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Minimum wages and workers’ rights around the world, Part 1.

Here’s another series of articles – this time on minimum wages and workers’ rights in the countries you ask about most. In the first part, we look at what the purpose of the minimum wage actually is, and what workers’ rights you might encounter. We will then focus on specific areas – Europe, the European Union and Germany.

8 minutes of reading

Read the following two parts:

In the second part we look at our neighbour Austria, which attracts thousands of Czech workers. But we also look at the United States and its virtually non-existent workers’ rights. Finally, we’ll give you some advice on what to look out for when looking for work abroad.

In part three, we’ll look at two European countries – Slovakia and Switzerland. Finally, we’ll look at which countries offer the highest and lowest wages in the world.

Chapters of the article

Purpose and amount of the minimum wage

Theminimum wage is the minimum amount that every worker should receive for their work. This amount is set by the state and must be respected by every employer. However, not all states have a minimum wage. In particular, countries with a capitalist-based economy and a very free market leave the “invisible hand of the market” without much restriction, even including a minimum wage.

The minimum wage is therefore a way of protecting workers. It is intended to ensure that it covers basic expenses such as housing, food, etc. At the same time, however, it also has an incentive function – it is supposed to motivate people to work, because they will receive more for their work than they would if they received various social assistance benefits.

In the Czech Republic, and in many other countries, the minimum wage is set as the equivalent of a 40-hour working day. It is also regularly changed (increased) to better reflect the cost of living and the overall market situation. In 2024, the Czech minimum monthly wage is set at CZK 18 900 and the hourly wage at CZK 112.50.

Tip: If you are interested in more information about how the minimum wage is set and what it is for in the Czech Republic, then you should not miss our next article.

What other employee rights we may encounter

In addition to the minimum wage, you may also encounter other workers’ rights, both here and abroad. However, these rights will often vary significantly from country to country. Again, you will encounter more limited rights in capitalist free economies, while in more socially based countries, rights will be better. But perhaps only in appearance. For the law is one thing, practice is another. In some countries, social rights are enshrined in collective agreements rather than in law. It is therefore necessary not to make superficial comparisons in detail. Here, however, we give an overview of what is visible.

The most common employee rights include:

  • Determination of maximum working hours and overtime: you will usually encounter restrictions on the length of working hours. For example, to a maximum of 12 hours per day. Related to this is the regulation of overtime – these can usually only be requested for serious reasons, must be paid and often with a premium.
  • Paid leave: welfare states used to have mandatory paid leave for employees. Whether it is the classic annual leave (4 weeks in our case), maternity leave, parental leave or other types of leave.
  • Employee Representation: welfare state laws may also require the presence of various works councils or unions to represent the interests of employees when dealing with employers.
  • Health and safety regulations: You will encounter these rules almost everywhere. These are various regulations designed to ensure that workplaces are safe. This can include various mandatory safety training (such as our OHS), various standards for work equipment, ventilation or handling of hazardous materials.

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  • Job security: laws usually protect employees from arbitrary dismissal. This often means that employees can only be dismissed for reasons specified by law, or a severance payment is also provided.
  • Equal opportunity and non-discrimination: Many state laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of factors such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability and promote equal opportunity for all workers.
  • Social insurance: Welfare states tend to have very robust social insurance systems. Thus, employees have various types of support in adverse life situations such as unemployment benefits, old-age and disability pens ions, etc.
  • Training and education programmes: Some welfare states also invest in programmes to improve the skills and education of workers.

Minimum wage – EU

Despite what many people think, the EU does not set a mandatory minimum wage. As a result, you may come across Member States that do not have a minimum wage at all, such as Italy or Denmark. However, the minimum wage in Europe is generally a fairly well-established principle and most countries have a mandatory minimum wage. Similarly, European countries lead the ranking of highest minimum wages.

The fact that the EU does not have a mandatory minimum wage does not mean that other workers’ rights are not established. European labour law regulates working conditions and workers’ rights to information and consultation. If you work within EU countries, you have the right to:

  • paid leave of at least four weeks per year;
  • limited working hours of 48 hours per week;
  • 14 weeks of maternity leave and 4 months of parental leave for each parent;
  • compulsory working breaks and other arrangements for special types of work (such as shift work or night work).

European labour law also includes requirements for occupational safety standards and protection of vulnerable groups of workers (such as pregnant women, children, etc.). Equality and equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or religion, is also a major issue. There is also an emphasis on labour mobility between EU countries.

Tip: Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace? Want to file a lawsuit and not sure if you will win? We will assess your chances of success in court and suggest a solution that will lead to the desired outcome.

Minimum wage – Germany

Germany has a legal minimum wage. However, this is a fairly new thing, having only been introduced in 2015. Like here, it is regularly increased to take account of inflation and the cost of living. The increase took place on 1 January 2024 and so the minimum hourly wage in Germany is currently set at €12.41. This amounts to EUR 2 151 per month for a 40-hour working week.

The minimum wage in Germany applies to both German residents and foreign workers. However, there are exceptions in the form of trainees, apprentices, the long-term unemployed and certain sectors where higher minimum wages are set by collective agreements.

Tip: Working abroad usually involves finding a place to live. Learn how to rent a house abroad.

Other employee rights

In addition to the minimum wage, Germany also provides for overtime pay, which should be one and a half times the normal wage. People working at night are also entitled to extra pay or time off in lieu. Night work is considered to be working between 11pm and 6am in Germany. On the other hand, it is not compulsory in Germany to provide extra pay for working at weekends and on public holidays. What is compulsory, however, is a compensatory day off.

The maximum working time is set at 48 hours per week. In most cases, however, you will encounter 40-hour working hours. Everyone is legally entitled to 24 days of paid time off, but it is common practice for companies to offer 30 days. Parents are entitled to up to three years’ parental leave. As for the probationary period, this is set at 3-6 months, depending on the nature of the work. During this period, the employee can be dismissed with two weeks’ notice.

Tip: Did you get fired from your job? We’ll make sure you get everything you’re entitled to. We can help you defend yourself against your employer. We will offer a solution in as little as two days, nationwide.

What it’s like to work in Germany

As part of the EU, Germany has freedom of movement and labour. You don’t need a visa or permit to work here. Another big advantage is that most qualifications (e.g. degrees, retraining, etc.) are accepted in Germany.

Read the following two parts:

In the second part we look at our neighbour Austria, which attracts thousands of Czech workers. But we also look at the United States and its virtually non-existent workers’ rights. Finally, we’ll give you some advice on what to look out for when looking for work abroad.

In the third part, we will focus on two European countries – Slovakia and Switzerland. Finally, we’ll look at which countries offer the highest and lowest wages in the world.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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