Is 'short-time work' a German term?

Hi, when you google the term ‘short-time work’ you will get a lot of pages most of which are related to German companies. So, is ‘short-time work’ a direct translation of the German term ‘Kurzarbeit’ or does ‘short-time work’ also exist in English speaking countries?


TOEIC listening, photographs: A women in an office[YSaerTTEW443543]

I have never seen or heard the expression “short-time work”. In real English an advertisement or something similar would say “short-term work”, “temporary work”, “short-term contract work”, etc.

I wonder if this strange expression began with Germans hearing “short-term” and misunderstanding it. Some Germans also use an expression “goal-getter”, which is not English and sounds to me as if it came from someone mishearing our expression “go-getter”.

Hi Jamie,

Kurzarbeit and ‘short-term contract work’ or ‘temporary work’ or two different concepts. If you google the term you will find lots of articles in English explaining the Kurzarbeit model.

For example, what do you make of the following text and what do you call this concept in the United States?

[i]Even in the best run company, circumstances can arise which lead to a temporary reduction in work. A lay-off is where employees are not provided with work by their employer and the situation is expected to be temporary. Short-time working occurs when employees are laid off for a number of contractual days each week, or for a number of hours during a working day.

There is a general right at common law to tell most employees not to turn up for work but no general right not to pay them.[/i]

And what about this one?

[i]Work and Jobseeker’s Benefit
If your days at work are reduced

If you normally work full-time but short-time working is introduced on a temporary basis. You will continue to pay PRSI in the normal way. If the short-time work involves a three-day week, you may get Jobseeker’s Benefit for the other two days, provided you meet the other relevant conditions that apply to Jobseeker’s Benefit. In this situation, the social welfare week is five days and you will get two-fifths of the normal amount of Jobseeker’s Benefit. There are no limits on how long short-time working can continue. There are circumstances however in which you may be able to claim a redundancy payment, which would mean that you would be wholly unemployed.[/i]

Do these texts sound strange or ‘German’ to you?

As for the term ‘goal-getter’, there is this book ‘Goal Getting’ which was published in 2005 in the US where the authors repeatedly use the word ‘Goal Getter’ so there actually might be some Americans who are at least familiar with that word too.[YSaerTTEW443543]

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Yes, Torsten, those texts sound strange and German in those places where they use the term “short-time work”, and especially “short-time working”. It sounds like a strained attempt to find a term for a foreign legal concept that is similar to something we call “working on a reduced schedule”, “working reduced hours” or “partial layoff”.

Hi Jamie,

That’s very interesting to hear because both texts were written by government organizations from English speaking countries. I’m sure that none of the authors speaks much German if any.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A child in a cart[YSaerTTEW443543]

What do you want me to say, Torsten, that it sounds like natural English? It doesn’t.

Maybe not every text written by the British and Irish governments sounds like ‘natural English’ but I can’t see why they would sound ‘German’.

Does every text issued or published by the American government sound like ‘natural English’?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A girl bending down[YSaerTTEW443543]

Dammit, Torsten, I’m telling you that just because some bit of Germlish has found its way into a document from the government of an English-speaking country, that doesn’t mean the Germlish has become English. You can wish all you want, but it won’t come true.

You can find other examples of foreigner English in documents from EU countries just because so many non-proficient translators work on documents for the EU as a whole. One of the biggest examples is “harmonization”, which really means to sing or play a musical instrument in harmony, but is used in EU documents to mean “coordination” or “synchronization”. In the face of a flood of bad English from Brussels, they native speakers just gave up and began using a goofy term.

Um excuse me … but to be placed on “short time” is quite a well used English term. It means exactly the same as the German version. Whether Germans took if from us or us from Germans is over my head.

Short time work means that the company, as is the case in the current economic climate, that the company has cut the working week of its employees as an option rather than unemployment.

Torsten you are correct !!!

Online preparation for the TOEIC test.

It’s clearer to say a partial schedule.

Hi Jamie,

Are you really trying to say that the information on the following page is written in ‘Germlish’. If so, what would you say is the reason for this? Brussels and/or the Germans?

Also, do you think that Irish citizens reading this text would say it’s written in ‘Germlish’?

Jamie, please tell me why I would want a ‘Germlish’ term to become English? I’m interested in learning English and all I want is to find out which terms are used by native speakers of English. If the Irish government publishes a detailed description of the term ‘short time working’ on a very popular website I would venture to say that the languages they use are English and Gaelic. As far as I see ‘Germlish’ is not language used the Irish government.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Relaxing on the couch[YSaerTTEW443543]

I say that the term “short time working” sounds like Germlish, and that it’s not internationally intelligible. It’s impossible to tell from the term itself whether it means a reduced hourly schedule that continues indefinitely, or if it means a full-time schedule that is only temporary. If the idea were to be understood by most of the native English speakers in the world, a different term would have to be used.

So you are saying that the Irish government publishes its information in a language that sounds like ‘Germlish’ to Americans. Interesting. Maybe the American government publishes some of its information that sounds to some native speakers of English like Germlish too?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A girl lying on the floor[YSaerTTEW443543]

This is a particularly weird bit of British slang that has made it into official documents, then. Normally a compound noun with the structure of “short-time working” would not be used in official documents in the English-speaking world. I defy you to find two official documents containing “full-time working”, “temporary working”, or “contract working” as noun constructions. You won’t. You will instead find “full-time work”, “temporary work”, or “contract work” or “full-time employment”, “temporary employment”, or “contract employment”.

Just because the British or the Irish have begun using some term, it doesn’t mean it’s grammatical, standard or international.

There is a difference between official documents created by the US government and those from the UK and Ireland, and that is that the terminology in the US documents is created by native English speakers. They contain no Brusselese. Since the early 1990s, the British and Irish have been using quite a few phony English expressions that were created by the French or Germans. You won’t find US government documents containing English words created by the Mexicans.

How do you know that the documents created by the Irish and British governments are created by ‘non-native speakers of English’? Are you suggesting that those documents containing the term ‘short time work’ were written by Germans? If so, how do you know this? I hope you won’t suggest the Irish and British governments are bought by the Germans ;-).[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Unpacking boxes[YSaerTTEW443543]

Now you’ve distorted what I said.

I agree with Torsten Jamie,

You are misunderstanding the situation here …

25 Jan 2009 … The Thatcher government brought in a short-time working directive in the 1980s to cover earnings lost through shorter hours. …


Maybe in the US you use different terms.


Maybe you are just enjoying the discussion.


I find it a little strange that a person from the USA is being a little critical against the British and trying, in my eyes, to imply that the only correct English revolves around nouns, pronouns …etc Especially when you come from a country that feels the sentence “did you do it yet” is correct English !!!

Hello Torsten,

I agree with Jamie that short-time work is not something that would be “correctly” understood in the US. It seems to be some sort of European term. I would say Americans would quite likely interpret it as an unusual way of saying short-term or temporary work.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
— Abraham Lincoln

This sounds like it’s talking about a “working directive”, meaning that it’s a rough draft of a directive to be refined and released in its final draft later. “Short time” just sounds like an incompetent choice of words.

“Short-time working” is evidently British slang and wouldn’t be understood by most of the world’s native English speakers.

Hi Amy,

The definition of the term ‘short-time work’ given by the Irish and British governments are written in very clear English and I think that any American including you and Jamie would understand that definition.

For those of you who want to learn the meaning of the term 'short-time work, you might want take this test: short time vs. down time[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A girl resting[YSaerTTEW443543]