German employment contracts often stipulate a probationary period. Under German law, the minimum statutory notice period during such probationary period is 2 weeks. This is shorter than the minimum statutory notice period to be observed outside of a probationary period.
In the case before the Federal Labout Court, the employment contract stipulated that a probationary period of 6 months is agreed. It did not stipulate any specific notice period for this time. The contract only included a general provision on the notice period, without specifying that this notice period shall only apply after the end of the probationary period.
The Federal Labour Court ruled that the contractual notice period also had to be applied during the probationary period and the employer could not apply the minimum statutory notice period for probationary periods. Doubts and contradictions regarding pre-formulated contractual clauses are to be borne by the employer. Here, the employment contract did not make it sufficiently clear that the employer wanted to apply a shorter notice period during the probationary period. Therefore, the contractual notice period had to be applied from the beginning.