social benefits germany

Social benefit: These state aids exist

A social benefit is a social assistance that can be granted in various forms. Although the state is the largest payer of social benefits – for example, it pays child benefits, parental benefits, and basic security and social assistance – it is not solely responsible for them. Employers also pay their team member’s company social benefits, such as a share of contributions to health, nursing care, and unemployment insurance. But that’s not all.

Social benefits: definition and examples

Social benefits are certain services provided by the state to ensure greater social justice.

In the Social Code (SGB) First Part (I) paragraph §1, the tasks are precisely defined:

The law of the Social Code is to shape social benefits, including social and educational assistance, for the realization of social justice and social security. It should help to ensure a dignified existence, create equal conditions, especially for young people, protect families, enable a freely chosen activity, and avert or compensate for unanticipated burdens of life, also by helping people to help themselves.

It sounds a bit complicated and cryptic, but it will become more apparent in a moment. A distinction is made between the following types of social benefits:

  • Cash benefits
  • Services
  • Benefits in kind
social benefits Germany
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The idea behind the social benefit is not only justice but also protection. People who find themselves in an emergency receive state benefits and assistance – including the following:

  • Unemployment benefit II (Hartz IV)
  • Basic income support
  • War and post-war benefits

Families and young people can also benefit from social benefits. For example, the following supports, among others, are paid:

  • Child benefit
  • Youth welfare
  • Parental allowance and parental allowance plus
  • Bafög
  • Advance child support

However, people do not always have to be financially unwell before they can apply for and receive social benefits. Social benefits that employees receive are also part of social management:

  • Health insurance
  • Nursing care insurance
  • Pension insurance
  • Unemployment insurance

Likewise, the state also supports freelance artists and publicists through the artists’ social insurance.

You can find an overview of the scope of benefits paid per legislative period in the Social Report of the Federal


social security Germany
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Benefits for job seekers: Hartz IV

The best-known social benefit for job seekers is unemployment benefit II (ALG II), better known as Hartz IV. It is paid to enable jobseekers to maintain a basic standard of living. The social benefit can be granted in cash or as a service.

According to paragraph § 7 of the Social Security Code (SGB) III, the following persons are entitled to Hartz IV. Persons who:

  • have reached the age of 15 and have not yet reached the age limit according to § 7a
  • are employable
  • require assistance
  • have their habitual residence in the Federal Republic of Germany

Hartz IV does not cover all sections of the population, so other social benefits are grouped under the term social assistance. Basic income support is one of them, and this is available to people who have reached the age limit and are unable to support themselves.

Benefits for employees: company social benefits

People do not necessarily have to be in an emergency to benefit from social benefits. Some benefits are paid to employed persons, regardless of whether or not they are in financial distress.

In this case, they are called contributory social benefits since social insurance institutions pay them in cooperation with the employer and the employees’ contributions. It is in contrast to transfer benefits financed by taxpayers’ money.

Company social benefits can be divided into three different areas:

1. Statutory social benefits

On the one hand, they consist of employer contributions to social insurance. These benefits are wage replacement benefits. They are paid if an employee can no longer fully provide their labor. They are thus, in a sense, insurance against

  • Illness
  • need for care
  • Occupational injury
  • Disability
  • unemployment

Pension is also covered by the employer’s (and employee’s) insurance contributions.

Similarly, payment on public holidays and during maternity leave (maternity benefit) and costs of the works council fall under this item.

These payments are part of the statutory benefits, and it means that the employer cannot choose whether to pay them or not. As soon as he hires a team member, he is obliged to do so.

social benefits germany
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For this purpose, it must pay a certain percentage of the wage or salary to the social security institutions. The basis of the calculation is a fixed percentage, which is derived from the so-called basic pay of the team member.

2. Collectively agreed to social benefits

Listing collectively agreed social benefits is somewhat tricky. The collective agreements in the various industries differ significantly from one another. Thus, there may be benefits covered by collective agreements in one company, while in another, they are granted as voluntary benefits or may even be stopped altogether.

3. Voluntary social benefits

These are provided in addition to the benefits defined in the collective agreement. Voluntary social benefits for employees are again divided into two different groups:

Primary voluntary social benefits are paid directly to specific employees. 

For example:

  • Donations to employees
  • Employer loans
  • Allowances in the event of illness
  • Subsidies for education, training, or continuing education

You must first collect secondary voluntary employee benefits at specific locations (social cost centers, secondary cost centers) before the team member can receive them. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Company housing
  • Canteens
  • sports facilities
  • other social facilities

Incidentally, it is perfectly conceivable that particular company social benefits are only made available to a specific group of employees, and it is even possible without violating the AGG.

social Benefits
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Nevertheless, there is no harm in asking the works council if you feel unequally treated or ignored. If there are company social benefits in the company, the works council has co-determination and participation rights that the employer must observe.

As a rule, however, company social benefits are available to all employees equally. And that makes perfect sense. After all, employers pursue obvious goals with voluntary company benefits: They want to motivate employees and bind them to the company in the long term.

Suppose the benefits are only available to specific employees. In that case, this could have the opposite effect: Instead of showing up at work every day with more motivation, employees feel maltreated, feel frustrated on the job, and perform poorly. In the worst case, this unequal treatment can even lead to termination.

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