Educational Leave: Definition, Eligibility, and Costs

About 77% of employees are interested in further education outside their current job description, but only 1 to 2% take educational leave. And these numbers are despite having a legal entitlement in most of Germany. This article provides insights into educational leave, who is eligible for it, and what to consider.


Educational Leave - a Definition

Educational leave essentially means that the employer grants their employees a specific amount of days as paid leave for them to invest this time into their education. This paid leave is in addition to the annual leave days specified in the employment contract. Thus, employees do not have to worry about giving up on vacation days when they seek further education. It's also important to note that the chosen educational program does not necessarily have to be directly related to their current job.

Eligibility and Duration

In 14 out of 16 federal states in Germany, employees have a legal entitlement to educational leave. The exceptions are Bavaria and Saxony. Naturally, the legal entitlement is only applicable in states where it exists. Additionally, employees must have been with the company for at least six months. Furthermore, they must choose an educational program that is recognized as such for educational leave. As long as these criteria are met, there is a wide range of options available for further education, from language courses to specific professional development.

Typically, employees are entitled to five days of educational leave per year or, alternatively, ten days over two years. Of course, the crucial question remains as to who pays for this educational leave. While the employer continues to pay the salary during the educational leave, all other costs must be covered by the employee. In any case, it is in the best interest of any employer to approve such requests and, ideally, proactively explore how employees can be further supported, which may include topics like upskilling and fringe benefits.

In most federal states, apprentices also have an entitlement to educational leave, although the conditions are stricter compared to regular employees, and these requirements can vary from state to state. For instance, in North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse, the educational program must have a political reference. In Thuringia, apprentices are only entitled to three days of educational leave.

Application for Educational Leave

The application process for educational leave again varies slightly depending on the federal state. If eligible, employees must choose a specific recognized course. After registration, the course provider will send information and application materials to the employee. Importantly, a specific deadline must be adhered to, and this deadline varies from state to state. For instance, in Baden-Württemberg, the application must be submitted eight weeks before the start of the leave, while in Lower Saxony, four weeks are sufficient.

Reasons for Rejection or Expiration

Employers have the authority to reject an employee's request for educational leave if there are valid operational reasons. In some states, businesses with fewer than 10 or 5 employees are exempt. There are also overload protections, meaning that educational leave may not be possible during the peak business season. The vacation requests of other employees might also hinder approval in some cases.

If an employee does not take educational leave in the current calendar year, the entitlement typically expires. However, in most cases, it is possible to carry the entitlement over to the next year, provided the employee makes an appropriate request to the employer.


We would like to point out that our website provides non-binding information, which under no circumstances constitutes legal advice. This also, and especially, applies to topics within the sphere of legal HR advise. The content of this contribution cannot and is not intended to replace individual and binding legal advice. For this reason, all information provided is without guarantee of correctness and completeness, but always researched with the utmost care.

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