I know that the topic of stufe for "TV-L 13" contracts in German universities has been discussed several times, but I was not able to find the answer to my question. I am offered a post-doc position with salary level "TV-L 13". I have a 3 year PhD and 3.5 year research experience. However, the administration wants to put me on stufe 1. They argue that although my experience is relevant for the current position, the type of contracts that I had are not suitable. Is TVL experience really dependent on the type of contract rather than the actual tasks performed? Also if you managed to successfully argue for inclusion of you PhD as experience, how did you argue for that?

I understand that they base it on the following document (I used google translator so only roughly understand that point):

Liegen die im Weiteren erläuterten Merkmale vor, findet zwingend eine Anrechnung statt: Berufliche Erfahrungen setzen das Bestehen eines Arbeitsverhältnisses voraus (im Umfang von mind. 25 v.H. einer Vollbeschäftigung). Ausbildungszeiten, Volontariate, Praktika (mit Ausnahme eines Anerkennungspraktikums i.S. des Tarifvertrages), Stipendien, Werkverträge, freie Dienstvertrags- oder sonstige Vertragsverhältnisse können nicht als berufliche Erfahrungen angerechnet werden. Eine einschlägige Berufserfahrung liegt nur vor, wenn die frühere, prägende Tätigkeit im Wesentlichen unverändert fortgesetzt wird. Ausreichend kann auch eine gleiche oder gleichartige Tätigkeit sein, sofern sie in der Wertigkeit der jetzigen Eingruppierung entspricht. Maßgeblich ist das für die frühere Tätigkeit nötige Wissen und Können und die dort erworbenen Kenntnisse und Erfahrungen als prägende Elemente auch für die neue Tätigkeit. Beide Tätigkeiten (konkrete Aufgabenstellung) müssen nach Aufgabenzuschnitt und Niveau gleichartig sein. Liegen die vorgenannten Voraussetzungen vor, ist des Weiteren nach der "Herkunft" der beruflichen Vorerfahrung zu differenzieren - Zeiten bei anderen Arbeitgebern dürfen auf dieser Ebene grds. nur bis zur Stufe 3 (!) angerechnet werden. Die nicht zwingend anzurechnenden Zeiten können aber als förderliche Zeiten anerkannt werden, dazu s. u.. Zu den vorgenannten Tatbestandsmerkmalen ist die Sonderregelung im Hochschulbereich zu beachten: Zeiten mit einschlägiger Berufserfahrung an Hochschulen oder außeruniversitären Forschungseinrichtungen werden bei Beschäftigten der Entgeltgruppen 13 bis 15 grundsätzlich anerkannt; bei Beschäftigten der Entgeltgruppen 9 bis 12 dann, wenn sie im Rahmen der Planung, Vorbereitung, Durchführung, Aus- und / oder Bewertung von wissenschaftlichen Vorhaben einen wesentlichen Beitrag leisten.

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    To make it more weird, I have previously worked for the same university on a short postdoc project and they don't want to recognize even that experience claiming that it was stipend based. All other positions were done outside of German system. – Jakub Feb 7 '17 at 15:26
  • Can you specify what type of contract you had earlier? That's important for your particular situation, since TV-L experience indeed depends on the type of contract. A stipend won't count in any case because it's not an "Arbeitsverhältnis" (you were not an employee). – lighthouse keeper Feb 7 '17 at 15:37
  • There were 4 contracts in total: employee (research fellow), employee (collaborative researcher), stipend and contract for service. PhD was scholarship based. – Jakub Feb 7 '17 at 15:59
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    Be aware that this might actually be a university-wide cost-cutting gambit (i.e., backed by a directive from higher up to never hire above Stufe 1), which sounds likely if they don't even recognize their own contracts. In that case arguing with the administration will not be productive; only the person hiring you might(!) have some leverage. If you feel strongly about it, you could make your accepting the offer conditional on getting Stufe 2, and if they feel strongly enough about you, they could put pressure on the administration. (Not that I would recommend that.) – Christian Clason Feb 7 '17 at 16:18
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    Apparently my institute is quite generous going from the other comment thread, but counting the years of experience before starting a PhD is never an option. Also they default to limiting the years of foreign PhD experience to 3, the same as a nominal German PhD. – VonBeche Feb 7 '17 at 18:51

Since universities are governed by state law, it matters which state this is in. In general, you should be hired at Stufe 2 if

  • you have been employed (i.e., not receiving a stipend or contracted to provide a specific service)

  • for at least a full year (this can be on multiple contracts, though)

  • in a similar capacity as the position for which you are to be hired (i.e., after your PhD at a German university, research institute, or comparable institution)

  • within 18 months (i.e., there should not have been a cumulated break of more than 18 months between these employments, including ineligible forms such as stipends and service contracts).

(If you have more than three years of eligible employment, you are entitled to Stufe 3, but that is usually hard to get.)

Things are a bit more complicated since there is a wider catalog of förderliche Zeiten ("beneficial time") which the university may recognize (but usually don't to save money, sometimes categorically as in Berlin). This includes the more prestigious stipends or scholarships such as DAAD or Humboldt fellowships. This is not something you can argue for, though, but the hiring person needs to apply for with the administration if they believe they have to offer it in order to attract a specific desirable candidate.

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    In my experience they count the years from the start of your PhD. This would mean that most postdocs are hired at Stufe 3. They sometimes Germanize the starting date though, starting your experience at defense date minus 3 years. – VonBeche Feb 7 '17 at 18:00
  • Thanks Christian for the information about förderliche Zeiten as I was not aware of it. The professor does agree with me, but it seems she does not know all the regulations. I will mention this to her as it might help with negotiations with administration. – Jakub Feb 7 '17 at 18:20
  • @Christian is it always limited to the period after PhD? I thought that even PhD students can have "TV-L 13". I worked as a doctoral research fellow before starting PhD at another institution. – Jakub Feb 7 '17 at 18:33
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    @Jakub You have to differentiate "einschlägig" (whose recognition is mandatory) and "förderlich" (whose is optional). The former covers only those work experiences which are basically identical to those required for the new job (and this is not directly related to the TV-L scale -- after all, you could have had an administrative E13 position). Arguably, the experience of a postdoc is very different from that of a PhD student. The years as a PhD student could be counted as "förderlich", but that is at the university's discretion, and different universities handle this differently. – Christian Clason Feb 7 '17 at 18:41
  • In my case there is not that much difference between PhD and postdoc work that I am doing. The main reason is that I already had a decent amount of research experience when I formally started PhD. As a result during my PhD I was supporting less experienced PhD students and conducted most of my research independently in another country. That has been also acknowledged by my supervisor. Sadly, it is the same degree irrespective of how you obtain it, which means that it is the university's discretion whether they recognize it and by default they are not accepting it. – Jakub Feb 7 '17 at 22:30

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