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Today is Friday. I would like to give my notice by the end of this month (Monday) as the notice period only starts from the end of the month in which it is given. If I am too late it could add an extra month which I would like to avoid.

Unfortunately I doubt that anyone from HR will be at the office this month still which means I won't be able to hand it in in person. It's also already too late to send it via mail since they wouldn't be able to read it at the office, even if it arrived on time.

According to German law I can't quit via E-Mail / Fax so what other options do I have? It seems a bit unfair considering I want to quit on time but I can't.


Extra details:

My contract does not specify any rules for the termination process besides the notice period.

I can bring the letter there myself but no one from HR would be able to read it or acknowledge receiving it.


Update:

Today I quit my job. I scheduled a meeting with HR and told them I'd like to leave at the end of my notice period. They took it well and right after the meeting I sent them a scan of my resignation and asked for a confirmation, which I promptly received. I then handed the original copy to someone that will hand it over to HR.

I never expected this to go badly to begin with but I wanted to be on the safe side legally. I'm usually pretty paranoid about these things...

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  • @LaintalAy I have read in a lot of articles that it doesn't matter when the letter arrived. Only when it could have been acknowledged. I'd just like to be sure. – GeologicalWren Nov 27 '20 at 11:15
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    @GeologicalWren This may sound naive, but have you tried calling/contacting your employer? Sure, you would have to tell them that you are resigning and this might be uncomfortable, but I guess they will be notified soon enough anyways. – Jerome Reinländer Nov 27 '20 at 11:33
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    My notice period is X months, starting from the end of the current month. I was under the assumption I could just send an E-Mail but then I found out about this law. Only a paper version is recognized legally. – GeologicalWren Nov 27 '20 at 13:11
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    @GeologicalWren See this questions on law as well: Employer did not accept resignation in Germany The answerer there didn't find any rules on how a letter should be handed over. Presumably there's still someone at your company's reception who can sign for receipt of a registered letter? You also need to check what's in your contract if you haven't already. Please edit you question to confirm if your contract overrides any of the default regulations or not. – Lilienthal Nov 27 '20 at 14:21
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    sidenote: If you are worried about the notice period being to long, you could talk with your employer about a "Einvernehmliche Beendigung des Arbeitsvertrages", it is like a consensual agreement to end the employment, where you can freely agree on the specifics, like the notice period. – WorkingHard_Guy Nov 30 '20 at 9:04
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According to several online sources, you don't have to hand in the resignation letter personally in Germany, it's enough to put it in your employer's mailbox. This may, however, result in a dispute if the letter is retrieved there later and they claim it was not there by the last day of your notice period. So it is advisable to bring a witness, who ideally has seen the content of the letter with you when putting the letter in the mail. Additionally, I would send an email to HR and your manager after putting the letter in the mailbox.

Sources (in German):

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  • Quite right. Giver this, the standard approach is trivial - what I note in my answer. That's all there is to it. – Fattie Nov 27 '20 at 16:01
  • If you can put the letter directly into their box, then you could also take a timestamped photo of the letter and include it in the email. – Ben Barden Nov 27 '20 at 16:39
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    Can the same effect be achieved by just using registered mail, that will 1) provide a timestamped notice of receipt and 2) guarantee to deliver the letter by end of day on Monday? – Egor Nov 27 '20 at 20:12
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    @Egor: yes, but you have to trust that the mail will be delivered by Monday (which is not guaranteed). You also have to use the correct type of registered mail (Einwurf - Einschreiben, meaning delivery to the mailbox), otherwise taking a risk that the letter is not delivered on the same day (when no recipient available or rejected). Alternatively, use a courier service with a guaranteed delivery. In both cases, for more legal security it is advisable to have a somebody witness the contents of the letter when delivered to mail or to the courier service. – simon Nov 27 '20 at 21:11
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    @Sascha: IMHO there's no need to harrass the whole management chain on Sunday by calling + texting. Email to HR and OP's manager should be sufficient, I'd attach a copy of the letter to the email. Alternatively, OP may consider calling HR on Monday early-ish but during working hours to notify them orally so they can take care to get the letter ASAP. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 29 '20 at 12:54
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There is a type of letter delivery in Germany that is equivalent to handing it in in-person.

The "Einschreiben" https://www.deutschepost.de/de/e/einschreiben.html is a legally certified way of handing in your resignation (and all official documents for that matter). You get a legally valid receipt that you sent the letter (and that/when it was delivered).

Afaik: nobody being there to read it is their problem, not yours. In any way I'd send an Email right after the Letter, just to give them a fair chance as well.

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  • Be careful, a Einschreiben does not certify the content of the letter, also Post is known to deliver them without proof (even when requesting a „Rückschein“. It is a good idea to get a witness in addition if you fear it will be disputed. (Of course it’s unlikely some employer would dispute that as they have to pay a very unmotivated staff member for yet another period) – eckes Nov 28 '20 at 16:25
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    @eckes You do not need to prove the contents of the letter. If this ever goes to court, the judge will say "dear company, you received a letter from X on <date>. X claims its their resignation. You claim its not. I order you to produce the letter to read it myself". If the company produces the letter, its your resignation.If they don't, the judge will say "Since you can't produce the letter, i will assume X tells the truth and it was their resignation.". Thats how every single of these cases did go and will go. – Polygnome Nov 29 '20 at 10:56
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    OP mentioned that it is too late now for an Einschreiben. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 29 '20 at 12:53
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Unfortunately I doubt that anyone from HR will be at the office this month still which means I won't be able to hand it in in person.

Hand it in in person to someone other than HR (your boss, the CEO, someone at the front desk, etc). Ask for a written and dated acknowledgement from whoever accepts it.

Follow that up with an email to HR stating what you did, and where they can find your written resignation letter. Include a copy of your letter in the email for their convenience.

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    Do you have evidence that this meets the legal requirements? – Tim Nov 27 '20 at 14:22
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    @Tim doesn't matter, this will work just fine. I doubt that laws have been updated yet to reflect the Covid reality so if push comes to shove this would have to be interpreted by a court. The likelihood that a German judge would rule against an employee who has demonstrated care and due diligence are basically zero. – Hilmar Nov 27 '20 at 15:06
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    @Hilmar do you have evidence of the leniency of judges, given that the rules here (ie no email) already seem very strict? I don’t like the idea of gambling a month of someone’s live on “basically 0”, especially with no proof. – Tim Nov 27 '20 at 15:08
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    @JoeStrazzere that’s not how answers on this site work. We provide evidence for our claims, rather than waiting on evidence against them. – Tim Nov 27 '20 at 19:14
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Lilienthal Nov 29 '20 at 20:43
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I think you need to consider why a German company won’t accept an email as resignation. They won’t accept it because the law, not their contract with you, says it’s not effective unless it is on paper. They aren’t trying to trap you into working longer or somehow enslave you, they legally can NOT consider an email as a resignation.

Why do they care about the law in this, since you wouldn’t be showing up for work and should be happily working elsewhere? No harm, no foul, right? That might works if everyone is above board, but a dishonest person could resign, wait a year, and then file suit for back wages, and the court will look at the law and the law says that person still works for that company. The contract wasn’t properly terminated and was still in effect. And there could be further complications even with out a dishonest person involved. Workers compensation for instance, what if the worker dies while working, whose insurance pays and how much?

In short, for the companies own legal protection, they need a piece of paper with your resignation on it. Sine the law doesn’t say it has to be received by someone with a particular title or working in a particular department, the company doesn’t care about that as it doesn’t effect their legal liability.

Either use a same day delivery service that can be used as proof delivery, or turn it in by hand to someone that can make sure it eventually gets to the right person. Either will do, the company isn’t trying to prevent you from departing, it is trying to obey the law and reduce their liability.

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  • > They won’t accept it because the law, not their contract with you, says it’s not effective unless it is on paper This is simply not true, resignations don't need to be on paper. The only reason people use paper and "Einschreiben" is to cover their asses if a dispute arises. There is no law prohibiting an oral resignation that goes like this: "Hey boss, I quit", boss: "kthxbye". – technical_difficulty Nov 29 '20 at 0:38
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    @technical_difficulty: gesetze-im-internet.de/bgb/__623.html "Die Beendigung von Arbeitsverhältnissen durch Kündigung oder Auflösungsvertrag bedürfen zu ihrer Wirksamkeit der Schriftform" – A. Rex Nov 29 '20 at 9:00
  • ... "; die elektronische Form ist ausgeschlossen." – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 30 '20 at 15:45
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I'm not a lawyer so I cannot answer your specific question but I can offer you a practical way to move forward.

Focus on reducing the risk as much as you can.

  1. See Simons answer to get the highest chance on having it legally save handed in this month. I recommend to include the exact cancellation date in your letter.

  2. Use other ways to move forward with your cancellation. I would write an email today to HR and your supervisor and informing them what you like to quit and how you handed in the official letter.

On Monday I would call HR and/or your supervisor if they have received your cancellation. Don't ask for the letter itself or start a discussion of your timing, ask for the cancellation in general.

There are 3 options from here:

  1. If they say yes, you should be good. Ask for a confirmation.
  2. They say they need the letter: Ask them to look at the mailbox or wherever the letter is. If they refuse, ask them how you can hand it in today (Monday in this case)
  3. They tell you, that you are already too late. Answer, that you think it is still on time, but if they like to discuss this matter without involving lawyers. Nobody, including most companies, likes the effort for law fights and they know that employees that already have cancelled are not the most efficient workers, will call in sick anyway or worst case demotivate their team.

If you are not able to reach anybody to talk about your cancellation. Write down what you have tried. A lawyer might use this later in your favor. Try the next day, document it and so on.

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The most secure way for legal letters is the "Zustellung durch Gerichtsvollzieher", in English "Delivery by court bailiff". You need to find out if the one, responsible for the location of your company, can deliver it on Monday.

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  • That linked page says "usually 2 weeks" for delivery. I would suspect that it would be quite unusual to have it delivered on the same day, unless they are just sitting idle. – Paŭlo Ebermann Nov 28 '20 at 23:01
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    While technically correct, this answer would certainly gain from a hint that this delivery mode is total overkill here. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 29 '20 at 13:28
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If the German labour laws regarding resignation are similar to Dutch law (and as far as I can tell it is), then the law does not actually require that your resignation is delivered in hardcopy on paper, but rather that it bears your legal signature.

I was in a similar position last month and agreed with my employer to send a scan of the signed resignation letter by email to them. In that email I also asked for a confirmation that they received it.

That would satisfy the legal requirement of a signature, combined with having same-day delivery.

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  • The German variety says "electronic form is excluded", though (gesetze-im-internet.de/bgb/__623.html). And that leaves only original signatures done by "OP's own hand". – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 30 '20 at 15:43
  • @cbeleitesunhappywithSX, the Dutch law also requires a signature done by "OP's own hand", but that does not preclude scanning/photographing the signed document and sending that by email. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Nov 30 '20 at 15:49
  • Scan/email (or fax) alone do not count since they are considered copies with only the copy of a signature. We do that as a practical "add-on" e.g. emailing the scan together with the info that the paper version is in the letter box. HR then acknowledging. I guess a printout could be "validated" by OP placing an original handwritten signature on the printout. When written form is only contractually agreed (not prescribed by law), the parties to the contract can agree to deviate from their agreed form and accept email/scan/fax, even silently by acting in agreement. But here the law is strict. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 30 '20 at 15:58
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I think the best would be by certified mail that provided a guarantee of the content of the letter. Not sure how is that service named in Germany or how many companies provide it, I looked for some options below. You still might be in time to do this, but purchasing it on Saturday and having it delivered next-day (Monday). (With an higher cost that a regular letter, of course)

Please note that it shouldn't matter when HR read the letter, just when it was delivered to the company. Otherwise, a company could keep a set of enslaved tricked employees unable to quit by just refusing to read them, with the unopened envelopes piled on HR office.

It would only need to be accepted by the company (is a janitor there tasked to receive mail, perhaps?).

Also, I would expect that, as long as HR would reply to your email acknowledging receiving your resignation, it would be valid (and surely, the notice period may be changed on mutual agreement). The issue would be if they don't, and then wanted you to work one extra month based on that technicality. I assume you expect such kind of pushback, which is more reason for using a service that not only certifies that it was delivered, but also its content.

Looking at companies providing delivery services in Germany I found:

Deutsche Post has a PRIO service where they would usually have it delivered the next working day (if posted on the same branch, which shouldn't be a problem for you). For registered mail they have a different service. You would probably want a combination of them.

DHL website offers hand delivery. It lets me schedule a shipment sending it on November 28, with an estimated delivery by 30 November (to the same city). That should be booked before November 28, 1:00 pm and it being picked up up to 2:30 pm. They also have several options if you want it delivered in the morning.

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  • Yes, notice period has some contractual freedom in Germany. Hand delivery/registered mail with signature may backfire here: for registered mail to the letterbox (Einwurfeinschreiben, you get proof of the letter being put in the box at $date), the legal received date is the next working day of the business. If the postie with registered mail with signature doesn't meet anyone, they'll leave a notice in the letterbox and someone has to collect the letter at the post office (not before next day) and it won't count as received before that, so potentially later than the Einwurfeinschreiben. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Nov 29 '20 at 13:35
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Yet another idea is simply:

  1. Walk to the office and put it on the reception desk, or, if there's literally no one there, through the mail slot.

  2. Using phone, take a photo of it on the reception desk, or, going in the mail slot.

  3. At that moment, using phone, send the following email. CC everyone (owners, HR, managers, colleagues, receptionists): (obviously, in German :) )

Dear team, At 14:27 on Friday I am serving my paper letter of resignation. Notice is served. This image shows it is served on physical paper at 14:27. By the way, would you please note that the entire HR department has been unavailable this month: I have been trying to serve for 13 days and it has not been possible. The notice is now served at 14:27 this day. mfg, Herr Fattie.

That's it. No big deal.

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    While there's potential value in having "proof of submission", this might not be the best way to go about it, particularly the "CC everyone" aspect here. – Lilienthal Nov 27 '20 at 22:30
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    @Lilienthal especially in larger companies that could spectacularly backfire by giving you the undivided attention of a manager several levels above you who just got an unsolicited email about a matter unrelated to him in any meaningful way during his "off work time". Always only talk to the people you need to talk to (and that's usually just the supervisor and sometimes the HR) – mishan Nov 28 '20 at 17:23

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