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This is a continued story of my previous question. The essence:

  • Company is very old in the German IT market, it survived probably everything imaginable and not imaginable here.
  • It has practically no sales, only a fixed set of customers. If they have no work for us at the moment, then we have no work.
  • Currently we have for not enough work since late autumn. To prevent a foreseeable firing, I started to look for new options. After the clearly communicated wish of my direct boss to remain, I decided to cancel this escape route. Maybe I should have not.

Logic would be that I will be soon fired on some reason. To do that, the company will need to communicate a clear view about it, and there is no clearly communicated stance of the company. I think, some decision-maker will soon sit with me with the wish to decrease the legal risks of my... firing from the company.

I will have a suggestion to modify our work contract (Arbeitsvertrag) for a lesser work hours with lesser salary. That will be likely rejected (Germany likes to employ or fire someone and dislikes such half-solutions).

After that, I will want the ordinary things (good Arbeitszeugnis + more time to find my next job). He will want to defend the company from a possible suing (in Germany, not having work for someone is not a legal reason to fire him).

Note, this all is not his fault and not mine. The company is in a big reorganization (our top investor is trying to unify us with his other companies, probably not fully in agreement of the child companies).

So, these are the steps I can predict. Now I push my last commit, and from that I am without work.

What to do? I want to optimize for the best position on the talk about my leave.

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    What is your goal? To actually do work? To have an income? To retain as much employee rights as possible? Maximize any possible settlements/compensation?
    – Abigail
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 13:36
  • That is in my last sentence of the question. To work, but it seems to be impossible by this company. So I want the best position on the foreseeable talk with a boss, after one of them appears. The boss will want to fire me, but he fears the German Work Law, which is very strongly pro-employee. I want the best position on this talk. So I need to show that I worked as it was expected from me.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 13:44
  • What I did: I have wrote a mail to the boss of the boss of my boss (he was the nearest in the command chain who is not in vacation). Normally I have no direct work contact with such a heavy weight guy. The likely result will be an intent of my firing ("abbau"). He did not answer I think he won't. So question is, what should I do now.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 13:47
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    Would a "layoff" or "redundancy" be a more fitting term for the situation you expect to find yourself in? To me, "firing" an employee suggests an abrupt termination of someone who has done something really, really terrible. The kind where you are escorted out of the building, not a negotiated end of employment.
    – TooTea
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 14:47
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    Cancelling plans to escape indicates that the "position" you wish to optimize in a foreseeable talk with management is to stay with your current employer. In the previous question, however, you stated "I simply hate to do dummy work" and went on to list all the reasons you should leave. It may help to definitively decide what you want your future to be. Finding employment elsewhere and resigning without discussing it with management first remains an option.
    – traktor
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 23:38

4 Answers 4

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I'll talk a bit about your options if you stay with the company in a minute. But first things first: Your best course of action is to find a better job. Starting now. I will explain that some options of staying on board may come with a somewhat okay amount of money, but they also come with giving up control, with always waiting for the other side to make a move, with uncertainty and doubt.

Your best course of action is to take control of your (work)life and go find a better job. On your terms.

So what are your options?

They cannot fire you. Firing means they have a problem with you personally, and they want someone else to do this job. There are hurdles to this in Germany and "we don't have work for them" is not a valid reason.

They can lay you off. That means your job is no longer needed (commonly referred to as "Jobabbau") and you will not replaced by someone else. They are required to offer you a similar job at the company, if one exists. This is to close loopholes where a company "lays someone off" in Team A and then hires someone else in the same role for Team B. That is just a firing disguised as layoff and not allowed.

But your company genuinely has no work for you, so they will lay people off sooner or later. This is common after mergers, after all the merger should save overall costs and the easiest way is to let redundant people go.

They might not actually let you go though. In contrast to other countries, in Germany, the company cannot pick who they let go in a layoff. Because that would be personalized and then it would be a firing, not a layoff. Layoffs need a "Sozialplan" to determine who actually has to go. If there are ten developers, most likely the young, well educated singles need to go first. If they let the only accountant go, well, I guess the Sozialplan for one will include the one. Not much wiggle room there. But whether you will be layed off is not certain, if you have colleagues who do roughly the same job as you.

In contrast to other countries, there is no severance pay in Germany. A company can pay, whatever they want as severance, but the mandatory minimum and normal amount is zero. After all you have a notice period of multiple weeks if not months, that is enough of a safety net. You will not get extra money for getting laid off. If you have a strong union, you may get some severance pay in exchange for them keeping their lawyers out of it, but it is unlikely that you are member of a union or your company if heavily unionized if it's in IT. We tend to make enough money to not care for unions in IT.

If you get laid off, you might be able to negotiate that they pay you your full salary that you would have gotten during your notice period and let you go immediately in exchange for a signature that you will not sue them. Although suing them has basically zero chance and zero means of making you money in Germany, it would be a risk in their books and the last thing they want is risk in their books. They want to get rid of people and if they can do that by paying you what they have to pay you anyway, then all the better. Your advantage here is that you get paid for another month or two or three (depending on your notice period), but can start working in another job immediately. This is nice... but lets face it, its not exactly riches, a lot of contract signing and haggling and it's all dependent on their goodwill. They could just say "nah, we don't do that, we have a company lawyer, just sue if you feel like it". Which they know you will not do, because... the maximum you could get from them is the difference between your current salary and your new salary. Lets say you make X per month and get fired. You find a new job, where you make exactly X, too. You sue the old company and after a year in court you win. You will get damages awarded, the amount of money you lost by being fired unfairly... in this example, exactly zero, because you found a new job that makes just as much as the old one.

So bottom line: whether you get laid off is a bit of a roulette. Unless they lay of all of your colleagues in the same job, you might stay on board. Or not. If you do get laid off, you will get nothing for it. If you are smart and they are smart, you might get a month or two of salary. But that is not guaranteed at all.

So I will repeat my advice from above: unless you are in a heavyly unionized job and there is talk about severance, take action and control your own life. Finding a job will be easier if it is on your terms and without a bunch of your colleagues being laid off at the same time, looking for a job, too.

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  • Your bottom-line paragraph might be misunderstood by someone not familiar with german law. Getting laid off doesn't mean that you basically get taken off the premises by security and are without a job immediately. The notice period in the work contract goes both ways, so you are guarateed the amount of salary due for that period, unless the company goes bankrupt.
    – arne
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 16:42
  • And you are still required to work for that period of time, unless the employer puts you on (paid!) leave ("bezahlte Freistellung").
    – arne
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 16:43
  • I would tone done the 'heavily unionized' required for severance pay. I know of cases of major layoffs of software developers in the telecommunications industry where severances on the order of one annual salary where handed out to people who voluntarily left. This did include lots of people and a major social plan, but none of the software developers where in a union.
    – quarague
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 9:40
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    I don't see why the job market would consider a limited time contract that ran out your mistake, but that probably is something for another question. Please note that if they did not renew your contract, you were not "fired". "Fired" is a "personenbedingte Kündigung". If you mix those terms up in interviews as well, maybe that is the reaosn why "the market" views it negatively.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 9:51
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    @nvoigt So you had very right. The only thing what is against it: by fighting till the last shot, I could elongate my Arbeitsverhältnis to close to the average length of the employments in this industry (2-5 years). My next problem is: to get the best job offer from the applications I initiated, possibly I would need to rollback one for which I said "yes", and that is very, very, very evil.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 18:46
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I don't know much about the German workplace, but what I do know tells me that nvoigt is giving you correct and useful advice. I wrote this alternative answer only to cover something he hasn't mentioned.

Have a frank and open conversation with your boss.

Since it seems you have very little work, it's not obvious why your boss wants you to stay. Normally having someone being paid and doing no work is bad for a boss. He must have a reason for wanting you to stay. Ask him what it is. Ask him specifically what he thinks you are going to be doing in six months time.

One possibility is that there are good openings within the company that you might be reassigned to, but the company bureaucracy hasn't reached the point where they can tell you about them yet. This is especially likely given the regulations around German layoffs - they may be trying to identify places in the company where you might fit in.

Also tell him that the logical thing for you to do now is to look for another job. Ask him what he is prepared to do to persuade you to stay. Thanks to German law this conversation won't have an effect on whether you are let go or not.

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  • Ok then I only say the essence: if there is a merge, then the company management will probably want a possible high position in the hierarchy of the merged company, and this position is likely higher if they employ more people. That was their original plan, this is why they hired many of us. And then something went badly, and now the company is semi-uncontrolled and people are sitting seeing the window. (Or fight with others for the last tasks.)
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:19
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Things are black and white from what you mentioned.

It's highly likely that you are fired. At most you may get some kind of compensation as per the rule of the land. Stop everything in hand and start looking out.

The best I can think of is to spend sick leaves, and casual leaves and use them for preparation.

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    This sounds reasonable for US laws or similar jurisdictions but is not useful for Germany which is what OP asked about.
    – quarague
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 9:42
  • I have already tried to use the sick leave card (note, the outage was real. If I am sick, normally I try to come back as possible. But not now.). My direct boss (lowest level in the management but manager) has commanded me back.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:22
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Caveat: All of the following is assuming you have a healthy, open relationship with your boss. This advice may not be applicable in some cases.

Your boss asked you to stop job searching elsewhere and to remain at the company. You should, clearly and frankly, explain to your boss the situation exactly as you explained it here: Work is slow, has been slow for quite some time, and you are afraid for your job security. The boss cannot guarantee your job security, because if his boss orders him to fire someone, he will have to do so, because that's his job, and if that happens to be you, then you have a problem. You are not job hunting because you don't like him, or don't like the company, but for your own personal well-being.

Tell your boss exactly that, and be friendly but firm that this is how it is and he's not going to stop you. If you don't want to tell your boss specifically that you are job searching against his wishes, then simply raise the concern of the lack of work and impending round of layoffs and leave the conclusion open to interpretation (a smart boss will get the hint).

Then resume your job search as you were doing before.

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  • I think this answer is making assumptions which may not be correct. Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 16:15
  • Yes that is right, but: 1) in the view of my boss, nothing was communicated to me why should I try to leave. 2) He can also point to my real mistakes. I made some. 3) Enforcing him to give me some task would be like asking him to lay me off.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:27
  • You're not forcing him to give you a task, because you getting a task won't fix the issue. The issue is that the company as a whole is slowing down, meaning that the company as a whole may be doing layoffs soon, which you might get caught up in. Your boss giving you a single task to do doesn't change this landscape. Do not make the issue about your tasks or your boss; the issue is about the company as a whole, and your job security there.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 16:47

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