Kündigungsfrist : explanation and thoughts
Kündigungsfrist – This German monstrosity of a word essentially just means “notice period before quitting/cancelation.”
Where do you find it?
It comes up in work contracts. In that sense it implies that a certain amount of notice must be given (usually by both sides) for you to leave your job.
I have seen it in other service contracts as well, such as mobile-phone and bank agreements. In that sense, it translates more closely to “cancellation notice” or “termination notice”.
Why is Kündigungsfrist interesting to an expat?
First off, living in Germany you often have to deal with this term in contracts, both for job or service. It is important to know what your rights and requirements are when you sign something. Also these notice periods can feel VERY long compared to the US. This means that often once you are a part of the society here, the timing to get out can be a lot longer than you expect.
I have seen a number of service agreements that require 30 days notice to cancel. This isn’t so bad. My Deutsche-Bahn Card requires me to write them a physical letter more than 6 weeks ahead of the time that the card is due to expire to avoid it renewing. Apartment rental agreements often have 3 months Kündigungsfrist.
Here is the real kicker for Americans though, to quit your job you have to hold to this notice period in your contract as well. I have heard stories from friends of upward of 7 months Kündigungsfrist in some contracts. This means you still have to work at the place 7 months after quitting.
So, what does having a Kündigungsfrist, especially such a long one, mean to the culture. Well, it seems to be another expression of the German culture bias toward having expectations and keeping them. This is what is often seen as ordered society. The time frame for changing routines is just very long.
At a job level, having to give a long amount of notice goes both ways. After you are through your initial evaluation period (Probezeit), the employer would have to respect the same X many months notice to let you go that you would have to give to quit. For the employee it acts as a protection. For those of you not used to American employment, most times there is no contractual notice period. Most people give a courtesy 2 weeks, but a company can and often does just ask you to leave that afternoon.
This gives a much bigger sense of security to society. It means that once you have a job, it is much more difficult to lose it. On the other side, companies take their time hiring because it means a bigger commitment.
This same sense of security applies for service and especially apartment contracts. Landlords know you aren’t going to up and leave next month, but you also know he can’t kick you out without notice.
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Check your contracts for Kündigungsfrist terms. If you don’t see them or don’t understand, ask. Germany is all about planning ahead, so make sure you know your commitments.
These are my experiences of the cancelation terms in Germany. Do you have any others to share?
April 18, 2013 @ 11:07 pm
There are always loopholes to a Kündigungsfrist. Canny operators can get away with just about anything. Do your homework and jump through all the hoops, but don’t rely on this to work infallibly. Remember, this is Roman and Napoleonic civil law territory, not British common law. Consistency and fairness sound nice but they are accidental to this culture, regardless of the lipservice payed them. Also, being strongly hierarchical, the lower you are on the ladder the more kicks come with the territory; and until you have 5 generations in country, you’re a newcomer. Remember, the other monkeys in the cage don’t like newbies getting away with stuff they wouldn’t dare risk. It’s how the chief monkeys keep the cage quiet and productive.
April 21, 2013 @ 5:42 pm
You paint a darker picture than I have experienced here. Maybe it is partly of the industry and company that I worked in, but really I have not had problems.
I am out of the cage running around happy, and actually followed several German’s leads. So it isn’t just us foreigners doing it.
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March 15, 2013 @ 7:53 pm
I thought this was your German post saying you were quitting your job 🙂
March 16, 2013 @ 11:12 am
Hmm. Maybe it is at that.
March 15, 2013 @ 10:02 am
Things are quite similar in London and Switzerland… And even though I was a bit bummed to have to sit through another 3 months of work (during summer), I do appreciate it now. After all, this meant I had a very gradual transition… And had time to organize my life after work! However, some employers do make exceptions. For example, they may allow you to leave before your notice period is over (in which case you get paid pro rata)… Or allow you to take gardening leave.
March 16, 2013 @ 11:14 am
It feels very constraining, and I think it still is on the service contract side. But for work it is actually not too bad. It means you get a chance to give your stuff to others slowly instead of entire mind dump and creates a less stressful leaving in the end. That time to roganize the next step while still being paid is nice too.
Do tell, what is Gardening Leave?
March 16, 2013 @ 11:25 am
Gardening leave is something companies do when they feel that you might take confidential or sensitive information with you. It means that, during your notice period, you still get paid but don’t get to work anymore (even when you are the one that quits the job). It’s particularly the case when the companies know you’re going to work for a competitor.
A few months of Gardening leave is what most employees that quit their job wish for! 🙂
March 16, 2013 @ 11:49 am
Wow. We have that pretty much as a matter of course in the US. You give your 2 weeks notice (not months) and you are gone within hours usually. I don’t know of anyone that really works out their notice period. Especially in software companies, they are so worried you are going to steal or damage something.