A previous internship will not count towards the mandatory probationary period for vocational training in order to effectively shorten the agreed probationary period (judgment of the Federal Labour Court, Bundesarbeitsgericht, BAG, dated 19 November 2015, docket number 6 AZR 844/14).
Traditionally, many professions in Germany require a formal vocational training program which commonly takes three years. As part of this vocational training, trainees attend school but also work in companies under a training contract. When concluding such a training contract, German law provides for a mandatory probationary period between 1 and 4 months. During the probationary period, the training contract can be terminated at any time. In the case at hand, the training contract provided for a three month probationary period during which the trainee was let go. The trainee, who had already completed an internship at the same company, argued that the probationary period had already been up when he was let go as the previous internship had to count towards the three month period.
However, the Federal Labour Court found that the internship and the training contract had to be looked at separately. This was based on the reasoning that a probationary period in a training contract will allow the company to evaluate the training success and the abilities of the trainee in the particular field while considering the goals of a training contract. As a consequence, the duration of an internship, which serves a different purpose, cannot count as part of such probationary period.