I've recently moved to Germany and I am used to having unpaid lunch time; so I've been coming in at 8am; 1 hour lunch and leaving at 17 (5pm). But I've noticed some people here who, when they come in at 8, leave at 16 (4pm). So I'm wondering if I'm overstaying my work hours here (we don't do timesheets or any sort of control).

I don't want to ask around because it might seem like I'm pointing the finger and to be honest, these same people usually come in between 09:30 and 10:30; take 90m lunches and then leave at 17:00. So I can't really take them as examples but I noticed a vibe like "hey everyone, look at me leaving early because I came in early today..." on the 16:00 goodbyes. This made me feel a bit... "well, I come in at 08:00 e-v-e-r-y day and I'm still here, until 17 at least with no overtime"

PS: I don't mind that I don't get overtime (because I could if I raise the flag that there's too much work) I prefer not having to worry about timesheets and stuff, makes me feel free to come in later or leave early sometimes just because I need to and at the same time gives me freedom to stay late to finish what I need to finish without having to ask the Pope with explanations as to why the thing needs to be finished today. Really I just want to know if, on any normal day, I should be leaving earlier...?

For detail: this is a standard employee contract (project-based) and all my contract says is that I will work 40 hours per week and working hours will be according to the client's schedule. In this client they need support from 08:00 but no end time has been informed since there really isn't one; some people come in later and leave later.


  • Many European countries allow working a smaller percentage than 100% and receiving the corresponding pay. It's possible those people are working 80% or 90% instead of 100%. For example, at 90%, an 8-hour day becomes 7h12m. This would allow you to take a 48-minute lunch and still leave work 8 hours after you started. (But you would only receive 90% of the standard salary.)
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 8:58

3 Answers 3


In Germany, is lunch included in an 8 hour shift?

No. A lunch break is mandatory (30 minutes minimum in an 8 hour day) but unpaid. If you come in at 8:00 and have to work 8 hours, 16:30 is the earliest you can leave. If your lunch takes one hour, that obviously means 08:00 to 17:00.

In Germany, the working time is limited by laws, in this case the general ArbZG:

§ 3 Arbeitszeit der Arbeitnehmer

Die werktägliche Arbeitszeit der Arbeitnehmer darf acht Stunden nicht überschreiten. Sie kann auf bis zu zehn Stunden nur verlängert werden, wenn [...]

Translation: the employee is not allowed to work more than 8 hours on a working day. [Exceptions apply].

§ 4 Ruhepausen

Die Arbeit ist durch im voraus feststehende Ruhepausen von mindestens 30 Minuten bei einer Arbeitszeit von mehr als sechs bis zu neun Stunden und 45 Minuten bei einer Arbeitszeit von mehr als neun Stunden insgesamt zu unterbrechen.

Your shifts have to have pre-scheduled breaks of at least 30 minutes if you are working 6-9 hours or 45 minutes when working more.

So most Germans work 40h weeks (5 weekdays with 8 hours of work and 30 minutes of lunch break each day).

You are not allowed to skip the break. You cannot say "well, I come in at 8, work 8 hours and leave at 16:00, taking my break from 16:00 to 16:30 on my way home". That is illegal. Your employer can get in hot water if he allows it.

Somebody being at work for less than 8.5 hours is either having a different contract (maybe only 35h weeks) or maybe having worked overtime before and is catching up on time-off to actually reach their 40h per week, or is defrauding their employer, or is breaking the law.


As per labor law, if you work 8 hours, there's a pause of 45 min, not included in work time, split to 15 minutes breakfast pause, and 30 minutes lunch/dinner pause. So you'd be expected to work 8 hours 45 minutes, 45 minutes of which is the pause.

It looks like the timesheets are not strongly enforced, and some people make use if it because they can.

  • 2
    Can you provide a reference to support this answer?
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 13:54
  • However, many people in Germany will not work 40 hours a week = 8 hours a day, but 37.5 hours a week = 7.5 hours a day.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 22:58
  • @gnasher729 you can work part-time but it need to be written so in contract.
    – user11203
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 12:28
  • Sorry, but this is wrong and without sources.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 13:52
  • @DanubianSailor 37.5 hours/week is not (in any sensible meaning of the phrase) "part time". Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 10:09

The amount of hours per week is mostly based on the trade union contract of the firm, that is reflected in the work contract

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