Job reference: types of certificates, entitlement and requirements

When is there a right to a job reference?

According to Section 630 of the German Civil Code, every employee is entitled to a certificate when the employment relationship is terminated. The employer must hand over or send you the certificate no later than the end of the notice period or upon receipt of the extraordinary notice of termination.

If you intend to apply to a new employer before the end of the notice period - which will probably be the normal case - the boss will also have to issue you a so-called interim report if you wish.

What types of certificates are there?

Es gibt zwei verschiedene Types of job references, das einfache und das qualifizierte Zeugnis:

The simple reference only needs to show the type and duration of the employment relationship. The tasks and activities of the employee must be described as completely and precisely as possible so that future employers can get a clear picture of this. Special powers or qualifications must also be noted on the certificate.

In addition to the type and duration of the employment relationship, the employer must also include the employee's performance and management in the qualified certificate. The »performance« includes all work results, referring to the underlying task and its requirements. In particular, physical and mental performance, specialist knowledge, willingness to work, expressiveness, sense of responsibility or ability to make decisions can be assessed. The »leadership« includes, among other things, social behavior towards superiors, colleagues, subordinate employees and third parties, above all of course customers and suppliers, as well as compliance with operational regulations.

What requirements does the certificate have to meet?

The employer is obliged to issue the certificate truthfully but also benevolently. This means that not every minor misconduct should be included on the testimonial, especially if it was just a one-off incident

When writing the certificate, the boss has to restrict himself to the essentials, but it must not be too brief. A meaningful testimonial is on average one to two typewriter pages long. Ultimately, the next employer should get a comprehensive picture of your performance and personality.

The certificate must not contain any information or value judgments that would unnecessarily hinder your future life. For this reason, under no circumstances should it contain any information that would mark an employee negatively. However, as is well known, there is a "testimony language" that contains encrypted employee assessments. The following formulations are examples that have already been objected to in court as inadmissible:

· He was capable and able to express his own opinion. «Meaning: He had a high opinion of himself and could therefore not stand criticism.

· He had specialist knowledge and a healthy level of self-confidence. ”Meaning: He tapped big sayings to cover up a lack of specialist knowledge.

· He was very capable and knew how to sell himself. «Meaning: He is an unpleasant person and a busybody who lacks willingness to cooperate.

There are a number of guides available in bookstores with the help of which you can decipher the reference language. You can also obtain relevant information brochures from your trade union.

As a rule of thumb, you can recognize a really good reference by the fact that it extensively praises the employee's performance and leadership - almost in an embarrassing way. If an employee has performed very well, the following formulation is often chosen: "He has performed his tasks to our complete satisfaction." If, on the other hand, it was merely a "good performance", then the formulation is "to our complete satisfaction" . If the performance was rather average, but still usable, then it says "to our satisfaction". If the performance is unsatisfactory, the boss usually writes: "He has tried to fulfill the tasks assigned to us to our satisfaction."

The employee is disqualified if essential characteristics of a professional group are not mentioned in the certificate at all, such as the honesty of a cashier or the correctness of an authorized signatory.
If you have terminated the position yourself, this must be clearly stated on your certificate. At the same time, the employer should express his regret about your departure from the company and, of course, wish you continued success in your further professional and private path.

The certificate must be printed on - clean - company letterhead or typed. The text must not have any spelling mistakes. According to recent case law of the Federal Labor Court, the certificate may be folded in an envelope or sent to the employee who has left the company.

A certificate may be issued either by the employer or his legal representative (in the case of a GmbH, for example, the managing director) or a high-ranking employee (e.g. the head of the human resources department). The certificate must also be signed. The certificate must be dated. If it was only issued after a labor court process or if it had to be corrected, then it must be dated back to the day the employee left the company.

Since a testimony is not always easy to "read", it is advisable to have it checked by an expert (trade union secretary or lawyer) for the actual assessment. After all, the certificate plays an important role in labor law practice.

How can you defend yourself against an incorrect testimony?

If the certificate does not meet your expectations, you should first speak to your employer about it and ask him to correct the wording you have objected to. If your employer does not comply with your request, you can submit a so-called correction action to the labor court within six weeks of the certificate being issued.

If you win the process, the employer will be sentenced to issue you with a new, better testimonial. Although it is the employer who bears the burden of proof of negative assessments in such a process, it is better to have a lawyer or legal secretary from your union represent you.

If you have been harmed by the untruthful content of a certificate, you also have a claim for damages against the employer. This can e.g. This could be the case, for example, if you did not get one or more other jobs due to an encrypted bad assessment in your certificate that you personally did not notice.

If your employer refuses to issue you a certificate, you can also bring this to your competent labor court.

Testimony - Important Judgments

Testimony after litigation
Even if the employment relationship has been terminated after a legal dispute in court, the employer is obliged to issue the employee with a fair testimony.
ECJ - AZ: C-184/97

Formulate the content of the certificate
If an employee demands specific testimony content by way of a lawsuit before the labor court, then he must specify exactly what should be included in the certificate in which form. Otherwise there could be problems with the later enforcement of the judgment.
BAG, March 14, 2000 - AZ: 9 AZR 246/99

Correct signature required
If a typewritten job reference with the name of the exhibitor and his position has been completed, then the reference must also be signed by him personally.
BAG, September 21, 1999 - AZ: 9 AZR 893/98

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