The inability of employees to work is an issue of constant concern. Because, of course, employees get sick once in a while and can't show up at work. But what are reasons for sick leave, when do employees need to see a doctor and – probably the most important question – do they still get paid?
Notification of sickness: When is one considered unfit for work?
Incapacity to work (AU for short) is when employees can no longer perform their work duties as usual due to an illness. However, the risk of a deterioration in the employee's state of health if the employee continues to work may also justify a notice of illness.
The incapacity for work is always related to the specific work performance agreed upon in the employment contract. For example, it is conceivable that an office employee with a broken leg – i.e., obviously physically ailing – is not necessarily incapacitated for work and therefore may not receive a sick note from his or her doctor at all. Because you don't usually need healthy legs for a job in the office.
The reasons for the inability to work can be quite different: Some employees are absent because of an acute, temporary illness. Classically, colds or other infectious diseases force employees to stay away from the workplace.
However, chronic illnesses, which may extend over a longer period of time, may also be the reason for incapacity for work. Or the work itself is the trigger for the incapacity for work, as for example in the case of an occupational disease or a work or commuting accident.
When do I need a certificate of incapacity for work??
Important for incapacity for work: A doctor must confirm that you as an employee are actually incapable of work and issue you with a certificate of incapacity for work (called sick bill or yellow bill).
Many employees accept that their employees can stay at home for up to 3 days without providing a certificate. However, you do not have a right to do so, but your employer can specify in the employment contract which procedure he would like to see in the event of a sickness notification.
Incapacity and money: what about my wages??
Employees in Germany have relatively little to worry about in terms of money when they are sick. Unlike in other countries, employees who are unable to work still receive their wages – but not for an unlimited period of time.
Employees with a sick bill usually continue to receive money through the following channels:
- Continued payment of remuneration in the event of illness: in order to be entitled to continued payment of remuneration in the event of illness, you must be employed by your current employer for more than 4 weeks – this is what the law requires. However, if your employment contract, works agreements or collective bargaining agreements state otherwise, the provisions of the agreement shall apply. If you are entitled to continued payment of wages, you will continue to receive your wages or salary for 6 weeks despite illness in accordance with Section 3 of the Continued Payment of Wages Act (EntgFG). Provided you are not to blame for being unable to work. If you are absent from work because you have violated workplace regulations, your employer is not obliged to continue paying you a salary. You are not entitled to continued payment of wages even if your employment relationship is suspended, for example because you are on parental leave or if your fixed-term employment contract ends or you are legally dismissed.
- Sick pay: Legally insured employees who are sick for more than 6 weeks can receive sick pay from their health insurance provider. Sick pay is less than the usual net income and can be paid within 3 years for a maximum of 1.5 years for the same illness.
- Injury benefit: If the reason for the inability to work is an accident at work or on the way to work, you may be entitled to injury benefit, which is paid to you by the accident insurance fund. You can also receive this compensation for lost wages or salary in the event of an occupational illness.
Attention: the sickness certificate must be complete, otherwise there could be problems with the health insurance company. This means that sick leave must include weekends and holidays. Even if you would not work on these days.
Checklist: I'm sick – what should I do?
If you unexpectedly become ill and cannot perform your job, you should act quickly. In the following, we have summarized the most important points that you should definitely consider.
Always remember: currently you may be in a very bad way and you would like to just hole up. But your employer has an interest (and even a right) to know what is wrong with you as soon as possible. Quick and spirited action will help you maintain an appreciative relationship with your employer – and you should definitely do that, after all, you certainly want to return to work after you are unable to work.
- Inform your employer as soon as possible. Preferably before you start work. By the way, you are obligated to do so according to § 5 of the Continuation of Remuneration Act (EntgFG). Depending on the job you are doing, he can look for a substitute.
- Try to estimate how long you expect to be absent from work.
- Ask again when you should submit a certificate of incapacity for work.
- After 3 days of illness, you should go to the doctor anyway and get a sickness certificate.
Our tip: Your illness is entirely your own business. you do not have to inform the employer about what you are missing. However, this does not apply to illnesses that could affect other employees or company processes – such as a current infection with the coronavirus. If you are sick from it, you must of course inform your employer so that they can make further arrangements to protect the rest of the workforce.
FAQs on incapacity for work
Some questions come up again and again when it comes to the topic of sick leave and incapacity for work. We have collected the most common ones and give you an answer.
Can I be dismissed during sick leave??
There is still an assumption among some employees that you cannot be dismissed during sick leave. But this is unfortunately not true. After all, an inability to work does not protect you from receiving a lawful dismissal.
However, it is a different matter if you are to be dismissed because of illness. This is considerably more difficult, but also not impossible. However, it depends primarily on the specific individual case whether a dismissal due to illness can be enforced. Here it is worth going to the lawyer.
I am sick and have vacation – what now?
If you are sick, you cannot work, but you also cannot take a vacation. Especially not because the leave is there to recover and restore your working capacity. With a flu it is difficult.
Therefore, employees who become ill while on vacation should go to the doctor and have the illness certified. If you have a valid certificate of incapacity for work, your employer can reimburse you for the lost vacation time.
But be careful: reimbursement does not mean that you can simply add the sick days to your approved vacation and appear at work a few days later accordingly. This is a reason for a warning notice.
The correct procedure here is to consult with your employer on how to proceed in the specific situation. With a bit of luck (and if the staffing situation is right), he may even suggest that you extend your leave.
Can I go on vacation despite a sick bill?
Probably, you would answer from the gut that employees who have a sick leave certificate, of course, can not go on vacation – after all, they can not go to work either.
Strictly speaking, one has nothing to do with the other. After all, if the leave helps the illness to heal more quickly, there is nothing wrong with it in principle. For example, a trip to the North Sea or the Baltic Sea would be conceivable in the case of persistent respiratory problems.
However, if you receive sick pay, the situation is different again. In this case, you must contact your insurance company before going on vacation and discuss the procedure to be followed. In principle, as a recipient of sick pay, you must be available for the medical service.
What happens to my remaining vacation?
If you are unable to take all of your annual leave due to illness, it can be carried over to the following year. It is true that the entitlement to annual leave expires on 31.12. of the respective year, but in many companies it is customary anyway that employees can still use their vacation from the previous year until 31. March of the new year may take.
This also applies to cases where employees were sick and therefore could not use up all of their vacation time. If employees are incapacitated for work for a longer period of time, separate regulations apply once again.
I work part-time. Do I still get money during an illness?
Part-time employees are entitled to paid annual leave and, of course, to continued payment in the event of illness. After all, even a part-time job is an employment subject to social insurance contributions.
By the way: Even marginally employed persons receive continued payment in the event of illness, even if no social security contributions are paid for them. However, you must therefore forego sick pay.