Night surcharge: calculation, legal regulations and examples

Night work on the laptop

In our globalized world, companies work around the clock and working hours are no longer tied to traditional times of day. Employees often work unusual hours to meet the needs of customers. However, those who work regularly or permanently at night are exposed to particular stresses. The night supplement is intended to compensate for this. In this article, you can find out exactly what it is, when and how the allowance is granted and in which cases it is tax-free.


What is night surcharge?

In care, industry, road construction - in many sectors, companies rely on employees who work at night. Those who work regularly or even permanently at night are exposed to particular physical and mental stress:

The disruption of the natural day-night rhythm can not only lead to sleep disorders, slower reaction times and, as a result, accidents at work. accidents at work accidents at work. It can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes diabetes or cancer increases. Those who work while the majority of the population has time off also suffer social disadvantages.

To compensate for these risks and disadvantages, there is the night supplement. This results from the collective agreement, the works agreement or the employment contract, but is regulated by law at the latest by Section 6 of the Working Hours Act (ArbZG). According to this, night workers are legally entitled to "an appropriate number of paid days off or an appropriate supplement to the gross pay to which [they] are entitled".

If there are no provisions in a company's collective agreement, employers must compensate their employees for night work either through paid time off or extra payments. The compensation must be shown separately on the payslip - this guarantees transparency and ensures that employees can understand their entitlements.

When is the night surcharge paid?

Section 2 of the Working Hours Act (ArbZG) clearly regulates who receives the night allowance and when:

Anyone who regularly has to work night shifts or performs night work on at least 48 days per calendar year meets the criteria of a night worker. If they work for more than two hours between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., they receive the night bonus. In bakeries or confectioneries, the period from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. is considered night work.

This may be regulated differently in collective agreements - but not to the detriment of employees.

It is important to note that the night bonus must only be paid for work actually performed. Anyone who is unable to work at night due to illness or other reasons is not entitled to the night bonus.

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How is the night surcharge calculated?

The supplement must be appropriate - this is stated in paragraph 5 §6 of the Working Hours Act (ArbZG). But what exactly does that mean? The law leaves this open. The Federal Labor Court clarified this in its ruling of December 9, 2015, when a truck driver from a logistics and parcel service group that was not bound by a collective agreement filed a lawsuit. In its ruling, the Federal Labor Court determined a surcharge of 25% on the respective gross hourly wage to be appropriate. A corresponding number of paid days off can also be considered as compensation. According to the Federal Labor Court, anyone who works not only regularly but without exception in night shifts is entitled to 30% more pay or a corresponding number of paid days off for this time.

If the workload during the night is less than during the day - for example when on call - employers can reduce the amount of the night allowance.

The calculation of wages for night work is very simple:

Night working hours x gross hourly wage x percentage night bonus

A practical example will help to clarify the calculation:

Marco works for a logistics company that is not bound by collective agreements. He is part of the team that works in rotating shifts and regularly works night shifts from 9 pm to 6 am. His hourly wage is 25 euros. According to the law, he is entitled to a night bonus of 25 percent from 11 pm to 6 am. As he takes a break from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m., one hour of night work is deducted, so he works 6 hours as a night worker. During this time, he receives a night bonus of 25% in addition to his regular hourly wage of 25 euros, which corresponds to a bonus of 6.25 euros per hour (25 euros x 0.25).

Now let's apply the above formula to calculate Marco's night work wage:

6 (night working hours) x 25 (gross euro) x 1.25 (night surcharge) = 187.50 euro

Marco therefore receives 187.50 euros for his work between 11 pm and 6 am. For the two hours between 9 pm and 11 pm, he also receives his regular hourly wage of 50 euros. Marco therefore receives a gross wage of 237.50 euros for his entire shift.

If Marco switches to the permanent night shift, he is entitled to a 30 percent night bonus:

6 (night working hours) x 25 (gross euro) x 1.30 (night surcharge) = 195 euro

As a night worker on the permanent night shift, Marco would receive 195 euros for night work and 50 euros for the time between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., i.e. a total gross wage of 245 euros.

When is night allowance tax-free?

In certain cases, the night bonus is tax-free. This applies not only to companies that are not bound by collective agreements, but also to companies that regulate the night bonus in the collective agreement, the works agreement or the employment contract and therefore pay higher bonuses or define longer night working hours. The tax exemption of all bonuses is clearly regulated in Section 3b of the Income Tax Act (EStG).

The night bonus is tax-free if it does not exceed the following proportions of the gross wage:

  • 25% for night work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • 40 % for night work from 0 a.m. to 4 a.m. if night work begins before 0 a.m.
  • 50 % between 0 a.m. and 4 a.m. if the previous day was a Sunday
  • 125% in the period from 0 a.m. to 4 a.m. if the previous day was a public holiday
  • 150 % in the period from 0 to 4 a.m. if the previous day was a special public holiday (in Germany, special public holidays are 24, 25-26 December and 1 May).

The gross hourly wage must also not exceed 50 euros. If you earn more than 50 euros an hour, the part that exceeds 50 euros is taxed.

If the basic wage does not exceed a maximum limit of 25 euros, social security contributions are also waived for the night supplement.

Let's illustrate the issue of tax exemption again using Marco as an example:

His night bonus of 25 percent does not exceed the maximum limits of Section 3b of the German Income Tax Act (EStG), nor does his gross hourly wage exceed the limits of 25 or 50 euros. Marco therefore does not have to pay income tax or social security contributions for his night bonus.

Night surcharge examples

Due to its complexity, the topic of night surcharges can be confusing. The following three examples should provide clarity:

Case study 1: Fulfilling the criteria for night work

Anna works in a call center that is also open at night. She actually only works during the day. However, as her colleague Sven has been off sick for three months, she agrees to cover his shift from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. during this time. Anna receives a night bonus for the time between 11 pm and 6 am. Although she does not regularly work the night shift, she fulfills the requirement of at least 48 days of night work in a calendar year. She receives her regular hourly wage for the last two hours of her work.

Case study 2: No entitlement to night work

Linus works as an architect in an office and works regular daytime hours. Due to an important assignment, Linus works three consecutive nights from 10 pm to 4 am. As this is not regular night work and Linus does not meet the criteria for night work, he is not entitled to the night bonus in accordance with the statutory provisions.

Case study 3: No entitlement to night work

Aylin works in a supermarket that is open until midnight. After the store closes, she always has to tidy up for a while and then finishes work at 00:30. Aylin's shift regularly lasts from 18:00 to 00:30. Aylin does not receive a night bonus for the time between 23:00 and 00:30, as she does not meet the minimum duration of two hours between 23:00 and 6:00.

Health tips

The night bonus can only compensate for the increased workload during night work to a limited extent. It is even more important to pay sufficient attention to health. Employers should consider the following tips when organizing shift schedules:

  • Pay attention to the chronotypes of your employees: People have different biological rhythms, so it is important to adapt shift schedules accordingly.
  • Plan short night shifts with sufficient breaks: This helps to reduce the strain on employees and maintain their performance.
  • Implement forward rotating shift schedules: Employees prefer the order of night shift, early shift and late shift.
  • Ensure long-term and reliable scheduling: Employees need planning security in order to coordinate their work and private lives well.
  • Offer regular training courses: Training on topics such as working time management, stress management and health promotion can help to better prepare employees for the demands of their shift work and improve their ability to work.
  • Allow flexibility in vacation planning: Give your employees the opportunity to plan their vacation days flexibly to ensure that they have sufficient recovery time between shifts and can better manage their workload.
  • Create a pleasant working environment: Make the workplace as pleasant and comfortable as possible to promote the job satisfaction and well-being of your employees. You can achieve this, for example, through ergonomic workplace design, sufficient lighting and noise reduction.


Night work is unavoidable in many industries. However, this is associated with particular stresses for employees, which are not only physical but also psychological in nature. The night bonus serves to compensate for these burdens. If this does not already result from a collective agreement, the works agreement or the employment contract, it is regulated by law in Section 6 of the Working Hours Act (ArbZG). In most cases, the allowance is also exempt from tax and social security contributions. In addition to financial compensation, it is equally important to protect the health of night workers. Careful planning of shift schedules, taking into account individual needs, sufficient break times and training on health issues are crucial measures to improve working conditions at night and promote the health of employees.

Stay on top of things at night - with digital working time accounts

With Sawayo, you'll shine even in the dark! Automatically record your employees' night work and always keep track of their working hours.


We would like to point out that the contents of our website (including any legal contributions) are for non-binding informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice in the strict sense. The content of this information cannot and is not intended to replace individual and binding legal advice that addresses your specific situation. In this respect, all information provided is without guarantee of accuracy, completeness and timeliness.

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