49
  • My fiancée is pregnant.
  • She lives 1500 km away from me, in another country, in a low-developed region where public transport is slow.
  • I did not talk with her for 3 days. It was my mistake. She became shocked and now she wants to abort the child.
  • I am currently on a train, traveling to her.
  • Tomorrow morning I am supposed to go to work, as usual. I won't be able to. (It is now Sunday evening where I work.)
  • I am almost certain I will be unable to work on both Monday and Tuesday.

I work for a small company in Germany. I've worked here for some years, longer than most employees. There is no guarantee that I won't lose my job over an unexpected absence like this. The company seems more tolerant than average for such events, but their patience surely has a limit. I feel I am near this limit.

Being in the IT department, I could work also remotely, even on the train. This is not the custom of the company, and I would need a manager's approval.

How should I minimise my chances of losing my job and lose the least possible respect of my bosses?

Would it be better if I explain this situation? This personal problem probably looks quite different through the eyes of my boss.

  • 98
    "And feel I near this limit now" why do you feel that way? It seems this is a one-time occurrence for you, what else happened that you think they reached a "limit"? – nvoigt Apr 8 at 5:25
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    (With a reason, communicated properly) Why not showing up at work will cause you lose your job? That's what extreme. – Sourav Ghosh Apr 8 at 5:27
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    I suspect you aren't using "Bride" quite correctly. "Bride" usually refers to a woman who is currently in the process of getting married. "Wife" is a woman who is married. "Engaged" is someone who is going to get married. "My Wife" refers to someone who is married to you; "My Bride" is someone you are currently getting married to. (the exact period over which you are "getting married" as opposed to "being married" is fuzzy, admittedly) – Yakk Apr 8 at 14:13
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    @nvoigt I am not married, I am about to be married. Thus, I could not refer an existing marriage, part of the problem was that she did not see the clear road to our wedding, while she is also pregnant. In her eye: she is pregnant, we talked about marriage but no exact timeline, father is 1500 km away, and then he does not talk to her 3 days long. It is logical that she became shocked, I should have seen that. We have a wedding timeline now and she seems to be okay, but it required me in persona to calm down she. – Gray Sheep Apr 9 at 20:04
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    @PaulK Light positive, he asked how things are going. I don't know, if any long-term consequence will follow, probably not, but I can't predict it yet. – Gray Sheep Apr 10 at 9:51
230

How to maximize my chance to not lose my job and to lose the least possible respect by my bosses?

Call as soon as you can get through.

Tell your boss that a family emergency came up and you won't be there Monday or Tuesday.

Good luck.

63
  • contact your manager/boss by email/text. Tell him that there is a personal situation which requires your presence with your bride

  • call him/her in the morning

Don't be too specific on the details. If you don't ask for such things very often, then I would hope for the best.

  • 6
    I doubt "don't be too specific on the details" is a good recommendation. I would say the opposite: be open about the situation. – Tero Lahtinen Apr 8 at 6:59
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    The boss will almost certainly ask the question "when will you be back at work." Think about the answer to that before you start the phone call! – alephzero Apr 8 at 10:18
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    @kapex I see your point, but if the boss is likely not to understand the situation, I think she would also not understand the "Family emergency. Period." -approach any better. – Tero Lahtinen Apr 8 at 12:55
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    There is definitely a lot of options between giving the boss every detail and "Family emergency. Period." Something like "I had a family emergency come up with my fiance so I will be out of the office until at least Wednesday and possibly not until Friday", which give a little more detail, is much more personable, but doesn't go into the fine details of what is going on for the OP – Kevin Wells Apr 8 at 16:16
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    In addition to @alphazero: Think about the answer before you start the phone call AND provide a realistic prognosis. Dont call on Monday to say you will be there on Wednesday, than call Tuesday night to say you will be there on Thursday, and so on... – Ivana Apr 9 at 11:09
23

The answers so far address the personal angle. Definitely call and explain (leaving out whatever personal details you wish).

From a legal perspective, google "Abwesenheit aus wichtigem persönlichen Grund" or similar phrases. Sadly, I'm in Austria right now and Google forces links related to Austrian law on me, but I remember from my time in Germany that this exists in German employee law as well.

IANAL but I have legal training and from my experience you should be legally in the clear. Another common use for this rule is people staying at home if their child is sick and the other parent can't take care of it (e.g. both parents are working).

Definitely do not falsely claim that you are sick. That would be grounds for an immediate termination if your lie is uncovered.

  • Did you try adding "Germany" (or rather, "Deutschland") to your search? – jpmc26 Apr 9 at 21:04
  • It had been far more dangerous than saying the truth. (I said the truth.) – Gray Sheep Apr 10 at 17:04
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    @jpmc26 yes, I tried adding "Deutschland" and it still gave me links to Austrian law. Probably there's a way around it, but I didn't find it quickly. – Tom Apr 10 at 19:11
16

I live and work in Germany, and have been both boss and employee.

I would say that the best way to proceed depends on your boss. Every country is like this, but there is certainly still some xenophobia in Germany.

If your boss is friendly towards foreigners, then I would give him full disclosure. Tell him exactly what is going on.

If your boss is generally somebody that looks down on foreigners, then I would give him/her as little information as possible. Giving him information, such as the fact that you have a bride in another country will just fuel his/her fire, and give him more reason to dislike the situation. In this case, just say that you have an extremely important life or death family matter that must be dealt with immediately. In this case, we mean life or death of the baby, but do not tell the boss that. If he presses for details, I would just say that, "I would prefer not to discuss it." No respectable person would press you for more details. If he forces you to give a valid excuse, then I would tell him that you would be glad to talk to HR about the situation. I can't see how a boss needs to know about your personal situation.

  • 16
    Not sure this is relevant. Wife is living 1500km away, but that doesn't necessarily imply that OP is not German. In any case, he didn't mention any concern about possible xenophobia from his boss. – dim Apr 8 at 8:11
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    You are right. I just assumed this to be the case. – bremen_matt Apr 8 at 8:13
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    In any case, his hesitance toward just telling his boss seems to imply to me that he thinks that his boss will not take this well – bremen_matt Apr 8 at 8:14
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    Then, again: the employee might still have Ukrain roots, be a russion speaker or whatever. German xenophobs recently came up with the word Passdeutscher meaning soemone is german because their passport says so, Not because of their bloodline/origin. – Bernhard Döbler Apr 8 at 8:57
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    @dim He's "from a small Middle European country, not far away from Transsylvania", so most likely not German. – Martin Schröder Apr 8 at 12:46
9

Putting some existing answers together in a more verbatim manner.

"Dear [Bossname],

Due to an unfortunate family event, involving my pregnant fiancée living in [Neverneverland], I will be unable to be at [Workplace City] in person this [Monday].

Currently, I am on my way to [Neverneverland]. I will be able to work remotely for [Doomsday] and [Damsday]. As for the time since [Thenday], I am not sure if I will be able to work. I will keep you informed. Please count these days as my paid leave, if it will not work out. I plan to be back by [Monday next week], but cannot say for sure at the moment.

I apologise deeply for this sudden and unexpected leave, but the situation is urgent. I will be available by phone and email today and on [Doomsday]. From [Damsday] onward I am in [Neverneverland] and would be available per email and [Telegraph] chat only. I apologise again for the inconvenience.

Best regards,

John Doe"


On a separate notice I wish OP good luck and an understanding from his employer.

4

Already a bit late, but at the companies where I have worked this would be handled by calling the immediate superior and asking for a day off or two (Gleitzeit/Urlaub) because of a family emergency. HR and higher management would not even know that something unusual happened. However, if your company is very small, things might work differently.

Many German employees can also take sick leave for up to three days without seeing the doctor. But I would not recommend that in this case, as employers take that very seriously and some coworkers do not really like that either.

Even if your employer thinks that "troublesome girlfriend" is not a valid excuse for missing work, you might still just get a Abmahnung (kind of a last warning) instead of firing you. But that obviously depends a lot on your boss.

P.S. a short google search suggests that an Abmahnung is indeed mandatory before firing someone for missing work. I any case, I would still strongly suggest to try to solve this without getting an Abmahnung.

  • Note that the three sick days count calendar days, so that only allows him Monday. – Martin Schröder Apr 8 at 12:47
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    No. Three calendar days means that if he gets sick on Friday, he has to see the doctor on Monday. If he gets sick on Monday, he has to see the doctor on Thursday. But as said, this is not what I would recommend anyway. – Jan Apr 8 at 14:22
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    "Many German employees can also take sick leave for up to three days without seeing the doctor." Faking an illness can be grounds for immediate termination (Fristlose Kuendigung), so yeah that sounds like a less than brilliant plan indeed. – Voo Apr 8 at 21:53
  • @Voo OP's situation causes a lot of tension and stress on him, which could/does affect his ability to work. I'd say that qualifies for a sick leave for psychological reasons. And I know there are general practitioners in Germany that certify the incapacity for work. – Arsak Apr 9 at 9:16
  • I would still be careful with this. I personally would do this only if a) I am convinced I am unfit for work, b) I am convinced I can convince my boss I am unfit for work, or c) the choice is between potential termination if I get caught and certain termination if I have no excuse for not showing up to work (e.g. after a prior formal warning). I am not sure any of these apply here, thus "not recommended". – Jan Apr 9 at 10:31

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