What are experience levels?
Within each pay band, a distinction is made between the levels of professional experience relevant to the individual's current responsibilities. Since 2018, six experience levels have applied to all collective bargaining agreements with increasing lengths of time spent at each level. Experience level 1 is reserved for beginners in the respective pay band. Researchers reach Level 2 after just one year, but this period must be within a single employment contract. On the other hand, it takes researchers ten years to reach Level 5.
What happens when an individual moves to a higher pay band?
If, for example, junior research group leaders take over a project with more research responsibility, they are usually also classified in a higher pay band. It is theoretically possible for a research assistant to receive a lower salary than previously, as they would actually be required to start again at Experience level 1. However, the collective agreements stipulate that this should never happen, and that staff should be transferred to a higher level of experience with at least the same salary.
What additional salary benefits are there for research associates in Germany?
Research associates are civil servants, and their collective agreement provides for an annual special payment. This replaces the former paid leave and Christmas bonus. It amounts to between 33%–60% of their average monthly salary, depending on the pay band and experience level. There are also differences between the old and new federal states. Additional benefits are also be paid to research associates, e.g. when they are particularly successful with the acquisition of third-party funds. However, these additional payments are not as common in some of the federal states. Only the TV-H agreement provides for a child allowance – a remnant from the federal employee tariff BAT, which has now been replaced by TVoeD and TV-L.
What happens to my experience level change if I move to a different research institution?
When researchers move to another university or research institution, they do not go back to the start in terms of their level of experience. The relevant professional experience and therefore also the time already spent at the respective level are recognised. However, this must be requested. If the new employer is particularly interested in hiring a specific researcher, they may even be able to negotiate a higher pay band or even move to a higher experience level earlier than scheduled. Nevertheless, researchers may experience a loss of wages when switching between different collective agreements and levels of experience. It is therefore important to check how this change will affect your salary before switching to another public employer.
What happens to my level of experience when I go abroad, am unemployed or take a break from work?
Research work often requires researchers to spend some time abroad or seek scholarship financing. Generally, Relevant professional experience at a research institution abroad is generally recognised in the sector, provided that they had a contract of employment while working abroad. On the other hand, periods funded by a scholarship are only considered to be "beneficial". They may be regarded as professional experience, but this is not guaranteed. Maternity leave, paid leave and incapacity for work up to a maximum of 39 weeks are not considered to be interruptions of the term spent at the respective stage under the collective agreements.
However, parental leave is not taken into account. Employees who take a break from their research work to look after a new-born child cannot claim that time when moving to the next level of experience. If a researcher stops working for several years or works for a non-public employer, they may even be moved to a lower category and consequently face a reduction in salary. The collective agreements refer to this as "detrimental interruptions".