EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Working time in Germany

About

Country: 
Germany
Author: 
Anni Weiler

In today’s workplace, employees are expected to comply with a high degree of work-time flexibility. However, long working hours and time pressures mean greater health risks.

The report on Working time in 2003 (2.1MB pdf file; in German) by the Institut zur Erforschung sozialer Chancen (ISO) updates previous survey findings. The new survey, conducted between July and October 2003, includes in its analysis characteristics of work, work organisation and strain.

Contractual working time

Over the last 10 years, contractual working time has remained almost unchanged for full-time employees. However, since 1995, the average contractual hours of part-time workers decreased from 21.3 to 20.2 in West Germany, and from 26.7 to 23.8 in East Germany.

Actual working time

Actual working time is on average 2.5 hours more than contractual working time. Only 45% of employees had a weekly working time of between 35 and 40 hours. Some 31% worked more than 40 hours.

Preferred working time

On average, full-time employees would like to reduce their actual weekly working time by 4.1 hours while part-time employees would prefer to extend it by 2.5 hours.

Of those employees wishing to reduce their working time by two or more hours, the main reason mentioned is to alleviate pressure (31%). Older employees (over 50 years) give this reason even more frequently (41%). Some 34% of men and 72% of women with children give family obligations as a reason.

Part-time work

The proportion of part-time workers increased in West Germany from 16% in 1993 to 26% in 2003 and, in East Germany, from 12% in 1995 to 18% in 2003. Some 24% of all employees work part time. Of these, 27% work as ‘marginally’ paid employees. 87% of part-time workers are female.

Overtime

Compared with 1999, the extent of overtime work has remained static. The proportion of paid overtime decreased from 37% in 1995 to 22%, while the proportion of overtime compensated for by time in lieu increased from 38% to 54% in the same period. On average, employees worked 0.9 hours unpaid overtime a week.

Table 1 Compensation for overtime (%)
Compensation for overtime according to type (%)
Compensation of overtime 1995 1999 2003
Paid 37 30 22
No compensation 25 20 24
Time in lieu 38 50 54

Source: Working time in 2003, Bauer, F. et al, 2004

Some 57% of employees working overtime would prefer to cut down on or avoid doing overtime work. Where it is not paid, 72% of employees want to reduce their overtime.

Unsocial working hours

32% of employees work once or twice a month on Saturday, and 13% on Sunday. 16% of employees work regularly or frequently on a shift basis and/or at night.

Control over flexible working time

Employee autonomy

Around half of all employees can decide how they organise their own working time. In particular, highly qualified white-collar employees (31%) have a high degree of autonomy. 32% of this group have at least some control over their daily start and finish times. However, they more frequently (54%) work longer hours than agreed in their contracts. Some 8% work under schemes of working time on trust (DE0408NU06).

Company control

Variable daily working times determined by management are common for 18% of employees. Of these, 71% are part of shiftwork systems. Regarding information on when and how long they have to work, 33% of such employees are informed a week at most in advance, and 17% less than four days in advance. However, 46% of the employees state that there is a reasonably reliable fixed pattern to the working time schedules.

Working time accounts

The proportion of employees availing of working time accounts has increased since 1999 (Table 2). 45% of male and 37% of female employees worked under such an arrangement in 2003. On average, these employees work less unpaid overtime than those without working time accounts.

Table 2 Working time accounts, by company size, 1999 and 2003 (%)
% of employees with a working time account, by company size, 1999 and 2003
Number of employees 1999 2003
1-20 21 26
21-99 35 39
100-499 53 60
500 and more 55 68
Total 37 41

Source: Working time in 2003, Bauer, F. et al, 2004

Time and performance pressure

Time and performance pressures affect 42% of employees regularly, 12% almost always and 30% frequently. The main causes for the disparity between time resources and work demands are:

  • high workload at peak times (57%) or at all times (31%);
  • unforeseeable problems (54%);
  • tight deadlines or targets (41%);
  • difficulty of the tasks (19%);
  • high responsibility (19%).

Work-life balance

18% of all employees regularly experience time pressures in their non-working life due to work-related stress. Causes include unforeseeable working times (43%), long working hours (25%) and unfavourable working time arrangements (25%). Some 21% of employees regularly have difficulties relaxing after work and 32% report themselves as exhausted because of work.

Health risks

Table 3 gives an overview of the impact of working time on health.

Table 3 Occupational health problems, according to working time arrangements 2003 (%)
Occupational health problems, according to working time arrangements, 2003 (%)
All employees Actual working time Regular overtime Regular shift or night work Regular weekend work
Total Women Men 35-40 hours Over 40 hours No Yes No Yes No Yes
Back pain 42 45 39 39 46 36 46 39 54 38 50
Headaches 27 35 20 26 28 26 28 26 31 26 30
Nervousness 21 24 18 18 27 15 25 21 20 19 24
Mental exhaustion 17 19 15 14 22 12 21 15 24 15 21
Depression 17 20 14 14 19 13 19 16 21 15 20
Sleeping problems 16 18 14 13 20 12 19 14 26 14 21
Stomach ache 11 12 9 9 13 9 12 10 15 10 13
Heart and cardio-vascular disorders 10 12 8 9 12 9 11 9 12 9 11

Source: Working time in 2003, Bauer, F. et al, 2004

Further EU level research on working time is available on the Foundation’s website.