's a round up of news and talking points on working life in Germany.

A teacher talks to a class at a school in Baden-Württemberg. Berlin - like much of Germany - is facing a teaching shortage.
A teacher talks to a class at a school in Baden-Württemberg. Berlin - like much of Germany - is facing a teaching shortage. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

Schools in Berlin struggling with staff crisis

Berlin is facing a huge teacher shortage, an investigation by the Tagesspiegel found. 

Around 450 positions are currently unfilled at Berlin’s schools, said the newspaper which analysed information from the capital’s districts.  

Berlin’s Senate Department for Education did not confirm the figures, but admitted that there are numerous vacancies.

“The need has increased significantly,” said administration spokesman Martin Klesmann when asked about the lack of teachers.

There are around 33,000 teachers in the capital and about 325,000 pupils.

The shortage is connected to a a number of factors, including a growing number of pupils and staff leaving the profession. Klesmann said the Senate is actively trying to recruit more teachers.

As The Local has reported, German states have been struggling for years to deal with an increasing shortfall in teachers. Experts say that a cut back in funding for teacher training at universities combined with a growing birthrate and higher immigration have contributed to the problem.

Book off your Brückentage

It’s hard to believe it but 2022 is just a few months away. So perhaps now is a good time to start thinking about next year’s holidays. 

We’ve put together a guide on how you can best plan your vacation days and make the most of so-called Brückentage – bridge days.

READ MORE: How you can make the most of Germany’s 2022 public holidays 

Tourism giant TUI says it will pay off government debt amid job cuts

German tourism giant TUI said on Wednesday it would raise over a billion euros selling stock to existing shareholders to pay off debt, reported AFP.

The world’s largest tour operator’s focus was “on refinancing and repaying government loans” now that the travel industry was taking off again, TUI CEO Fritz Joussen said in a statement.

TUI experienced a record loss of €3.1 billion ($3.6 billion) in 2019-2020 after its business was laid low by travel restrictions during the pandemic.

To weather the storm, the group received three bailout packages from the German government, totalling €4.3 billion.

The group announced a structuring programme in 2020, including the loss of 8,000 jobs worldwide and the sale of 20 percent of its fleet of aircraft.

TUI has its headquarters in Hanover plus a corporate office in Berlin. 

Berlin Start-up Gorillas sacks striking bike delivery couriers

Grocery delivery company Gorillas fired dozens of its riders this week for taking part in a series of strikes that have brought operations to a standstill.

On Friday, bicycle couriers from the Berlin-based start-up went on strike. But as the work stoppages are not organised by a recognised trade union, they are considered “wildcat strikes”.

It comes amid months of escalating tensions between the Berlin-based start-up and employees. 

A spokesperson for the Gorillas told Tagesspiegel on Tuesday that after consideration the company will “terminate the employment relationship with those workers who actively participated in the unauthorised strikes and blockades, obstructed operations through their behaviour and thus endangered their colleagues”.

The workers’ collective “Gorillas Workers Collective” (GWC) organised the strikes. A spokeswoman said that workers at the three warehouses involved in the recent strikes had received dismissal notices.

The strikes have been held in a connection with a row over pay and conditions. 

Did you know?

Holiday pay entitlement

Every employee in Germany is entitled to annual leave. This entitlement was first laid down in the Federal Leave Act (BUrlG) in 1963. The statutory minimum leave for a five-day week is 20 days, for a four-day week it’s 16 days.

However, this is only the lower limit – many companies nowadays offer around 30 days of annual leave. 

“In Germany, it is common to grant additional contractually agreed holiday days on top of that,” Daniel Brügger, a specialist lawyer for labour law, told German news magazine Spiegel. 

If you are ill when you’ve booked holiday and have a sick note from a doctor, then your holiday days can be taken at another time when you’re better. 

People in Baden-Württemberg get the highest wage

Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and Hamburg are the German states that have the highest wages, according to the 2021 Gehaltsatlas (salary atlas).

The states with the lowest salaries are Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg.

And with its booming auto industry, Stuttgart is the state capital with the highest regional salary factor (125.1 percent above the national average earnings), followed by Munich (124.3 per cent), Düsseldorf (117.2 per cent) and Wiesbaden (114.9 per cent).

Useful links: 

Jobs in Germany: What an SPD-led government could mean for workers

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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