This is in Germany.

So there is company A. Recently i applied for a job with A, got interviewed, got accepted and signed a Arbeitsvertrag (work contract) with company A. Now i got my first Gehaltsabrechnung (payroll / payslip) including Meldebescheinigung zur Sozialversicherung (register for social security). But both those documents have Company B as my employer.

Some background: Companies A and B were both founded by the same person (my boss), are still owned by that very person, are even located in the same building. But are registered as fully seperate companies (different HRB numbers in the Handelsregister). Through a coworker i found out that when i was hired, Company A had some employees on Kurzarbeit (shortened work hours for less pay). Hiring new personal while having existing employees on Kurzarbeit is not allowed in general as far as i know, which makes me strongly suspect this was the reason for this charade.

I had no knowledge of all of that until discovering the inconsistencies in my documents now and, suffice it to say, never gave my consent for these proceedings. I think this is quite shady and, while i overall like the job and people there, it has definitely soured the whole deal for me. I have already decided to look for and switch jobs as soon as possible, but still have some legal questions:

  1. Was this whole sign contract with A and get employed by B legal ? Would they have required my consent to do this ?
  2. More important: In which company am i employed now ?
  3. Am i properly employed and therefore secured in cases of e.g. workplace accidents ?
  4. Personal advice ? Am i making more of this than it actually is ? Should i keep my head down and get out asap ?
  • 1
    Ask the company legal department. Mar 3, 2023 at 22:58
  • Both companies are quite small, having a total of 50 employees in both of them. There is no legal department or such to ask.
    – user48892
    Mar 4, 2023 at 8:46
  • @GenericUserName Your payslip usually includes contact details for the HR person who processed it. Can you call them to figure out what is going on?
    – amon
    Mar 4, 2023 at 9:14

2 Answers 2


Depending on the structure of the companies under a common holding/ownership, it should be possible for the management to shift departments between companies without the consent of the employees. But at least after you actually start work, you should have been formally informed, and possibly been given the opportunity to resign without the contracted notice period if you disagree.

  • Failure to keep the paperwork straight could be a minor red flag. Depends on the size of the company and the level of trust.
  • The law is rather strong on the concept that if you work there, you are employed. So you could sue B to get a proper employment contract at B.
  • I presume that you were paid the agreed sum. Do you have the Lohnsteuerbescheinigung and Bescheinigung zur Sozialversicherung? Then you are legally employed somewhere.
  • Does either of the companies have a works council (Betriebsrat)? Talk with them.
  • Otherwise, talk to the trade union which is responsible for your sector.
  • Yes, i got paid the agreed sum and do have Lohnsteuerbescheinigung and Bescheinigung zur Sozialversicherung, both from Company B. So i guess i'm employed by B.
    – user48892
    Mar 4, 2023 at 8:52

A non-malicious explanation would be that both A and B use the same company P for payroll processing, and P was confused while preparing the paperwork. You have a contract with A and work for A, so notify your boss in company A that your payslip looks incorrect, and that they could please correct this aspect. No one likes to admit a mistake, but it's definitely possible to re-issue corrected documents.

By the way, some employers might think that running two companies together would have advantages. There might be advantages regarding limited liability, but it has little effect on workers' rights. Most relevant legislation does not look at Unternehmen (companies, legal entities), but at Betriebe (~plants, establishments). If two companies pool their employees in one office, have them work towards common goals, and have shared leadership, then it is likely that there is only a single Betrieb. In particular, rules around Kurzarbeit mostly apply on the per-Betrieb level.

  • When i talked to my coworker, it was pretty clear there was no mistake and this was done on purpose. Tbh i don't even mind circumventing laws as long as it's not to my disadvantage, the part of not being told or asked about this irks me.
    – user48892
    Mar 4, 2023 at 13:16