Sick Leave & Sick Leave Benefits in Germany


Sickness is a normal part of life, but it can be frustrating when you’re not feeling yourself. Luckily, Germany has a system of social benefits that help people who are injured or ill (physical or mental) and they cannot go to work. 

General Overview

When one falls ill, during a working day, then it has to be reported to the employer. Every company will have a different internal process to do so, but generally involves informing the immediate supervisor and/or the Personnel department (HR). 

Although in many countries around the world, sick leave is frowned upon – but that is not the case in Germany. It is not only accepted but expected (Idea being if one is sick, then one should rest and recover fully before returning to work. Also, in case of any infectious diseases, the other employees don’t get exposed) If you fall sick during your vacation days, then some companies will let you count this as sick leave rather than vacation, but again depends from company to company, and would be mentioned in your contract. 

For employees who have worked more than four weeks, they are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave. After the six-week period, the employee is entitled to sickness benefit(Krankengeld).  But, if you fall sick, in the first four weeks, of your employment then your employer is not obligated to pay you your salary, during this phase. But instead, you can request your Health insurance provider to cover you, for this. Also, in-case, you have a Private insurance, then you cannot claim sick pay. Instead, you are entitled to your daily sickness allowance(Krankentagegeld) if it is included in your insurance contract. 

In-case your child has fallen ill, then also one is legally entitled to take time off, so one can take care of them. The loss of earning of the parents (covered by health insurance), covers about 90% of the lost wages, by the child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld). 

Sick Leave Entitlement 

In most companies here, you will be entitled to 30 sick days per annum. Exceeding this 30-day limit can be frowned upon, and if not supported by the documents, can also in some cases, lead to termination. Over here, by law, one needs to provide a doctor’s certificate (also called Gelber schein or yellow note) latest after three days of consecutive sickness. But this can also be different in different companies. Some companies can reduce it to one or two sick days also. Do try and understand it, in your contract under the section- Arbeitsunfähigkeits   


Sickness Benefit – Krankengeld 

You know what’s better than getting sick? Getting sick and still getting paid! 

 Sounds pretty great, right? But there are some conditions that must be met before you can receive benefits: firstly, you must have paid contributions in at least two out of the last three years before becoming sick; secondly, if this requirement is not met, then you may still qualify for benefits based on other criteria (such as how long you have worked). 

If you’re sick, the Government social programmes have got your back! 

 Unfortunately, the German Employment Agency is not going to pay you to sit around at home and watch Netflix all day (although that sounds like a pretty good deal). But what they will do is pay you a sickness benefit if you meet the necessary requirements. 

The first six weeks of the sickness, one is paid the usual salary by the employer (Entgeldfortzahlung). The employee receives this payment from their employer on the first day after incapacity has occurred, but no later than within two weeks from becoming sick. If after the 1st six weeks, you are still unable to continue work, then your health insurance will cover the rest of your payment. The amount of this benefit is determined by your previous earnings and can be up to 78 weeks (1 year), till you recover. 

In addition to receiving sick pay from your employer, you can also claim unemployment benefit if you’ve lost your job due to illness (known as Arbeitslosengeld). 

In total, there’s a maximum of 78 weeks where you can claim sickness benefit(Krankengeld) – but only after your employer has paid out your full statutory sick pay entitlement. If they haven’t done so, they might not have been aware of what they had to do in order for you to claim it – so don’t be afraid to ask! 

How much sick pay am I entitled to? 

The health insurance provider covers the lower amount of either 70% of your gross salary, up to a maximum of 112.88 per day (in 2022) or 90% of your net salary. Although a maximum amount of 112.88€ has been set, gross. So, after deductions of your social contributions, this amount will come to 2979€ a month (net) regardless of however higher amount your salary might be.  

Who is entitled to sickness benefit – Krankengeld 

In order to qualify for sickness benefit, one needs to fulfil the following criteria 

-One is employed and contributing to a public health insurance scheme 

-One is holding a valid residence permit that allows one to work in Germany 

-One has been unable to work due to sickness for more than six weeks and / or your employer is no longer paying one’s salary 

-One has a certificate from one’s doctor confirming the incapacity for work. 

-One needs to attend a medical examination, if requested. 

How can I apply for sickness benefits 

The health insurance company will require a doctor’s incapacity to work certificate (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung or Gelber Schein). This is sent electronically by your doctor’s office to the insurance company, usually. 

Your company will need a copy also of the doctor’s certificate. They are working on making this process digital (probably by the end of 2022), but for now you may have to do this manually. 

After this you will receive a response from your insurance provider by post, outlining your eligibility for sickness benefit and if approved, then the next steps to be taken would be laid out in detail. 

You will be covered up to the end of your certified period of inability to work, although you cannot draw sickness benefit for more than 78 weeks in a three-year period. Although under certain conditions, it may be possible to extend this.

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