Hiring in Germany? This European Union member state has a robust economy and a lot of financial incentives for startups and businesses planning an expansion, not to mention a skilled, English-speaking workforce.
Many companies expanding overseas to Germany start by hiring German independent contractors and sending them international payments. But, if you want to hire full-time employees, you’ll need to either establish a legal entity or hire through an EOR.
Registering a legal entity in Germany can take anywhere from five to seven weeks, and that’s only if you complete all the steps correctly. The German bureaucratic system is known for being extremely complex, and any mistake can earn you financial penalties and headaches.
Alternatively, you can use an “Employer of Record” (EOR), which handles German payroll, tax, and compliance considerations.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for hiring through an EOR in Germany.
Step by step: How to hire through an Employer of Record in Germany
Step #1: Decide between a German EOR and a legal entity
Should you hire German employees through an EOR or set up your own entity? The answer depends on your company’s resources, size, and expansion plans.
- Legal entity in Germany. Setting up a legal entity from scratch usually requires registration with local authorities, opening a local bank account, and consulting with local experts to ensure compliance with tax and labor laws. You’ll also need to make a notary appointment, apply for a Chamber of Commerce (IHK) check, and wait for your company to be registered in the official commercial register (Handelsregister) before you can start paying employees.
- German EOR. An EOR is a third-party service that operates as an employer on a company’s behalf—meaning you don’t need to set up your own entity. As well as allowing you to hire full-time German employees, EORs handle all the legal requirements for complying with German laws for payroll, contracts, and benefits. EOR services also include calculating and withholding taxes, onboarding and managing employees, and running payroll.
Pros and cons of EORs vs. setting up a legal entity
Cost & Implementation
✔ Less time-consuming to set up.
✔ You can start hiring within days instead of months.
✘ Becomes costlier as your headcount increases.
✘ Takes months to set up—and requires registration fees and an enormous time investment.
✔ More cost-effective once you’ve hired enough employees in a foreign country.
✔ Quickly set up new hires, often within 1-14 days, depending on the provider.
✔ Supports large-scale expansion in a new market.
✔ Manages all of your compliance work for you, takes on liability, and provides localized employment contracts
✘ Can’t tailor certain policies, and other HR/legal processes, to the needs of your business.
✘ Requires expert knowledge of local laws and tax regulations and internal legal resources, as your company is liable for all legal and compliance infractions.
✔ Can tailor certain policies, and other HR/legal processes, to the needs of your business.
Payroll & Benefits
✔ Quickly pay and insure employees around the world.
✔ Taxes are filed for you.
✘ Must manually keep track of statutory deductions and employee entitlements for every hire.
Step #2: How to choose the best Employer of Record for your business
Before you choose a platform, you should consider the services you will need, and how much you plan to grow your global hiring presence.
- Is the EOR active in the countries in which you need to hire? The first, and perhaps most obvious consideration when choosing an EOR for global expansion.
- Does the EOR own its own entities in the countries it services? If the EOR does not own the entities, it means they are partnering with a local or third-party provider.
- How does the EOR protect your sensitive and confidential information? It is vital that your EOR has the appropriate data protections in place, as well as secure technology that eliminates potential disclosures of private information.
- Does the EOR offer automated solutions? You may want to look for an EOR that automates the busy work like onboarding and benefits enrollment and other common HR and IT tasks.
- What is the EOR’s support model? It’s essential that your EOR has support staff that are both easy to contact and experts in the regulations of the countries in which you are hiring.
Get the full checklist in our guide: What is an EOR?
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Step #3: How to hire and onboard your German employees
So, you’ve chosen the right EOR in Germany. Now, it’s time to start the onboarding process for your German employees by collecting the following information:
- Name, date of birth, and start date with your company.
- Which Tax Class they belong to.*
- Whether or not the employee is a member of an official religious organization and is responsible for paying church tax.**
*Germany has six Tax Classes; employees are assigned to Tax Class 1-6 based on their marital and family status. Knowing which Tax Class an employee belongs to will ensure you adjust the amount of tax you take out of their paychecks each month accordingly. Tax Class does NOT determine an employee’s tax rate. It’s just intended as a helpful tool.
**If you belong to an official religious institution in Germany, like the Catholic Church, you owe church tax at a rate of 8% or 9% of your monthly income, depending on where you live.
Next, you need to send out an employment contract that clearly states key working conditions both you and the employee have agreed to. An EOR can automatically localize and distribute employment contracts. Every German hire will have a legally compliant contract offering statutory requirements for probationary periods, working hours, minimum wage, benefits, and termination policies like severance pay and notice periods.
You can onboard new hires anywhere, end to end, with Rippling. Request a demo today.
Step #4: Run payroll
For the A-to-Z on global payroll, read our comprehensive guide to running international payroll for employees in Germany.
Once you’ve collected a new hire’s information and both parties have signed employment contracts, an EOR will pay your German employees in Euros (EUR), while withholding legally required taxes from salaries. This includes contributions to:
- Income taxes.
- Social insurance taxes (e.g. pension schemes, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and long-term care).
- Church tax, if applicable.
- Workers’ compensation insurance.
Frequently asked questions about hiring through an Employer of Record in Germany
How much does an EOR cost?
Prices for EORs vary depending on how many people you’re employing through the entity. Typically, you’ll either pay a fixed monthly fee per employee or a percentage of payroll plus any taxes. You’ll also be responsible for paying any administrative fees, the costs of additional features, and onboarding charges.
Remember: You don’t have to use an EOR for your whole workforce. You can use it for a select number of employees, and you’ll only pay for those.
What is the difference between an EOR and PEO?
A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) acts as a joint employer of a company’s workforce. They offer administrative services including filing payroll taxes, paying workers, and ensuring the company is compliant with local laws. With a PEO, you must set up a local entity if you wish to hire employees in other countries.
An EOR, on the other hand, allows you to hire in other countries without setting up a legal entity. They’ll also assume all responsibility and liability for the employees they work with and act as the sole employer.
Does an EOR protect your sensitive and confidential information?
To ensure you’re protected from the risks that come with sharing data with third-party vendors, seek out EORs in Germany that prioritize data protection. They should offer things like:
- Compliance with industry-standard privacy regulations in different countries.
- Secure infrastructure with around-the-clock maintenance.
- Carefully vetted personnel.
As an additional safety net, draft a Data Processing Agreement (DPA) with a payroll service provider. This will give you legal protection in the event of a breach.
What are the mandatory benefits for German employees?
Through a series of Acts, Codes, and Agreements, Germany’s government has cobbled together the following list of statutory benefits for employees:
- Retirement pension.
- Unemployment insurance.
- Paid sick leave.
- Vacation entitlements.
- Public holidays.
- Workers’ compensation insurance.
- Health insurance.
- Maternity and parental leave.
- Long-term/nursing care.
Keep in mind that these are the minimum benefits employers should provide to German employees. You can certainly offer more, and many companies do.
For more information on mandatory benefits in Germany, read our complete guide.
What are the employer costs for full-time employees in Germany?
Employers in Germany are responsible for deducting taxes both monthly and annually from their full-time employees’ paychecks. Along with social security contributions and income tax, you must deduct church and other taxes from employee paychecks.
Both employers and employees in Germany must pay the following amount of social taxes:
Long-term care taxes
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Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.