Having help in a private household is not uncommon in Germany and is tax-advantaged if the workers are hired privately. Approximately 3.3 million German households employ a domestic worker, which is just under 10% of all households. The need for domestic help is estimated to be much higher, but many households have difficulties finding suitable workers.
What types of domestic help are common in Germany?
In Germany, the term “domestic help” includes any work that takes place around or within one’s own four walls. By far most people look for assistance with cleaning, but private childcare (Au-pair) or homework help (private tutoring) and care for the elderly and infirm are also common. In suburban and rural areas, gardening (mostly lawn mowing), and shrub trimming are added to the list. Help with taking care of pets is also increasingly being sought.
Legally, Au-pairs and private tutors do not belong to the category of domestic help. Au-pairs are excluded as they are counted as family members and employment is usually arranged directly through an intermediary agency. It should also be noted that family members or neighbors who provide various types of assistance cannot be officially registered as workers.
Domestic workers of any kind in Germany usually live separately and not in the private household. This is primarily because most private households employ their help on an hourly basis. An exception is health care and elderly care aides, who may often live with the families in the household. Their employment may be financially supported by the health insurance of the person to be cared for, and depends upon the degree of care that is required as well as the severity of the condition of their patient.
The average numbers of working hours for the worker is about 3 to 4 hours per week. The hourly minimum wage in Germany is €12.00. At standard rates this normally puts the amount paid per month in the mini-job category of less than €520 per month (more information on mini-jobs is further down in this article).
How to find a domestic help?
Finding a suitable housekeeper or other types of domestic help in Germany is not that easy. Depending on your needs, there are two main options:
1) A domestic helper can be hired through a cleaning service. This is especially recommended for sporadic or one-time use of services.
The possibility of booking domestic help by the hour through a cleaning service is prevalent mainly in cities and metropolitan areas. Many households use this type of service for specific activities such as window cleaning or a private party. For these specific activities, there are usually smaller local providers.
The domestic worker is normally directly employed by the cleaning service or works as a self-employed person. In general, a cleaning company is recommended mainly for sporadic needs, as the service can be used quickly and at short notice. However, a cleaning service is usually more expensive than private employment and due to the assignment of different workers, it can be difficult to develop a trustful relationship with specific individual. Having a good relationship based on mutual trust is particularly important to many employers because that worker will essentially be invited into their private household to carry out their duties.
2) Private employment is recommended if you want to use household help regularly or if a trusting working relationship is important to you.
Private employment, on the other hand, certainly involves a more time-consuming search. But the working relationship is then also usually more long-lasting and trusting. Many people still rely on family, friends, and their immediate surroundings for their search, i.e., local newspapers and notices on bulletin boards.
Online job placement platforms can also be helpful. A distinction must be made between general platforms, where it is possible to search for domestic helpers in a particular geographical area, and platforms that specialize in the respective area of activity. Large general platforms with prospects of success in this area in Germany are Ebay Kleinanzeigen and Indeed. On these platforms it is possible to search for mini-jobs in local private households. In the area of specialized job placement for household help, Betreut.de and Putzperle.de are larger providers for any form of help in and around the home. ErsteKinderbetreuung.de specializes in helping people find childcare. Some specialized portals are free of charge, while general platforms can mostly be used for free as private individuals.
What does the employment relationship look like?
If you want to hire a domestic worker, the rights and obligations of both the employer and employee also apply in the private household. The registration and reporting with regards to the tax and labor authorities can be partially simplified. But, benefits such as continued payment of salaries in case of illness or entitlement to vacation must also be granted in a private employment relationship. The details should be recorded in an employment contract, which gives both sides security. go-quitt.de offers an all-round package in English and German that includes the registration with authorities, a sample employment contract, a vacation calculator, and a download area for other useful documents.
In line with the average workload, most employment relationships in private households are based on so-called mini-jobs, as already mentioned above. Employment is considered a mini-job if the salary is a maximum of €520 per month. A salary between €520 and €2,000 is a midi-job, and a salary above €2,000 is referred to as a “normal employment relationship”. By far the most common employment in private households are mini-jobs.
Mini-jobs and Midi-jobs
Mini-jobs in private households
It is important to understand the difference between mini-jobs in the business and private sectors. Mini-jobs in the private sector often offer certain advantages when filing tax returns. They are not only favored in regards to the tax return, but also generally much more affordable than midi-jobs or normal employment relationships.
In a mini-job, the employee pays a maximum of 13.6% in pension contributions if he or she decides to pay voluntary pension contributions. Otherwise, the gross salary is equal to the net salary. The costs for the employer are also kept very low in the mini-job model. The employer pays 5% health insurance contribution and pension insurance as well as about 1.9% for the insurance in case of illness, accident or maternity and a 2% so-called flat tax (Pauschsteuer) for the employee. However, 20% (up to a maximum €510 per year) of the total employer costs can be refunded at the end of the year when included on the income tax return. As a result the official employment costs almost nothing or very little.
Hiring a domestic worker as a midi-jobber or normal employee is not only more costly (despite the tax advantages that may be available), but also much more time-consuming. The employer must first apply for an operating number (German: Betriebsnummer) and then register the employee individually with the respective health insurance fund, the tax office, and accident insurance. The employee’s salary will then be taxed conventionally with the amount of the taxes depending on the tax class. The employer pays contributions for health insurance, pension, accident, and unemployment insurance as well as contributions for coverage in case of illness or maternity leave.
Compared to a normal employment of more than €2,000 €, the midi-job operates according to a sliding scale. This means that in this form of employment all the employee costs increase only gradually up to €2,000. This makes for a smooth transition between a mini-job, with hardly any or no deductions, and a midi-job.
What is a usual salary for my household help?
In the case of private employment, you and the worker can negotiate a mutually acceptable salary. Salary for household help in Germany is mostly paid on an hourly basis. The legally binding minimum wage per hour is €12.
However, the actual salary is often dependent on the place of residence and should be adjusted according to the corresponding cost of living for that particular area. In general, the hourly wage for a domestic worker should be between €12 and €20. In the case of a mini-job, food and accommodation are not included in the income, but bonus payments such as Christmas bonuses or a vacation allowance are added to the maximum salary of €6,250 annually.
How can I register my domestic help?
If you decide to hire a private domestic worker, you should officially employ this person by properly registering them. In Germany, many people work illegally in private households. This is not only legally actionable, but can also cause other serious problems for both the workers and those who hire them.
For example, there could well be serious issues with liability or accident insurance. If there is an accident or injury involving an illegal worker, an insurance company may not accept and pay out any claims made by the employer. In case of illness of the illegal employee, the employer may not pay the worker or the employer may continue paying the worker privately without receiving any work performance in return.
Unfortunately, despite the advantages for both the employee and employer, it is often the worker who does not want to be officially registered. Domestic workers are sometimes wary of the bureaucratic effort to become legally registered or they may think that there are costly salary deductions. They may be unaware of the dangers, but they also may not be aware of the many advantages of registration. Registering an employee legally is beneficial to both workers and their employees.
The German government takes the rights and obligations of both workers and employers very seriously and over the past years have developed programs to enable the legal employment of workers – both part-time and full-time – in such a way that brings considerable advantages for both sides.
Domestic helpers earning less than €520 per month must be registered with the German Minijob-Zentrale. The registration of a domestic help at the Minijob-Zentrale is possible online, but unfortunately only available in German. quitt Deutschland GmbH offers digital services in English to aid in the proper registration of workers with the Minijob-Zentrale as well as the administration of various other services important to domestic help universe.
Article contributed by go-quitt.de. With quitt you can easily create a fair and legal working relationship in private households. quitt Germany is currently offer a €10 signup bonus. Use the code: HowToGermany