Rules for Stufe (level) within TV-L E13 - Germany

How Universities determine the level of experience

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I have already searched the forum and there’s a lot of helpful information from you guys, but I couldn’t find the answer for my specific questions.

Where can I find out about how the working experience (stufe) is established in ‘public service’ organizations in Lower Saxony? I have recently moved from New York to Gottingen and have a position at the University as a postdoc. I’m in TV-L E13 salary group. I have 4 years research experience from EU where I got my PhD and 8 years from US as a postdoc. I read on these forums that (quote): “The experience is total research experience counted from the start of your PhD.” Does it mean that I should be in Stufe 5 (12 years of experience)?

I’ve never could get a straight answer from HR about it and they put me in Stufe 3. At that time I was still in New York. When I asked my future boss about it he replied that: “I will request this month that you be transferred to level 4, however, this is the formal outcome of the administration which of course we have to accept formally”. When I asked who is responsible for determining these things and what are the rules, he replied that “I don’t know (I don’t determine salary levels). As in most European countries salary levels of scientific positions in Universities are subject to administrative evaluation. Therefore I can’t tell you what has been evaluated in detail or who was involved”.

So, this is really puzzling me. Is there a way to find out according to what laws (or rules) the University determines the salary level? Shouldn’t it be transparent?

Also, because of my inexperience with the German rules and the lack of time, I have already signed the contract. I don’t see any note about the Stufe in the contract, only TV-L E13. Is it possible to change the level within the salary group after signing the contract?

Another weird thing. I have a colleague who knew even less about these levels and working experience, so he didn’t ask about it. The University put him in Stufe 1 even though he has 6 years of research experience (as a postdoc) in the same field. What I don’t understand is that HR department has all his documents (CV, M.Sc, PhD, etc..) so they knew he worked for 6 years in the exactly same research field as he is now in Gottingen. How come they put him in Stufe 1? Isn’t this taking advantage of people who are inexperienced in German employment system? If there are rules for these things, shouldn’t University follow them too? Is there something we can do about it?

Is there an English-speaking lawyer specializing in employment regards in Gottingen? (or some advisor since I guess lawyers are probably expensive).

Thank you.
I had exactly the same problem and it was explained to me that it has to be "scientific research" so regular PhD studies may not count. I was placed in Stufe 1 and our departmental secretary made some calls and determined that what was needed was certification from my previous employer that my research was "scientific". My level was moved up, but I'm still not getting the level of pay that was offered in the interview because HR made the decision and my boss can't challenge it. Which, since I'm externally funded, means that there is some of my salary going unspent somewhere in the dank depths of the HR system
with 12 years of experience) are you in 13?
This level determination is pure madness. I changed jobs recently from one research institute to another, staying more or less in the same field, and my Stufe went down from 3 to 1! I have a complex funding scheme, so in the end I am better off now than I used to be. According to my boss, he can only recommend that a certain level is assigned and fighting against the HR decision in case they don't agree takes a lot of political capital. He also assured me, that it shouldn't influence my future Stufe if I change institutions again, as then the previous experience can still be counted as relevant, and the total experience would be the sum of the two.

If the HR Stufe brings your prospective salary down to a value lower than you agreed on during the job interview (or a value you consider acceptable), you could ask your future boss to compensate for it from other funding sources. Really, there is no reason you should financially support the German science and give them a discount on your services, just because someone clueless in the HR considers your experience irrelevant.
It seems to me that HR departments use black magic when determining the Stufe and may decide to take or not take into account research experience based on whim. Having said that, I doubt that “The experience is total research experience counted from the start of your PhD.” is accurate. As far as I know it is more likely that the PhD experience will not be counted. Sometimes the excuse for that is that your PhD was not actually work experience.

Personally I was assigned to E14 and they counted my experience as a postdoc, but didn't take into account the research I was doing before I started my PhD on the grounds that it would qualify as E13-level work. The funny thing was that they showed me the form where they were supposed to fill-out the relevant experience and it said "previous experience in E13 and above", so go figure. Of course my time as a PhD did not count as well.
This is really frustrating. I think graduate studies are usually 3 or 4 years, they can easily make a difference of 2 "Stufes" which reflects roughly as 200 Euros difference in the liquid salary - that is quite significant!

Any suggestions on getting the administration to account for those years as experience?

OK, I'm a bit late getting in the game, but I thought I'd add my information to help future people. I am in a postdoc position at TUM being paid in the TV-L 13 echelon.

After I accepted the job (which explicitly stated the TV-L 13 pay-scale, so no negotiating), I was sent a large amount of paperwork. One of the forms was a Personnel form where I was asked to specify my employment which, of course, included my time as a graduate student being paid as a Research Assistant. They also asked me to send them all of my contracts (which were numerous given that we were on a quarter system and I received a contract every quarter) electronically and over the mail.

Finally, when I arrived in Munich and looked over the documents they gave me at work, I realized that they assigned my 'experience' in TV-L 13 as all the time in graduate school when I had an MS, which I acquired after the qualifying exam taken after my first year. This is consistent with what seems to be the case for German scientists: experience as a Doktorand (after the Diplom which is essentially a Masters degree) is counted when they determine what Stufe you are in.

My suggestion for anyone having trouble with improperly assigned 'experience' is to obtain as much paperwork as possible (work contracts, letters, etc.) and then use it to back up your case. If there's anything I've found in German in my short time here, it's that absolutely nothing happens without a piece of paper to back it up.
Does anyone know whether the TV-L payscales increase at the end of a year (for example, for inflation)? I cannot find an answer to this online and thought I would check here. This is specifically for the case where you won't change stufe, which obviously would incur an increase in salary. Thanks everyone!
My gross salary did not change a cent from Dec 2010 to Jan 2011. I do not have any more data points though!

I have about twenty euros more, which I can't work out - my health insurance payments are (obviously) up, but unlike last year, I'm not aware of a tax cut that would explain the difference. Any suggestions?
Hey guys thanks for the thoughts - mine was actually 5 euros less to make up for health care expenditures! I think state-by-state differences may be in play, and also imagine if you just compare to your previous statements you would see the difference.

I have also heard that generally the TVL rates are set based on negotiations between the public employees union and the government, and the new rates are released whenever that process is completed, and does not have to occur at a specific time (nor is it back-paid, and in any case, there's not much to expect from that!)
Flavia, have you had a birthday recently? Your pay may rise automatically when you hit age milestones (I think mine rose at age 30, then maybe ever 2 years after that -- I don't pay too much attention to that stuff since the amounts are relatively small and there's nothing I can do to change (i.e. improve) them.
Liebling - nope, next round birthday is in September, when I'm also due to go up a step, so hopefully it'll have a noticeable impact on my pay!
(However, I've already got the extra three days holiday for this year on my Urlaubskarte, which is nice...)

In my case the change appears to be tax-related, according to my pay slip. No-one else in the office can explain it either, so I won't worry unless the change starts to go in the other direction!
I've looked everywhere and I can't find the new Entgelttabelle from January 2011. There was supposed to be a small rise from the last pay agreement and I heard something about a 250€ one-off payment. However, my Netto pay was down in January due to the increase in health insurance and my Brutto was still the same.
This information is gleaned from diligent questioning of every colleague I have--not from speaking to an official source--so take it with a grain of salt:

I'm a TVO-13/Stufe 2 Ph.D. into post-doc.

The Stufe rate in my case is set based on prior "civil service experience"...for me the administration of the institute counted previous work experience with the US Gov't (GS3-7 levels) as equivalent to a "1" level on the Stufe so I came in at level 2. My two colleagues who had worked on previous DFG sponsored projects received levels 2 and 3 based on past experience with projects. My colleague with two masters (scientific research, etc) came in at 1 given his lack of prior civil service experience. I'm not sure if the TV-L is the same as the TVO, but I'm assuming that movement between Stufe categories is the same regardless of base bracket. However, if you move overall brackets, I think this means you don't have to go in at the same Stufe rate if that bracket is higher than the initial bracket. This may be why one of the previous posters was at a 3 in one job and only moved into a 1. I don't know, though. It's all confusing.

My Stufe rate increases dependent on years with the project. On my pay slip there is an area right next to the Stufe level that gives the date where I will move up to my next category. I began contract 15 Dec 2009 and my next level increase is set for 12/2011. HOWEVER, I received the Ph.D. in 10/2010 (in a set TVO13 position so whilst technically qualified for TVO14 there is no movement--I have to stay at TVO13). According to my administration liaison this warrants an automatic bump up in the Stufe from 2 to 3. BUT (and this is a big but), you have to ask for it and give a reason why and it has to go through the top administration official, the institute president's office, etc. According to my colleagues "technically it should be no problem but you never know"...also, they are unable to answer whether the increase from Stufe 2 to Stufe 3 now will extend the amount of time until my next Stufe upgrade.

Lessons learned: as said, show as much paper work as possible to prove you have experience, ask ask ask for the increase...if you don't ask you don't receive period. And if you have an academic milestones pass then you *should* be qualified for an increase.

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