Court rules: German employers must inform workers of expiring holiday days

Court rules: German employers must inform workers of expiring holiday days

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that deadlines for employees to take holiday days are only valid if they have been informed of time limits by employers. Here's how the ruling affects employees in Germany.

German employers must give left-over holiday notice

People who work full time in Germany are legally entitled to at least 20 paid holiday days per year. Those who are employed part time are allotted holiday days on a pro rata basis, which is calculated based on their weekly working hours.

In some cases, for example due to prolonged illness or lack of time, employees may be unable to take their holiday days. If they don't take their legally allotted holidays by within a three-year limit those days can expire and they can no longer be used. In 2019, Germany’s Federal Labour Court ruled that employers are required to remind their employees if any of their leftover holiday days are about to expire, so that they have the opportunity to take them.

Düsseldorf tax clerk case

However, according to a new ECJ ruling, there may be some instances where remaining employee holiday days never expire. The case of a tax clerk in North Rhine-Westphalia has been influential in the ruling.

The clerk, who worked at a firm in Düsseldorf for 21 years, gradually accrued over 100 holiday days, some not officially recorded, which she did not take due to having to regularly work overtime. The clerk claimed that she should receive financial compensation for the holiday days that she never took, while her employer argued that her claim was invalid since the three-year limit for taking the holidays had passed.

The case was originally heard in the Solingen Labour Court and then at the Düsseldorf Regional Labour Court. It then progressed to Germany’s Federal Labour Court, who referred it to the ECJ to give an opinion as to whether the country’s three-year cap on taking annual leave was within EU law.

The ECJ ruled that the standard three-year cap to take remaining holiday days did not apply, since her employer had not reminded her of her entitlement to take these days off. In the ruling, the Luxembourgish judge stated, “Indeed, since the employee is to be regarded as the weaker party to the employment contract, the task of ensuring that the right to paid annual leave is actually exercised should not be shifted entirely to the employee.”

With the ECJ and German Federal Labour Court ruling, the former tax clerk may now be entitled to a compensation payout of around 17.400 euros plus interest. The ruling also has implications for other workers in Germany and across Europe, implying that the three-year limit to take remaining holiday days can only legally apply if employees are informed about this limit. 

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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