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Shortened notice period during probationary period requires clear language

German law allows a short notice period of two weeks during a probationary period, which can be agreed for up to six months. However, if the employment contract generally provides for a longer notice period, without making clear that this longer notice period only applies after the end of the probationary period, that longer notice period will also apply during the probationary period. Following this judgment by the Federal Labour Court dated 23 March 2017 (docket number: 6 AZR 705/15), employment contracts should therefore clearly specify the circumstances under which an extended notice period shall apply.

In this case, the employee had worked as a flight attendant for the employer since April 2014. Sec. 3 of his employment contract specified that the first six months of the employment relationship was a probationary period. Sec. 8 of the contract included a notice period of six weeks to the end of the month, without distinguishing between employment during and after the probationary period. The employer issued a dismissal letter on 5 September 2014, providing for a termination date of 20 September 2014. The employee subsequently successfully challenged the dismissal, which therefore only became effective on 31 October 2104.