Remuneration for unpaid trainees

Often, professional education requires training on the job, whether only for a couple of weeks or even for a couple of months. This is often welcomed by the companies as the trainees are already well qualified and tend to accept the responsibilities of employees after a short orientation, but receive little to no remuneration. Companies should be aware of the fact, though, that the trainees might legally be entitled to much higher remuneration depending on the work performed.


On 10 February 2015, the Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht, BAG) once again decided, that even if the trainee agreed to an unpaid placement, he may be entitled to average remuneration if he performs higher qualified work than expected during the placement (docket number 9 AZR 289/13). A trainee completed training on the job that was supposed to be unpaid according to the official training regulations. The employer assigned tasks to the trainee that were comparable to those of other employees. The trainee fulfilled these tasks independently and without further supervision. The Federal Labour Court explained that the contractual stipulation concerning the unpaid training did not cover the higher qualified work. For this higher qualified work, the employer is obliged to pay adequate remuneration according to sec. 612 subsec. 1 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB). The employer had to pay the usual remuneration to be expected for the performed work.