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Overplanning in the shift plan: This is allowed in Germany

Planned overtime in a shift plan: The deadline for an important project is approaching, but there is still a lot to do. Or an employee is absent at short notice and colleagues have to step in at short notice - overtime occurs in many companies. But what do you do if you have too much overtime? And is planned overtime permitted? We give you the answers.

How much overtime is allowed?

For a full-time employee with a 40-hour week, a maximum of 20 hours overtime is permitted. This is based on the Working Hours Act (Section 3 (2) ArbZG). It regulates the working hours that are permitted per day and week.

The most important regulations and exceptions at a glance:

  • A maximum of 48 hours may be worked per week and a maximum of 10 hours per day.

  • The maximum limit is 60 hours per week and 10 hours per day. The average working time within six months (or 24 weeks) may not exceed 8 hours. There must therefore be corresponding time off in lieu.

  • In unforeseen emergency situations, employers can oblige their employees to work overtime: for example, if fires or storms threaten the existence of the company.

  • Employees in management positions are exempt from the Working Hours Act. These are employees who can independently decide on dismissals and hiring or who have powers of attorney (Section 5 (3) of the Works Constitution Act).

  • Additional exceptions can also be stipulated in collective agreements.

Is there a maximum number of overtime hours on the time account?

The maximum number of overtime hours that can be accumulated in a time account can only be determined by the maximum daily working hours: It may not exceed 8 hours on average calculated over 6 months.

How much overtime can you work as a part-time employee?

In principle, you are not allowed to work overtime as a part-time employee - because this contradicts the principle of a part-time position. However, the same applies here: Overtime is acceptable in emergency situations such as fire or natural disasters. And also in much more likely situations: If appropriate agreements have been made in the collective agreement, employment contract or works agreement.

Can overtime be forfeited?

What applies to vacation days also applies to overtime: They have an expiry date. It depends on the agreements in the company or in the employment or collective agreement as to when overtime expires. This period is also referred to as the expiry date. However, the law applies:

  • Overtime must be "durable" for at least 3 months - in other words, the period for an expiry date must be at least 3 months long.

  • If there is no fixed deadline, overtime expires after three years at the latest. The period only begins at the end of the year in which the overtime was worked.

  • If an employee becomes ill during compensatory time off in lieu, the overtime used for this expires.

Overtime: Time off in lieu or payout?

Employers are normally obliged to pay out overtime. However, the percentage of overtime that must be paid is not regulated by law. Here too, the individual provisions in the employment or collective agreement and in the works agreements apply. But even if no agreements have been made, the following still applies: the employer must pay overtime.

The more common practice, however, is to reduce overtime by compensatory time off in lieu, i.e. overtime in lieu. But even this time off in lieu is not regulated by law in the same way for all jobs - here too, it depends on individual contracts and agreements.

The following also applies:

  • Overtime may not be taken off at will: The employer can decide when employees receive time off in lieu.

  • Even after termination with or without notice, employees have the right to be compensated for their overtime: either through time off in lieu or payment.

  • As paid overtime is in principle also a wage, overtime is taxed as normal. It is therefore neither tax-privileged nor tax-exempt.

Planned overtime in the shift planning - how far in advance must overtime be announced?

Many employees are certainly familiar with this situation: the deadline for an important project is approaching, but completion is still a long way off. So the boss announces in the afternoon that the employees will have to work longer. Or a colleague is absent due to illness and they have to do the extra work after work. In both cases, this means that the employees have to work overtime on the same day.

This practice is unlawful. This is because current case law (judgment of the Frankfurt / Oder Labor Court (Ref.: 7 Ca 3154/04)) clearly states that overtime must be announced at least 4 days in advance.

The courts therefore value the right to time off more highly than the obligation to work. The exceptions described above naturally also apply here: employees are obliged to work any overtime to avert emergencies that threaten their existence, such as floods or fires. And senior executives with corresponding powers of disposal are also excluded from this.

Is constant overtime allowed?

Anyone who constantly works overtime is putting their own health at risk: burnout and stress can be the result of too much overtime. Occupational health and safety regulations clearly state that nobody has to work overtime all the time.

However, the problem lies in the word "constantly". This is because Section 3 (2) ArbZG regulates the maximum amount of overtime permitted - but only the average working hours over a period of 6 months or 24 weeks. This means that an employer can impose up to 20 hours of overtime per week on an employee for weeks on end - as long as the overtime is reduced again within 6 months.

Best practice: How to avoid overtime

Even though laws and case law regulate overtime in companies very well, overtime is often a nuisance for employees - and often also a reason for dismissal. Avoiding overtime should therefore also be in the interests of employers.

But how can overtime be avoided? In a hectic working day with rigid duty rosters and short deadlines, large companies often find it difficult to find the necessary flexibility. This is where intelligent duty scheduling software can help: It recognizes peaks in advance and provides appropriate information.

With the right solutions, additional staff requirements can be identified in good time. For example, delivery shifts can be offered. And even if overtime cannot be completely avoided, the software informs employees in good time and on time - which significantly increases the acceptance of overtime, as employees can adjust to the additional work.

Planned overtime in the duty roster - our conclusion

If there is a real emergency in the company, the employer may order overtime in the duty roster. However, it must be ensured that the additional scheduled working hours are announced with sufficient lead time to give the employee enough time to adjust to the announced situation. The above examples have also shown that employees' private interests deserve consideration in this matter and are even valued more highly by the courts.