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Getting personnel

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur des Englisch-Magazins Business Spotlight.
i.mcmaster@spotlight-verlag.de

"You're fired" versteht noch jeder. Aber wer in einem internationalen Unternehmen arbeitet, sollte auch wissen, was "Gehaltserhöhung" auf Englisch heißt.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet" (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet).

Shakespeare was right: it's not the name itself that is important, but the thing we are talking about. Whether it is called "personnel", "human resources" (HR) or "people management", the subject is the same: people at work. One point is worth noting, however: "personnel" - spelt with two "n" and one "l" - is pronounced person-NEL, unlike the word personal (as in "personal computer"), which is pronounced PER-sonal.

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The first basic distinction in the employment world is between the employer (Arbeitgeber) and the employee (Arbeitnehmer). Employees have traditionally been broken down into two types: blue-collar workers (Arbeiter) and white-collar workers (Angestellte), so-called because of the colour of their working clothes. Blue-collar workers receive a wage (Lohn); white-collar workers receive a salary (Gehalt).

The conditions of employment (Arbeitsbedingungen) are set out in a contract of employment (Arbeitsvertrag). This includes details of pay, working hours (Arbeitszeit), payment for overtime (Überstunden), holiday or leave entitlement (Urlaubsanspruch), areas of responsibility, the notice period (Kündigungsfrist) and so on. Many of these conditions have been negotiated between a trade union (Gewerkschaft; US: labor union) and employers' representatives. Many companies also have a works council (Betriebsrat) to look after staff interests.

When new members of staff join a company, they are "hired", "taken on" or "employed". If companies have vacancies, they are looking to recruit new staff, who normally have to serve a three-month or six-month probationary period (Probezeit). To get to know a company, you might consider doing a work placement or internship (Praktikum).

To "fire", "sack" or "dismiss" somebody means to end their contract because they have done something wrong or not met their goals. On the other hand, if you lose your job because of the state of the economy rather than your behaviour or performance, you are "made redundant" or "laid off": "MDE has laid off 300 workers"; "TZP has announced 500 redundancies at its Bristol plant (Werk)"; "I was made redundant last week". America is said to have a "hire and ?fire" employment culture, meaning that there is little job protection (Kündigungsschutz).

At times of high unemployment, companies try to reduce staff numbers through measures such as natural wastage (natürlicher Abgang von Arbeitskräften), early retirement (Frühpensionierung) and severance/redundancy payments (Abfindungen). If you decide to leave by yourself, you "give notice" or "hand in your notice" (fristgerecht kündigen). More colloquially, you "quit". Sometimes, people leave their jobs "by mutual agreement" (in gegenseitigem Einvernehmen), although this is often simply a nice way of saying they were fired.

More cheerfully, employees look forward to being promoted (befördert), ideally with a higher salary and better benefits (Nebenleistungen), for example, a company car (Dienstwagen). Note that in British English, a pay increase (Gehaltserhöhung) is a "rise"; in American English, it is a "raise". To get an increase, prepare yourself well for your salary negotiation (Gehaltsverhandlung).

Sadly, much of any gross (brutto) salary increase is usually eaten up by taxes, social insurance payments (Sozialversicherungen) - such as health insurance and payments to the state pension scheme (Rentenversicherung) - and Germany's solidarity surcharge (Solidaritätszuschlag). The net (netto) increase is often very disappointing.

In recent years, many new HR terms have appeared. These include "McJobs" for low-paid positions; "remote workers" or "virtual workers" for people working from home; and, of course, one of the most hated terms in Germany at the moment, "offshore outsourcing" (Verlagerung von Arbeitsplätzen ins Ausland).

For an excellent guide to vocabulary in this area, see the new book Key Terms in People Management by Steve Flinders (York Associates).

Mehr Englisch im Netz: www.business-spotlight.de
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 20.09.2004