I'm working as a student research assistant (HiWi) at a research group in a German university. My job is based on hours and it's mainly programming. In my contract I have to work 20 hours a month. Since I can work anywhere, then I usually work at home. Also things are so flexible, so some days I work 5 hours a day and other times 2 hours a day. My supervisor trusts me, so basically I just tell him how many hours I worked a month or so. Because sometimes I work less hours in one month but then I have to compensate for it in the next month.

However, when I'm counting my working hours I usually don't count the days where we have vacations. If you divide 20 hours by the days of the month then I would usually need to work 1 hour everyday. So if I was working in a normal job, then I would have that day off. But because of the flexible way of the job, then I'm not sure if I should subtract that time-per-day vacation time from my official working hours.

Does anyone know if HiWis in Germany are subject to vacations? Or should we work the full working hours mentioned in our contracts regardless of how many vacations are there in the contract?!

Edit: yeah I know that I can ask my supervisor, but I don't want to open such a dialogue now with him. I know that HiWi contracts are standard in Germany so I guess any professor or postdoc in a German Uni here can answer this :)

2 Answers 2


Student research assistants in Germany (studentische Hilfskraft, or HiWis) are paid according to a fixed number of hours per week worked throughout the semester. They are therefore expected to complete a set number of hours over the course of the semester.

In principle, HiWis should work the same number of hours every week. However, at many universities, the contract only says that HiWis are paid the same amount each month, with no further subdivision demanded. The factor (at my university) is 4.348 weeks per month. So the number of hours expected to be worked in principle does not depend on the presence of holidays.

With respect to vacations, HiWis are allowed the fraction of time proportional to what a full-time employee would earn. If you worked 8 hours per week, you would be entitled to one-fifth of what a full-time employee earned in vacation time per year (roughly 3 hours per month).

(It should be noted that there has also been discussion that HiWis should not try to concentrate their workload too much, as there is the possibility that by doing so, they may work too many hours in too short a period, in which case in principle their income would become taxable under German law.)

  • Okay then that means there is no holiday for us .... oh no :(
    – Jack Twain
    May 25, 2015 at 22:00
  • 2
    The concepts of "paid hourly" and "vacation days" are rather orthogonal to one another.
    – aeismail
    May 25, 2015 at 22:25
  • @JackTwain, yes, there is!
    – henning
    May 26, 2015 at 9:09
  • @JackTwain: I was incorrectly conflating Urlauben and Feiertage. The former count; the latter do not.
    – aeismail
    May 26, 2015 at 9:36
  • that's right. Feiertage (bank holidays) only count when you have contractually fixed work-days and the bank holiday coincides with one of those. For example, if you work on Wednesdays and the first of May (labour day) is on a Wednesday, you have a day off. (But try to explain to your boss that you are not obliged to make up for «lost» working time…)
    – henning
    May 26, 2015 at 14:51

On your first question: Yes, research assistants (studentische Hilfskräfte) in Germany are legally entitled to vacation. The number of vacation days varies by region, in particular it depends on whether or not they are covered by a collective labour agreement (Tarifvertrag). Thus, in Berlin, there are 31 days, whereas in the remaining states (Länder) the legal minimum of 24 days per year applies. Have a look at your contract!

On your second, implicit question:

I'm not sure if I should subtract that time-per-day vacation time from my official working hours.

The fact that you are entitled to holiday does not mean that you can take a week off whenever you like. Typically, you have to hand in a formal application for leave. That means you can't simply deduce the vacation form your working hours without prior notice. The procedure depends on your local administration. If you don't want to bother your supervisor, ask her secretary.

You may also ask your local student board (AStA) for more information.

If you speak German, have a look at this trade union brochure: https://www.gew.de/studium/studium-und-job/

  • The link is dead as of now. Repair URL and add the title of the document such that the reader has a higher chance to find it in the future even if the URL changes again.
    – Leon Meier
    Dec 16, 2017 at 16:52
  • @Leon Meier updated, thanks for the hint (but I don't think retaliatory downvotes help much).
    – henning
    Dec 16, 2017 at 17:02
  • Nothing retaliatory, since before the update, the quality was low due to the reasons mentioned above. If you add the document title to the URL, I'll remove the downvote.
    – Leon Meier
    Dec 16, 2017 at 21:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .