Blocking period for unemployment benefit in Germany: What are the rules in Germany after a dismissal?

Blocking period for unemployment benefit in Germany

The unemployment benefit suspension period is a period of time during which an employee temporarily does not receive unemployment benefit (ALG) from the Employment Agency following a dismissal. This blocking period normally occurs if the dismissal is due to the employee’s own fault or if the job is given up without good cause. The duration of the blocking period varies depending on the situation and can be between one and twelve weeks. During this time, it is important to actively look for a new job and to make use of the support of the employment agency. Unemployment benefit in Germany is usually paid again after the end of the suspension period. It is advisable to find out in good time about the reasons for the suspension period in order to rule out this scenario as far as possible .

Definition of the blocking period in the context of unemployment insurance

Information on the blocking period can be found in the German Social Security Code. A blocking period is the period during which an employee is not entitled to unemployment benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I) after the termination of their employment relationship. The reason for this is behaviour that does not comply with the regulations of unemployment insurance – i.e. is contrary to insurance regulations.

The duration of the unemployment benefit suspension period can vary between one and twelve weeks. In extreme cases, this means that those affected may have to do without unemployment benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I) for up to three months.

In addition to the blocking period, there is also a rest period. This is not to be confused with the rest period, as it only leads to a delay in payment and not to the cancellation of the benefit. The rest period, on the other hand, shortens the period of entitlement to unemployment benefit by the duration of the rest period.

The legal basis for the blocking period is defined in § 159 SGB III.

Please note: A blocking period only applies to unemployment benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I) and requires prior employment subject to compulsory insurance. Unemployment benefit II, on the other hand, is a benefit that is granted regardless of previous employment subject to compulsory insurance and serves to secure a livelihood.

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Reasons for a suspension of unemployment benefit in Germany

The reasons for the start of a suspension period are defined in § 159 Para. 1 SGB III. The main reasons in the area of labour law include

Self-termination

An employee who resigns of their own accord without securing subsequent employment is actively contributing to their own unemployment. However, if there is a valid reason for the dismissal, this can lead to the suspension period being cancelled.

Termination agreement

A termination agreement is an agreement between the employee and employer on the termination of the employment relationship. The advantage for the employer is that they do not have to expect any action for unfair dismissal. In return, the employee is often granted a severance payment, which is not usually the case in the event of ordinary dismissal.

Although an employee cannot be forced to sign a termination agreement if he agrees, he is formally participating voluntarily in the termination of the employment relationship. However, there are reasons why a blocking period does not apply after the conclusion of a cancellation agreement.

Termination for behavioural reasons or termination without notice

Dismissal for behavioural reasons occurs when an employee breaches their contractual obligations, for example by repeatedly arriving late or refusing to work. Dismissal without notice is also based on such a breach of duty, but requires more serious offences that justify immediate termination of the employment relationship.

Failure to register as a jobseeker

A common reason for a blocking period is failure to register as a jobseeker at an early stage. Employees must register as jobseekers at least three months before the employment relationship ends. However, if they only find out about the termination of their contract later, they must register no later than three days after becoming aware of it.

In order to avoid a blocking period, employees should fulfil the notification obligations on time. If the deadlines could not be met, comprehensible reasons must be provided.

Failure to register

Jobseekers must accept invitations from the employment agency, for example to attend counselling sessions or to be placed in job placement measures. Failure to fulfil this obligation may result in a suspension of unemployment benefit in Germany.

Options for avoiding the blocking period for unemployment benefit in Germany

If you resign yourself, you can avoid a blocking period under certain circumstances. If there is a valid reason, you should definitely try to make this credible to the employment agency.

A blocking period can be avoided, for example, if:

  • You already have a commitment to a new job and can prove this – it does not matter whether the employment actually materialises in the end.
  • A termination without notice would also have been justified in your situation.
  • You want to or have to terminate the employment relationship due to excessive demands – a medical certificate is usually required here.
  • Your own termination is due to family reasons such as family reunification – this refers to spouses living together and partners moving in together to set up a joint parenting community.

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Blocking periods for unemployment benefit in Germany if you resign

Some employees are reluctant to resign because this can increase the risk of a period of ineligibility for unemployment benefit I (ALG I). However, there are cases in which resignation is justified, as from a legal point of view a blocking period requires behaviour that is contrary to insurance law. The Federal Employment Agency administers unemployment benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I) and sometimes checks more or less carefully whether a suspension period is justified following a dismissal by the employee.

If you terminate your employment relationship without a valid reason, a blocking period for unemployment benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I) can be ordered in accordance with § 159 Para. 1 S. 1 SGB III. This means that the employment agency will classify your behaviour as contrary to insurance law.

Valid reasons for termination without a blocking period

At first glance, you will lose your entitlement to ALG I if you terminate your employment yourself, unless you can prove a valid reason. In such cases, however, prior consultation with the Federal Employment Agency is always advisable.

A valid reason may exist if:

  • health restrictions no longer allow you to carry out your work,
  • you are experiencing stress at work, such as bullying, or the accident prevention regulations are not being adhered to,
  • you are demonstrably overburdened by the work situation,
  • you have to move because you and your spouse are setting up a joint household (although there may be restrictions in this case),
  • a move is necessary in order to care for a child together with the other parent,
  • the dismissal is due to outstanding salary payments and this justifies termination without notice,
  • there is a realistic prospect of a new job that leads to termination, or
  • you sign a cancellation agreement because otherwise there is a risk of dismissal for operational or personal reasons.

Various documents, such as a medical certificate, evidence of stressful conversations or conditions at the workplace, detailed descriptions of the situation, payslips or bank statements are helpful in proving such a reason to the employment agency.

Termination agreement: then there is a risk of a suspension period for unemployment benefit

Financial compensation may be tempting, but it is important to exercise caution when concluding a cancellation agreement. The risk of a period of ineligibility for unemployment benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I) should not be underestimated, as the Federal Employment Agency often treats a termination agreement as a self-imposed unemployment. If a termination is imminent for operational or personal reasons, a contract cancellation is usually unavoidable – in this case, the termination agreement acts as a justified reason that prevents a blocking period.

Three core scenarios have emerged under which the Federal Employment Agency does not generally impose a blocking period:

  • Advance notice of termination: The employer lets it slip that a dismissal for operational or personal reasons is imminent if no cancellation agreement is reached.
  • Compliance with notice periods: A cancellation agreement should take into account the regular notice periods that would apply in the event of dismissal. If the employer disregards this condition, there is a risk of a suspension of unemployment benefit and possibly a suspension in accordance with § 158 SGB III.
  • Severance pay as a prerequisite: The existence of a severance payment is essential for the exclusion of a blocking period due to a cancellation agreement. However, this should not exceed half a month’s salary per year of employment, as otherwise the legitimacy of the impending dismissal could be questioned.

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Duration of the qualifying period for unemployment

The blocking period for unemployment benefit I can vary: It ranges from a minimum of one week to a maximum of twelve weeks. In the worst case scenario, this means that those affected will not receive any unemployment insurance benefits for up to a quarter of a year. Even a single week without support, for example due to late notification of a job search, can lead to significant financial losses and should therefore not be underestimated.

In recent years, around half a million people have been suspended from work for at least one week each year because they were late in registering their unemployment with the employment agency. Below you will find an overview of common types of offences and the typical suspension periods associated with them.

Blocking groundDurationExamples
Job terminated12 weeks– Self-termination
– termination agreement
– Termination for behavioural reasons
Refusal of work
– 3 weeks (1st offence)
– 6 weeks (2nd offence)
– 12 weeks (from 3rd offence)
– Reject a suitable position
– Prevent a job interview
Termination of a vocational integration measure– 3 weeks (1st offence)
– 6 weeks (2nd offence)
– 12 weeks (from 3rd offence)
– Action refused
– Non-appearance
Insufficient
own endeavour
2 weeks– no job applications
– no job search
Failure to report (deadline)1 weekMissed appointment
Failure to register (notification of unemployment)1 weekDelayed notification of future unemployment
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All information on our website is of an editorial nature and expressly does not constitute legal advice. Naturally, we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and links contained on this website. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information. It is in no way a substitute for legal advice from a lawyer.