Overtime and maximum working time

Overtime exists if the daily normal working time or the weekly normal working time is exceeded. In all flexible forms of working time (averaging of the normal working time, shift work, flexitime), exceeding the average weekly normal working time leads to overtime.

The maximum working time is the working time including overtime. The maximum daily working time is twelve hours.

The employer may only order overtime under the following conditions:

  • The employee is obliged to provide overtime (usually stipulated in the employment contract) or agrees to provide overtime.
  • The overtime is permissible by law.
  • The maximum working time limits are not exceeded.

The following restriction applies for overtime up to a daily working time of ten hours and a weekly working time of 50 hours.

Even if an employee is obliged to provide overtime or has agreed to provide overtime if necessary, special employee interests may stand against the overtime work. A balancing of interests is necessary.


The employer orders overtime for a certain day, although the work could also be performed on another day. However, the employee needs to accompany their son to a medical appointment. In this case, the employee interest takes priority. The employee may refuse the overtime.

The employer orders extraordinary overtime for an urgent matter. The employee wanted to participate in an excursion with the volunteer fire brigade. In this case, the employer interest is higher and the overtime cannot be refused.

If the daily working time of ten hours or the weekly working time of 50 hours is exceeded by overtime, employees may refuse to provide this overtime without providing reasons. They must not suffer any disadvantages or be dismissed as a result.

A special reason must always exist for overtime. Permanent overtime is therefore not permitted.

Higher demand for work

In the case of a higher demand for work, 20 hours of overtime per week are permitted.

Standby duty

In case of standby duty, the collective bargaining agreement may also extend the working time in the form of overtime. In this case, the daily working time can be extended up to 13 hours. A right of refusal does not exist in this case.

Preparation and end of day work

Half an hour per day is possible for preparation and end of day work.

The employer must pay a 50 percent bonus for overtime. Time off in lieu can be agreed instead of this bonus. Time off in lieu of 1.5 hours is accrued per hour of overtime.

If the daily working time of ten hours or the weekly working time of 50 hours is exceeded by overtime, employees can independently decide whether they wish to receive monetary compensation or time off in lieu.

The bonus must be paid even if the overtime was unlawful.

Daily maximum working time

The daily maximum working time (including overtime) is twelve hours. Longer working time is permitted in the following cases:

  • Extension of the working time during standby duty: 13 hours if additional overtime was approved by the collective bargaining agreement, company agreement or the labour inspectorate.
  • Overtime for preparation and end of day work: In special cases, 12.5 hours

Weekly maximum working time

The maximum working time (including overtime) in a single week is 60 hours.

Average maximum working time

The weekly working time must not exceed 48 hours over an average of 17 weeks. The collective bargaining agreement may extend this averaging period.

Only if the working time is extended during standby duty does this limit not need to be observed.

Employers are responsible for complying with working time provisions. Infringements of the maximum working time provisions are punishable by a fine of between 72 and 1,815 euros, and between 145 and 1,815 euros in the event of a repeat offense.

Further information

Legal basis

Sections 6 to 10, 28 of the Arbeitszeitgesetz (AZG)

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 1 January 2024

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy

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