Its going to be a week after signing a contract with a firm in Germany but the start date of the employment is not until 2+ months. The contract mentions nothing about how to terminate a contract prior to the start date. It does mention a statement saying "Neither party may give notice of ordinary termination before the start of the employment relationship" but it also states the employment relationship comes into effect if the employee signs the contract. So how can an employee terminate the current contract with the employer in this case.

  • Have you asked the person you were in contact with?
    – Twyxz
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 12:17
  • You need a lawyer, as "employment relationship" could well be the date of signing or the date you walk in the door...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 12:19
  • 4
    Honestly, I would simply politely explain to them you can't start with them and see what happens. Almost all contracts are totally, completely, meaningless. If you just "didn't start" what are they going to do - sue you? Simply email them and say "Due to circumstances beyond my control unfortunately I will not be able to start with you, what should I do?" And see what happens.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 12:25
  • 1
    You may want to do an "Aufloesunsgvertrag", which simply states that both parties agree to terminate the existing contract and waive all notice periods or other conditions. This protects both parties from any legal follow up, so should be in everyone's interest\
    – Hilmar
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:14

3 Answers 3


Officially? You get an employment lawyer and have them figure it out.

Unofficially? You just call the company and ask them what paperwork they need. There is no way they can force you to show up and there is no fine you'd have to pay for not showing (assuming no such thing is explicitly mentioned in your contract). So stating you will definitely not show up for work in 2.5 months, it's in their best interest to get that contract dissolved without a hassle as soon as possible so they can look for a new hire. They might not be happy to hear you won't start there, but Germany is not like other job markets you may read up on here. If you don't want to work there, they will be happy to hear that from you now instead of 2 weeks into your contract when you are legally allowed to quit and have already cost them two weeks money and time.

So your best option is to contact them and ask them.

  • Right. It's all a non-issue. Just send a polite, one sentence email explaining that you apologize but you won't be starting with them.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 13:25
  • -1: "Officially" the first step is to call the company and notify them that you're going to have to terminate the contract ... even though it's before the start date. If they try and argue that you can't terminate it because it hasn't started - which no company in their right mind will even TRY to argue, then you can tell them that you'd like unpaid leave for the notice period. If they STILL want to complain, then you consider talking to a lawyer.
    – UKMonkey
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 13:43
  • 3
    Correct but just regarding the language ....... Don't mention contract in any way, whatsoever. Do NOT call and say "I'll be terminating a contract". Do not MENTION contracts ever. Send an email with the words "Unfortunately circumstances have changed, and I won't be able to take the position with your company." End of story. If (remarkably / bizarrely) they then mention something about "contracts", ghost them. Do NOT mention contracts at all.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 13:47
  • 1
    @Fattie If they mention "contracts", they're being serious. Contracts are serious things. Do NOT ghost them. If there's any show of trying to enforce the contract, get an appropriate lawyer or other adviser immediately. Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 17:37
  • 6
    @Fattie: good approach in the US but wrong approach in Germany. Germans are more formal and there are much more stringent employment laws, so both parties will want to have clean paper work. It's easy enough to do: if both agree to deviate from the stated notice period, you simply do a so-called "Aufloesungsvertrag", which is terminates all existing contracts.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:11

Without in depth knowledge of German contract law, I would say that usually in these cases you would just contact the company and just tell them that you no longer wish to take up the position. You don't have to go into specifics as to why, it's not their concern.

"Hi there, Unfortunately my personal circumstances have changed, such that I am no longer able to take up the position offered in your company"

Obviously - take care that you aren't burning any bridges you might need later. If you don't start the job, it's unlikely they'll offer you another position.

  • Definitely, don't do the first one. Ever. Ever. Ever. It is inconceivable you'd mention, in any way, WHY you're not starting. The second quoted section here is absolutely perfect.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 13:26
  • not even if it's the chance to become the first person to set foot on Mars? (although point taken - I'll edit the first one out.)
    – Smock
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 13:42
  • Correct, if the putative opportunity is "absolutely amazing" (for example, "go to Mars", etc), in that case in particularly you absolutely, DEFINITELY, do not mention it. Never, ever, expose legal risk around high values. NEVER - EVER - EVER - tell an employer (or really, anyone) specifically about future plans - ever. Never, ever, ever.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 13:45
  • 2
    @Smock unless you're planning to try and renegotiate you tell them nothing. If you plan to renegotiate, you tell them only what they need to hear for you to improve your position.
    – UKMonkey
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 13:46

Do this as quick as possible. Two 1/2 months before your start date shouldn’t be a problem. 2 weeks before the start date, they would make you pay - because in Germany a contract is a contract (and because two week before starting causes them problems, so they think it only fair to cause you problems).

Avoid this in the future.

PS. "Make you pay" doesn't necessarily mean money. There are lots of ways. But if you have a contract and just don't turn up, that will cost the company money, so they may very well sue you for damages. They can also contact your next company, and then you have some explaining to do. Companies in Germany take this personally.

  • What exactly would the OP need to "pay" if he simply refuses to show up?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 17:42
  • (1) fantastic advice - yes, do this immediately. (2) as nvoigt suggests, really it's a "crime without penalty".
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 17:51
  • "they would make you pay" I very much doubt this; have you any examples? I doubt you'd have to pay because: (1) there's no agreement saying you'd pay if you cancelled (2) they'd rather you quit before you start than 1 week in.
    – UKMonkey
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 17:56
  • There is nothing you would have to pay for. The worst thing that can happen is you need to give formal notice on your first day, and then be willing to come in if they require it. In practice they will likely not require you to come in for two weeks of notice period (which is he legally required notice period during probation in Germany). They might, so be prepared to go in and waste their time and yours and be paid for half a month. Note that you cannot take other employment up if they tell you to stay home for those two weeks unless you make another contract to cancel this one.
    – simbabque
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 18:19
  • @simbabque, there is no mandatory probation period. It's just very common. Depending on the contract, both parties might be bound for up to five years with a six month notice period. (§624 BGB) Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 15:23

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