In Germany, fixed-term employment contracts are legally permitted only under certain conditions. That is supposed to protect the employee: it is supposed to prevent employers from continually employing staff for a limited period of time instead of giving them a permanent job contract with protection against unlawful termination. In academia, there is a special regulation in order to allow for more flexibility, which is a law about fixed-term working contracts in academia (WissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetzExternal link).
What are the basic regulations of Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz?
Academic personnel can be employed with fixed-term contracts for reasons of scientific qualification at a German institute of higher education (university) or research institute (Max Planck, Leibniz, Fraunhofer, Helmholtz) for a period of 12 years (medicine: 15 years), including up to six years before the PhD is finished and up to 6 (medicine: 9) years after the PhD. If the PhD is completed in less than 6 years, "unused time" before the PhD can be added to the six years after the PhD (so-called "saved PhD time").
This 12-year-period with fixed term employment is permitted by the law because in academia most researchers need that much time for the full academic qualification, not only six years for the PhD project, but also six years for habilitation or equivalent qualification. The time limitation of the employment contract should therefor mirror the qualification goal. Also, if you have a fixed tern contract based on the 12-year-rule, you are entitled to use at least 33% of your working time for working on the project leading to your qualification goal.
All fixed-term employment contracts with more than a quarter of the working time of a full-time employee at a German institute of higher education will be taken into account. PhD or postdoc times with a scholarship or with employment in a research project can also be taken into account.
Exceptions and options for the extension of the 6- or 12-year fixed term employment constraint may be: the extension due to the care of the employee's own children, foster children or stepchildren (up to two years per child); a chronic disease or a disability of the employee.
What do I have to consider for third-party funded projects?
The maximum employment period of 12 years is not valid for research projects funded by third parties, because there is another specific reason for the fixed term in place. That means that even after the end of 12 years, positions with fixed-term employment contracts can continue to be accepted in the context of third-party funded research projects. The duration of that employment is dependent on the duration of the respective project funding. There are specific conditions to be fulfilled (see Abschnitt III, page 13: Befristungsmöglichkeiten bei Beschäftigung in DrittmittelprojektenExternal link", in German only).
Which further regulations are there at University of Jena?
Jena university has a policy with additional rights and regulations concerning the duration of contracts and the amount of paid working hours. You can find these regulations herepdf, 474 kb · de (in German).
The essence is:
- Paid working time for doctoral candidates should be 20 hours per week or more (50% employment or more).
- Doctoral candidates, if employed on university budget, should receive a first contract for three years. The duration and number of follow-up contracts depend on the arrangements in the conversation on the status of a doctoratepdf, 521 kb · de (updated supervision agreement). For maximum employment years, see academic employment law.
- For doctoral candidates who are employed in a project with third party funding, the duration of the work contract should match the duration of the funding, and is only allowed to be shorter in exceptional cases
- Postdocs are supposed to be employed with full positions, unless they want a part time position.
- For postdocs employed on university budget, the first work contract should usually be given for two or three years. The duration of each following contract is determined by the career plan which is discussed in a career planning conversationpdf, 175 kb with the supervisor and an additional professor.
You may find further information in the guidelinepdf, 474 kb · de (in German). In case of any questions, please contact your respective contact person at the Personnel Department or Dr. Hanna Kauhaus (Graduate Academy).
Where can I get further information?
You can find more information about the regulations of Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz and its application at Jena University in a paper by the doctorate council: Das Wichtigste zum Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetzpdf, 1 mb · de (Most important facts of Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz).
The classification does often appear not to be easy. If in doubt, the human resources department de (Personaldezernat) is responsible for the decision. Additional information is available here External link(in German).