What can you do if you don't get a work certificate (Arbeitszeugnis) for a prolonged period of time despite reminders sent to your former employer?

I didn't leave on perfect terms - my boss bullied me, which was my reason to search for a new employment. But I didn't do anything wrong and actually had successes in my old job. Now I'm worried about not having a work certificate for it.

  • See the relevant authorities, contact the company but at a higher level, report the company to the relevant authorities...
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 8, 2019 at 6:48
  • There is no need to go to the authorities. This is fairly common. Rather than deliberately not giving you the document it is much more likely that they are swamped and consider this to be an unimportant chore. Especially if the company themselves don't really look at these documents when they interview. My last one took half a year as well, and I reminded them several times, even once in person when I was back in town after taking a job abroad. No malice there, just a company going through massive changes.
    – simbabque
    Jun 10, 2019 at 11:13

3 Answers 3


Remind your ex-employer in writing that you have a legal right to receive an Arbeitszeugnis according to §109 GewO (German, can't find an English translation) and expect to receive one until a specific date (two weeks is usually considered a reasonable time frame in such cases). If you still don't get one until that date, consult a lawyer who specializes in employment law.

By the way: It's not actually that uncommon for companies to write such certificates exactly according to what the parting employee wants in them or even let the employees write them themselves. A company has nothing to gain by fighting with an ex-employee over the content of their work certificate and the law is clearly in favor of the employee in this regard.


First you can contact HR. While your former boss might be unwilling, HR should be looking out for the good of the company and that includes not getting sued in a case that is so obvious you are in the right that the judge will be royally pissed to even be bothered with it. You are legally entitled to it. There is no wiggle room, there are no exceptions.

If that does not work, get a lawyer. There is a good chance that even the first letter with a lawyers letterhead makes the company see that they act against their best interest.

In general, if you did not leave on good terms, having a lawyer look over your Arbeitszeugnis would be a good idea anyway. If you are not working in HR yourself, it is unlikely that you can read between the lines and see the actual meaning behind all those good sounding sentences.


(Btw, if your workplace was overall good, then you should have tolerated that your boss bullied you (if he didn't do it regularly). You want the job, not his smiles! No workplace is perfect, just like also you are not perfect, tolerate these nuances, so they will also tolerate yours. In your case I had not resigned for that.)

  • They are required to give an AZ by law.
  • They are not required to give a good one.
  • Bosses hate to sign papers, particularly the ones which can cause face loss for them.
  • The real importance of the AZs on the job market is low and decreasing. But they need to exist!

Little personal conflicts will be probably forgotten later. And, what is much more important: both side, also you and also the company, will want to make the separation peaceful, or at least looking peaceful.

You have a half year to ask your AZ from them, if you did not asked a half year long, it is lost!

So don't worry. Write a mail to them, call them, that you need the AZ.

If they reject, it would be a legal case from that point, but I never heard any case that they would reject it. What is more likely: from the point that you are not working by them, the creation of your AZ becomes a low-priority, unpleasant task. This is why the delay. That you can accelerate with regularly contacting them.

Call them, explain that you need the paper, and ask them, when will it be ready. If they say so, when will it be ready, then you can ask the paper at that time, and that time you will be able to say: "You said, the paper will be ready now, where can I get it?"

A legal insurance about work (Arbeitsrechtsschutzversicherung) may be also a good idea, however I think it is unlikely that you will need it in this case. I was never needed to initiate a legal case, but I already required a consultation with a lawyer (it wasn't cheap). It was in a similar case, I wanted the AZ, but the company disappeared. Later I learned (from a different source), that they had a serious re-organization, including many lay-offs, and this is why they did not react.

P.s. the real challenge is not to get the AZs from your ex-employee. The challenge is to have such an employment history behind you, what optimizes your chances in the future.

  • Tolerate bullying ! Jun 8, 2019 at 20:20
  • @Neuromancer Clear sentences!
    – Gray Sheep
    Jun 8, 2019 at 21:05
  • The correct German term for the legal insurance is Arbeitsrechtschutzversicherung. It pays your legal fees for employment related courts and lawyers.
    – simbabque
    Jun 10, 2019 at 11:11
  • 1
    A regular Rechtsschutzversicherung will usually not pay for work related cases. They are for criminal stuff, or something like your dog biting someone and they going to court to claim damages (where your Haftpflichtversicherung pays for the actual damage later, but the Rechtsschutz) pays for your lawyer. The third such insurance is Verkehrsrechtsschutzversicherung, which is specifically for car-related incidents that go to court. Again, the normal one does not cover those, just like your liability insurance doesn't cover you hitting people with a car, but the car insurance does.
    – simbabque
    Jun 16, 2019 at 20:43
  • 2
    No, it's never acceptable to be bullied at your workplace. No matter to what degree.
    – Hans1984
    Jun 17, 2019 at 11:14

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