Mindestlohn – What is that?
Have you ever heard about the “Mindestlohn”? The Mindestlohn is a statutory minimum wage. In Germany, it was established on 1st January 2015. The aim was to save employees who work in the so-called “Niedriglohnbereich”. This sector starts in Germany under a wage of €10 gross per hour. Especially affected are jobs in the gastronomy, taxi drivers, hairdressing services or cosmetics. Currently, the minimum wage is €8.84 gross per hour. From 1st January 2019, the minimum wage rises to €9.19 and from 1st January 2020 to €9.35 gross per hour. This means an increase of 5.8 per cent until 2020. The rise will be implemented in a two-step process to give employers the chance to prepare for the increasing personnel costs.
Who decides about the Mindestlohn?
A commission only responsible for the Mindestlohn decides every two years if the regulations have to be adjusted. The basis for the decision is the current minimum wage law. The commission considers if the adjustment is necessary to give employees a better protection and to support a fair competition. In the meantime, it has to check if employment itself is not endangered by the new regulations. When the decision is made, it is mandatory for all companies in Germany. If all companies really follow the new regulations is controlled by German customs. If they find a company which doesn’t pay the minimum wage it can cost up €500,000. Furthermore, if the working times aren’t correctly documented it can cost €30,000. Third, the company can be excluded from public procurement.
Are there exceptions?
Yes, there are exceptions. This means, some groups in society are excluded from the regulations. One group consists of people who work on a voluntary basis. Apprentices are also excluded, independent of age. Another group includes interns if the internship is part of their curriculum at school or at university or if they do the internship voluntarily for maximum three month. The fourth group includes young people under 18 who didn’t complete their vocational training yet or who are in a qualification process for their vocational training. Longtime unemployed are the last group excluded from the minimum wage. They can’t claim it for six month after they found a new job.
What can I do if my employer doesn‘t pay the minimum wage?
There is still a lot of work to do to implement the regulations. According to the Federal Government, about 830,000 employees weren’t paid the statutory €8.84 gross per hour in 2017. It is still often a problem that companies don’t pay the minimum wage to their employees. If you are also affected by this, you should document your working hours regularly. You can also report the problem to German customs. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs offer a Mindestlohn-Hotline where you can get further information or further help if you have questions.