Rest period

When organizing working time, employers must pay attention to the observance of rest periods, as they are responsible for complying with working time provisions. Infringements of the provisions relating to the weekly rest period, compensatory rest and public holiday rest are punishable. The amount of the administrative penalties differ.

The working time schedule and the rest period schedule must be posted in the enterprise if persons are employed who fall under the Arbeitszeitgesetz, Arbeitsruhegesetz (also applies to hospitals), the Krankenanstalten-Arbeitszeitgesetz, the Bäckereiarbeiter/innengesetz or the Kinder- und Jugendlichenbeschäftigungsgesetz.

The   Labour InspectorateGerman text is responsible for monitoring compliance with working time regulations.

Competent body for administrative penalties:

If the daily working time exceeds six hours, this time must be split by a break lasting at least 30 minutes. Employees must not be required to work during this period. They can spend the time at their discretion and also leave the establishment.

Splitting the break

The break can be split into two 15-minute or three ten-minute segments, if this is in the interest of the employees or is necessary for operational reasons.

Eine andere Teilung kann durch festgelegt werden.Other splitting may be defined by the employer/works council agreement. If no works council exists, the competent Labour Inspectorate may permit a different split upon request. One segment of the break must be at least ten minutes long.

Reducing the break

The employer/works council agreement may permit a reduction of the break to at least 15 minutes, if this is in the interest of the employees or is necessary for operational reasons. If this reduced break is additionally split, one segment must last at least 15 minutes.

If no works council has been established, such regulations may be approved by the Labour Inspectorate upon request.


A reduction to a total of 20 minutes, split into four breaks of five minutes each is not possible, as one segment must last at least 15 minutes.

Shift operation - short breaks

Reasonable short breaks (total duration: 30 minutes) must be complied with in continuous shift operation (also on the weekend). These kinds of short breaks may also be maintained in partly continuous operation (weekdays). Short breaks are considered working time.

Under the Nachtschwerarbeitsgesetz, night-shift workers are entitled to an additional break of ten minutes per night.

After the end of the daily working time, employees must be granted an uninterrupted rest period of at least eleven hours. The collective bargaining agreement may reduce the uninterrupted rest period to at least eight hours, if another rest period is extended accordingly within the next ten calendar days. However, a reduction to less than ten hours is only possible if the collective bargaining agreement contains additional measures to ensure a recovery by employees.

Continuous shift work

In continuous shift work (also on the weekend), the daily rest period may be reduced to a shift length (but at least eight hours) once per shift rotation at the change of shift. Another daily rest period must be extended accordingly within the shift rotation. Employers are responsible for complying with working time provisions. Infringements of the daily rest period provisions are punishable.

Weekly rest period

Employees are entitled to a weekly rest period of at least 36 hours in every calendar week.

In case of shift work, the weekly rest period can be reduced to 24 hours, but the average weekly rest period must amount to 36 hours within an averaging period of four weeks. Only rest periods of at least 24 hours may be used to calculate the average weekly rest period.

The entire Sunday must generally fall within this rest period (weekend rest). The weekly rest period may only include a different full weekday (weekly rest) if weekend work is permitted under certain legal conditions.

In some cases, the Labour Inspectorate needs to be notified by law.

Start of the weekend rest

The weekend rest must start no later than on Saturday at 1:00 PM. A later start is possible in the following cases:

  • In case of essential end of work, cleaning, maintenance or repair work: Saturday 3:00 PM
  • When incorporating bridge days: Saturday 6:00 PM
  • In retail: in accordance with the opening times on Saturday, one additional hour for end of day work
  • In retail-like service establishments: Saturday 6:00 PM, one additional hour for end of day work
  • In non-continuous shift operation: Saturday midnight

In partly continuous operation (weekdays), the night shift leading into the Sunday and the night shift leading into the Monday can be worked. Only the day shifts on the Sunday must remain a non-working period.

Compensatory rest

The planned weekly rest period (weekend rest or weekly rest) must be defined in the working time arrangements. If employees are required to work during this period, they are entitled to compensatory rest in the following working week.

The extent of the compensatory rest must correspond to the period of work within the 36-hour period before starting work for the next working week. The compensatory rest must be provided immediately before the start of the following weekly rest period, unless otherwise agreed before the start of the work for which the compensatory period is owed.

The compensatory rest is credited to the working time. The remuneration must continue to be paid.

Employees are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of at least 24 hours on public holidays. The public holiday rest must start between midnight and 6:00 AM on the public holiday. For partly continuous shift operation (weekdays), the public holiday rest must start no later than at the end of the night shift leading into the public holiday and may end no earlier than at the start of the night shift of the next working day. Remuneration must continue to be paid if this would have been a working day.

Public holidays

The following days are official holidays:

1 January (New Year)

6 January (Epiphany) Easter Monday
1 May (National Holiday) Ascension Day Whit Monday
Corpus Christi 15 August (Assumption Day) 26 October (National Holiday)
1 November (All Saints' Day) 8 December (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) 25 December (Christmas)
26 December (St. Stephen’s Day)    

The provisions on weekend rest and weekly rest apply for public holidays that fall on a Sunday.

Working on public holidays

Employees may only work on public holidays if this is permitted under certain legal conditions.

They are also entitled to remuneration for the work provided.

In some cases, the Labour Inspectorate needs to be notified by law.


In an establishment, work is carried out for six hours on a public holiday. The employee receives their normal remuneration if this would have been a working day. In addition, the employee receives the remuneration for six working hours.

Good Friday and personal holiday

All employees have the option of taking a day off without any agreement with the employer on a day that is important to them (personal holiday). This day must be announced at least three months in advance. This allows members of the Protestant Church AB (Augsburg Confession) and HB (Helvetic Confession), the Old Catholic Church and the Protestant-Methodist Church, for which Good Friday was previously a public holiday, to continue to take this day off.

If an employer requests employees to work on the selected day despite this, employees may refuse this request. However, if they accept this request, they are entitled to holiday pay as well as to the remuneration for the work performed on this day; so to double their remuneration. Moreover, the day off does not lapse. However, the right to designate a personal holiday is exhausted for the specific holiday year.

Further Links

Legal bases

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 1 January 2024

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy

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