In Germany, if you are too sick or injured to work, you take a sick day. This guide explains how sick leave works.
It’s okay to take sick days
Your employer can’t punish you because you take sick days. If you take more than 30 sick days per year, you could get fired.2 To fire you, your employer must prove that you will not get better, that it’s bad for the company, and that there are no other options (like a transfer or reduced hours).3
What to do when you are sick
1. Tell your team
Tell your employer and your team that you are sick as soon as you can.6 Each team has different rules for this. Usually, you just need to call, email or message your manager.
2. Get a sick note from a doctor
Most employers ask for a sick note if you are sick for more than 3 days. Some ask for a sick note on the first day that you are sick.7 In the first month of your probation period, get a sick note on the first day.8
You get a sick note from a doctor. You can get it in person, with a phone call, or with a video call. You can use an app like TeleClinic or Doktor.de instead of visiting a doctor. It’s faster and easier.
3. Send the sick note to your employer
Since 2023, you don’t need to give a sick note to your employer. Your employer can get a digital copy of your sick note from your health insurer.26
4. Get better
If you have a sick note, you have the right to go on sick leave.10 Your employer can’t refuse.
When you are on sick leave, you do not have to do any work. You don’t have to join meetings, answer emails, or be online. Your employer must leave you alone, except if they have urgent questions.11
The goal of sick leave is to get better, and go back to work when you are healthy.
You still get paid when you are sick
The first 6 weeks
If you do something really dangerous and you get hurt, you get unpaid sick leave.13 For example, you don’t get paid sick leave for kickboxing, motorcycle racing or drunk driving injuries.
You don’t get paid sick leave for tattoos or plastic surgery.
The next 78 weeks
Krankengeld calculator – Arbeitnow
Two things can happen:
- Temporary sickness: unemployment benefits
You get unemployment benefits for the disabled (Arbeitslosengeld bei Arbeitsunfähigkeit) until you get better. You will get very little money – about 835€ per month.15
- Permanent disability: public pension
If you can’t work again, you get a pension for the disabled (Erwerbsminderungsrente). If you paid public pension contributions for less than 60 months, you can’t get a pension.16
If you have a mortgage, or if your family depends on you, you should get disability insurance.
Things you can do on sick leave
When you are on sick leave, you don’t have to stay at home. You can still do things that don’t hurt your recovery.17
If you can’t work because of an injury, you can still meet friends, go shopping and travel. For example, if you can’t work because of a broken arm, you can still have coffee with a friend. It does not hurt your recovery.
If you can’t work because you are sick, you can still travel if it helps your recovery. For example, you can go to the Baltic Sea to get rest and fresh air. If you can’t work because of depression or burnout, you can do things that make you feel better.
Sick leave for freelancers
If you are self-employed, you don’t get paid while you are sick.
You do not have an employer who pays your salary while you are sick. For the first 6 weeks, you get nothing.
How to protect yourself
- If you have public health insurance, pay a little more to get Krankengeld when you are sick. You will pay 14.6% of your income instead of 14%. You get Krankengeld after 6 weeks of sick leave, but you can pay more to get it faster (Krankengeld Wahltarif).18
- If you have private health insurance, get Krankentagegeld insurance.
- Get disability insurance (Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung). It pays your salary if you are permanently unable to do your job. If you have a family or a mortgage, this is important.
- In your contracts, define what happens if you are too sick to finish a project in time.
Sick leave for the unemployed
If you get ALG I, your job is to look for work. If you are sick, and you can’t look for work, you must get a sick note for the Agentur für Arbeit. When you are healthy again, you must tell the Agentur für Arbeit.
If you are sick while on vacation
If you are on vacation, you can still get sick leave. The days you are on sick leave do not count as vacations.19 For example, if you take a 10-day vacation, and you are sick for 4 days during the vacation, you only use 6 vacation days.
Your vacation ends and your sick leave starts when you get a sick note from the doctor. If you are sick during your vacation, get a sick note as soon as you can.