How To Quit Your Job in Germany the Right Way

Woman massaging her temples due to stress from quitting job

You have been working in Germany for a while and now want to resign from your job? There can be multiple reasons why you decided to do so. Yet, most importantly, you should quit it in the right way.

Quit your job in Germany in 9 easy steps:

  1. Check your employment contract
  2. Schedule a meeting with an HR representative and/or supervisor
  3. Write and submit a German version of the resignation letter
  4. Hold a notice period
  5. Complete any transition requirements
  6. Check if you can apply for unemployment benefits/get job insurance
  7. Check your unused vacation days
  8. Start looking for another job
  9. Get references and certificate of employment (Arbeitszeugnis)

So, what’s the best and legal way to quit a job in Germany? There are different rules you need to pay attention to. In this article, we describe how to resign from your current position in Germany legally and professionally.

How to resign from the job in Germany?

Person pointing pen on a document on the table

Quitting a job is never a pleasant process, and neither it’s easy. Particularly in Germany, employees and employers are obliged to the labor rules, making everything more complicated.

Nonetheless, in most cases, a law is on the employee’s side so that you can benefit from it. For example, as an employer is very hard to dismiss the worker and often impossible at all.

Therefore, resigning from a job in Germany shouldn’t be scary. The country has a great social security system. Thus you don’t have to worry about the roof above the head.

Unemployed people can receive support from the government while they are looking for a new position.

When you leave your job, it’s essential to observe all employment laws to avoid any troubles and negative consequences.

You should do it as professionally as possible. Always give notice to your employer, write a formal resignation letter, and be prepared to complete all required tasks to transition a job to someone else.

These general rules apply when quitting a job in Germany:

1. It must be communicated in writing – no emails, calls, or verbal communication.

2. The notice period (Kündigungsfrist) must be observed.

It’s usually mentioned in your contract. If nothing is defined in the employment agreement, then standard terms apply. The notice period will depend on the duration of your employment. The longer you have been in your company, the longer your notice period.

3. If your company has a work council, they must be informed before everyone else.

Termination of limited employment agreement

Termination of the limited employment agreement isn’t permitted in Germany.

A limited or fixed-term contract ends automatically at the end of the agreed employment period. This applies to both employers and employees.

Yet, early termination is possible in exceptional cases.

Limited work contracts have become popular in Germany in recent years. They are especially often seen among jobs for young professionals since they are more flexible.

Extraordinary termination is possible at any time. However, there must be an essential reason for quitting. We also list them down below under “quitting your job without a notice.”

Termination of unlimited employment agreement

Unlike a fixed-term employment contract, employees have a right to quit and without providing a significant reason. In fact, they don’t have to mention the reason at all.

In contrast to a limited contract, an unlimited employment contract is concluded between you and the employer for an indefinite period.

Consequently, the agreement is valid until the employee’s retirement age, unless you quit or your employer terminates you.

Nevertheless, employees should consider certain aspects of concluding an employment contract for an indefinite period.

However, you will need to keep in mind a regulated notice period which depends on how long you have been working for the company (unless something else is stated in the contract).
Years in the companyNotice period
1-4 1 month
5-72 month
8-9 3 month
10-11 4 month
12-145 month
15-196 month
More than 20 years7 month

The only time when an employee doesn’t have to follow the notice period is when extraordinary termination applies. This can be done from both sides, employee and employer.

The resignation must be done by the 15th of each month or at the end of the respective month.

Quitting during the probation period

The probation period in Germany usually doesn’t exceed 6 months. If so, the employee can quit their job during the trial period with a notice period of two weeks.

If the probationary period lasts longer than six months, the notice period is extended from two to four weeks.

The employer can also terminate you within the same timeframe.

Here, termination can take place anytime. You don’t need to wait till the end of the 15th of the month. Yet, you and your employer might agree on different notice periods, so you may don’t have to wait those two weeks.

Furthermore, employees in the probation phase can quit their job without reason.

Take care of your finances before quitting

Quit your job in 10 steps

Woman face down on a magazine spread

Here are the main steps you need to take when resigning from your job in Germany.

1. Check your employment contract

One of the most important things is to check your employment agreement and to determine:

  • How much notice do you need to provide your employer
  • If there are any legal issues, you need to be aware of

If the notice period isn’t mentioned, standard periods apply. They were mentioned under the termination unlimited job agreement.

Moreover, your contract might include other details about termination or non-solicitation of employees or customers and other important clauses.

2. Schedule a meeting with an HR representative and/or supervisor

In Germany, you must inform your employer or HR department in written form. You can’t just email or call them. These communication methods won’t recognize your termination of employment.

You can also first talk directly to your supervisor. You should always speak to someone higher in the hierarchy, your boss or HR department, before submitting a letter of resignation.

This conversation should address the following:

  1. You are leaving the job and why you’re leaving
  2. What will you do to help transition your work
  3. A request for a reference letter

3. Write and submit a German version of the resignation letter

The most official step of resigning from the job in Germany is to write and deliver your resignation letter. It must be in written form. A termination won’t be recognized if you don’t write and submit it to the employer.

The letter should be short and to the point. If your work language is German, it must be written in German; otherwise, it should be in English.

Once finished, print it out and deliver it to your employer. You can also send it via to the HR department, just to be sure.

4. Hold a notice period

In Germany, employees must hold an official minimal notice period. Hence, you will still be working in the company even after quitting.

A standard notice period is 4 weeks, but other lengths can also be determined in the employment agreement.

Furthermore, the notice period ranges depending on how long you have been working for the firm. After 5 years of work 2 months of notice will apply, and so on.

It’s essential to maintain a professional work attitude during that time.

5. Complete any transition requirements

You will probably have someone to give the work over after you officially quit your job and close to the end of the notice period. It might be a new candidate or a colleague.

Discuss ongoing projects with your supervisor to decide how to hand them over to your colleague or successor.

This process will be a significant part of how people in the company will remember you and affect your references.

6. Check if you can apply for unemployment benefits

If you have worked in Germany full-time for the last 5 years, you can receive unemployment benefits for up to 2 years, depending on your age.

This money will support your lifestyle: former employees receive 67% of their last salary. However, if leaving the job was your initiative and assuming there wasn’t a significant reason for it, you won’t receive benefits for the first 3 months of unemployment.

If you can’t apply for unemployment benefits, you should at least take out a job insurance, which will cover you after the loss of income.

To learn more about unemployment benefits in Germany, read this article.

7. Check your unused vacation days

Check whether you have some unused vacation days. In Germany, you can receive financial compensation for these days. Here following rules apply:

If you leave the company in the first half of the year, you will be entitled to a proportionate number of vacation days.

Yet, when quitting after the end of June, you can enjoy at least the standard minimum annual leave of 20 working days (but only if you have already been working in the company for at least 6 months).

8. Start looking for another job

Now, after you know when is your last working day, you can start to search for a new job and attend interviews. It’s especially important if you aren’t entitled to unemployment benefits in Germany.

9. Get references

Ask your employer and potential colleagues for references before you leave the job.

10. Get a certificate of employment (Arbeitszeugnis)

Employers in Germany are obligated to provide a certificate of employment for their former employees. It’s a document you most likely will need when applying for the next job.

Arbeitszeugnis states your tasks in the company, achievements, and overall satisfaction with your work of the boss.

When is your resignation valid?

It’s good to know from what time your termination is valid and the notice period starts. In Germany, the notice period begins when the employer receives the resignation letter.

It can be done through conversation or when they receive a written letter.

The termination date isn’t a day when your boss has been informed about you leaving the job. Yet, the termination date is the date when you end your work. Hence, this date is after the notice period and your actual last day of work.

When does the notice period start?

The notice period starts after you have submitted a resignation letter AND the employer has actually received it in written form. It’s a period between the termination (given verbally or received in writing) and the termination date.

What will happen with your health insurance after you quit your job? Read this article.

Notice period in Germany

Whereas in some countries, an official notice period doesn’t exist, in Germany, you need to keep at work for at least four weeks more after quitting the job.

The length of the notice period depends on how long you have been working in Germany. In the table below, you can see the exact number.

Otherwise, a different notice period can be agreed upon between the employee & employer and will be written in the contract.
Years in the companyNotice period
1-4 1 month
5-72 month
8-9 3 month
10-11 4 month
12-145 month
15-196 month
More than 20 years7 month
Notice period in Germany

Moreover, when you terminate your job in Germany, you should give notice either on the 15th or the last day of the month.

Meaning if you want to leave the job on June 30, your employer must receive a termination letter at least 28 days in advance, i.e., on June 2. For months with 31 days, the notice must always be received on the 3rd of the month.

Shorter notice periods are only permitted for temporary employees (max. three months’ employment) and for companies with no more than 20 employees. Also, during the probationary period, only between two and four weeks apply.

Quitting a job in Germany without a notice

Can you just leave your job without notice? In Germany, it can be done only in exceptional cases.

In fact, both the employer and the employee may terminate the employment agreement without notice for some significant reason. In Germany, it is called extraordinary termination.

An employee should submit a resignation letter within 2 weeks after the occurrence of the reason for termination. If it’s justified, you can leave the job immediately, and the employment relationship will be terminated. No notice period is needed.

Make sure you are protected against any issues at work by taking out legal insurance.

Requirements for resignation without notice are:

1. Important reason: A serious reason must be provided if you or your employer want to terminate the job agreement without notice.
2. The period after the event’s occurrence: As soon as the employee or employer has become aware of the reason for termination, the notice must be given within 2 weeks.
3. Formalities: The termination letter must be in written form.

Reasons for termination without the notice

1. Wage delays

You can quit your job without notice if you don’t receive your salary on time. However, it only applies when the compensation wasn’t paid on time over a more extended period or if the employer withholds the salary entirely.

2. Violation of health and safety at the workspace

If your employer or supervisor puts your health or safety at risk, you, as an employee, can quit with no notice.

3. Harassment and insults

If an employee is treated badly at work or even is subject to sexual harassment, they can quit the job without notice.

4. Mobbing
Bullying and mobbing at work are also reasons to leave the job with no notice.

However, if the employer offers a solution to employee conflict, including mobbing, the employee may no longer be terminated without notice.

However, before you terminate the job without notice, you should submit an official warning letter to your employer or supervisor.

It is worth consulting a lawyer about your reason for quitting the job without notice. If you simply assume that the reason is justified, you might face a court case followed by the invalidity of the termination.

Avoid problems with your employer

Consequences of quitting without the notice

In Germany, leaving the job without notice can have negative consequences for the worker, including:

  • Loss of job from one day to the next
  • Blocking period for unemployment benefits
  • Problems with future job applications

Unemployment benefits – when you leave the job with no notice, you won’t be entitled to employee benefits for the first 3 months.

To avoid this problem, an employee should inform the Employment Agency about the reason for the termination and prove that it was justified.

How to write a resignation letter in Germany?

Overhead shot of a laptop and a piece of black paper

Everyone must write a resignation letter when leaving a job in Germany; otherwise, the termination won’t be recognized.

Also, a verbal notice of termination isn’t sufficient. The letter must be in written form; hence, you should print it out.

The following information must be included in the letter of termination:

  • Your and your employer’s address
  • Current date and date of the last working day
  • Contact person – employer or manager
  • Signature

In general, you can form the letter how you want. The best way is to thank your company in a few sentences for the opportunity.

You don’t need to state a reason for leaving unless it’s a termination without notice. Also, the employer doesn’t have to confirm that he has received the letter, but you can ask for it to be on the safe side.

When it comes to the language, you should write it in the language you use at work.

Read more about how to write a resignation letter in Germany in the dedicated article.

Example of the resignation letter (German version):

Your name and last name
Street and house number: Phantasiestraße 1
Postal code and city: 12345 Beispielstadt

Name of the company: Fantasie GmbH
Name of the addressed person: Personalabteilung z.H. Herr Muster
Street and house number: Hauptstraße 2
Postal code and city: 45678 MusterhausenDatum (TT.MM.JJJJ)

Sehr geehrter Frau/Herr (referring person), 

hiermit kündige ich Ihnen meinen Arbeitsvertrag ordentlich und fristgerecht zum nächstmöglichen Datum. Bitte bestätigen Sie den Erhalt der Kündigung sowie das Beendigungsdatum.

Ich bitte um die Ausstellung eines qualifizierten Arbeitszeugnisses.

Mit besten Grüßen

Your name and signature

You can also download it here and just insert your details.

Ask for the Arbeitszeugnis (job certificate)

When you leave your job in Germany, it’s important to request a job certificate or Arbeitszeugnis. As an employee, you have a right to receive this paper and a reference from your employer.

An Arbeitszeugnis is an employer’s reference or an assessment of the employee’s work performance and, at the same time, proof that you worked at that company in that position.

Arbeitszeugnis is very helpful for new job applications.

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