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Your complete guide to managing illness and sick leave in Germany

Life in GermanySick leave in Germany 2024. Following a decline in infections at the start of the year, instances of flu and respiratory ailments are once again on the upswing. The Robert Koch Institute reported an increase in the prevalence of acute respiratory diseases this week compared to the preceding one. The latest data reveals that the incidence of respiratory diseases was approximately 7,300 per 100,000 people last week, compared to 6,700 in the week prior. In accordance with German labor laws, employees have the choice to avail themselves of sick leave when they are unwell.

Medical leave

In the event of illness and inability to work, you possess the entitlement to recuperate at home. As an employee in Germany, you have a legal right to a maximum of six weeks of paid sick leave, contingent upon obtaining a medical certificate of incapacity for work from your doctor.
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When do you have to notify your employer?

In the event of your inability to work, it is crucial to promptly inform your employer. While there is no legal obligation to disclose the specific reason for your ailment, you may be inquired about the expected duration of your recovery. It is essential to ascertain the deadline for submitting a sickness certificate, as some companies may require it on the first day of illness, while others may stipulate a later timeframe, such as after three days.

When should you go to the doctor?

Visit your doctor, preferably on the initial day of your illness. According to the law, the doctor is obligated to examine and evaluate symptoms on the first day to issue a sick certificate. Retroactive issuance is only permissible in exceptional circumstances, such as when the medical office was closed on the first day.
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The medical certificate, known as Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung, is crafted by your doctor and includes details such as the anticipated duration of your incapacity for work. Starting in 2023, the medical certificate is no longer provided directly to you but is instead sent directly from the doctor to your health insurance company. Subsequently, the insurance company will forward the pertinent documentation to your employer.

Medical leave by phone

To avoid overcrowding in medical offices, from December 7, 2023 it is possible to obtain the medical leave certificate by telephone. What conditions must the patient meet:

  • The patient must be known to the practice and have been there for treatment or examination at least once in the last two years.
  • Medical leave applies to all illnesses. So not only for respiratory diseases, but also for diarrhea, headaches, nausea and dizziness.
  • However, if the course of the disease is very severe, it is important to contact the doctor and arrange a consultation at home.
  • NEWS: The doctor’s office must make sure that the person called is actually who they say they are.
Medical leave certificate by phone is valid for seven calendar days
Medical leave certificate obtained through a phone remains valid for seven calendar days

How long is sick leave valid on phone?

A medical leave certificate obtained through a telephone consultation typically remains valid for a maximum of seven calendar days. Any extension of sick leave beyond this period is contingent upon the patient undergoing a prior in-person examination at the doctor’s office. This additional sick leave authorization can also be applicable for extended durations.

How does the sick leave certificate reach the patient?

Typically, the sick leave certificate for your employer is transmitted either by post or email. However, since the start of last year, it is common for the certificate to be sent directly from the health insurance company.
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As per the information from the Association of Doctors from the State Health Insurance System (KBV), it is uncommon for an individual medical practice to request the physical submission of the medical leave certificate. In instances where such a request is made, patients may need to arrange for the certificate of incapacity for work to be delivered to a relative, for example.