In order to protect employees, fixed-term employment contracts are only legally permissible under certain conditions. This is intended to prevent employers from hiring their employees on fixed-term contracts more than once and not giving them a permanent employment contract combined with a regulated protection against lay-offs. However, in order to do justice to the general conditions in scientific education, there is a special regulation for scientists and scholars - the law on fixed-term employment contracts in science (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz, WissZeitVG).
The WissZeitVG does justice to the fact that young scientists should be given the opportunity to carry out a variety of research activities during their scientific education and to qualify themselves in various projects. At the same time, a rotation of the workforce needs to be guaranteed, which goes hand in hand with the training of young scientists.
At a German research institution researchers are generally allowed to be employed with a limited contract for a maximum of 12 years (medicine: 15 years), a maximum of 6 years before the doctorate. If the doctorate is successfully completed earlier before 6 years of employment, "unused years" before the doctorate can be added to the 6 years after the doctorate (so-called saved doctoral periods). All temporary employment contracts, employment contracts and private service contracts with more than a quarter of the working time of a full-time employee at a German university or research institution will be counted towards the 12-year period. Attention: Scholarships will not be credited to the 6 years prior to the doctorate, but they will be credited when determining saved doctoral periods! In the same way, doctoral periods without an employment contract or scholarship can be credited when determining the saved doctoral periods!
A fixed-term contract within the 12 years is only possible if the reseracher is in his or her scientific qualification phase. Scientific qualification is understood to mean obtaining a doctorate or habilitation, as well as other scientific qualifications (learning of research methods, further qualification in teaching, etc.) The time limit must correspond to the achievement of the qualification goal, which must therefore also be specified in the contract.
Third-party funded research projects will not be credited to the 12 years, since the time limit in these cases is determined by the project duration - a new qualification goal must, however, also be given here.
Exemptions and renewal possibilities
The WissZeitVG also provides reasons for extending contracts within 6 or 12 years:
- The care of your own children, stepchildren or foster children (one extension per child by 2 years)
- A disability or chronic illness (an extension of 2 years)
UPDATE: Existing employment relationships between 1 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 can be extended by an additional 6 months. More information (in German).
Fixed-term contracts in higher education
(Information guide by "The German Trade Union for Education and Research"
- The Act on Fixed-Term Employment Contracts in Science (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz - WissZeitVG) in the version of the First Act to Amend the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz of 11 March 2016 (BGBl. I p. 442) (in German)
- Additional Information on the academic employment law (WissZeitVG).
→ For the calculation of your qualification times, researchers at HHU contact their respective contact person in the HR Department of HHU (D3.1).