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

On average, German employees take 11 sick days per year1. You can take as many sick days as you need, even during your probation period.

Your employer can't punish you because you take sick days. If you take more than 30 sick days per year, you could get fired1. 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)1, 2.

If you take sick days when you are not sick, you can get fired1. For example, if you say that are too sick to work, but you go clubbing, you can get fired1.

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 can1. 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 3 days or more. Some ask for a sick note on the first day that you are sick1. In the first month of your probation period, get a sick note on the first day1, 2.

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 instead of visiting a doctor. It's faster and easier.

English-speaking doctors in Berlin ➞

You can also get a sick note for stress, depression, burnout, lack of sleep, and other mental health reasons1.

3. Send the sick note to your employer

You will get 3 copies of your sick note. One is for your employer. Send them their copy as soon as you can.

After January 1, 2023, this will be automatic. Your doctor will send an electronic sick note directly to your employer. You won't need to do anything.

4. Get better

If you have a sick note, you have the right to go on sick leave1. 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 questions1.

The goal of sick leave is to get better, and go back to work when you are healthy.

Sick leave slack status offline

You still get paid when you are sick

The first 6 weeks

For the first 42 days of your sick leave, your employer pays your full salary1. You get paid for the days that you are supposed to work1.

If you do something really dangerous and you get hurt, you get unpaid sick leave1. 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

After 6 weeks, your employer stops paying you. Instead, you get Krankengeld from your public health insurance. It's 70% of your gross salary, up to 116.38€ per day1, 2.

Krankengeld calculator (in German) — Techniker Krankenkasse

Krankengeld calculator — Arbeitnow

If you have private health insurance, you do not get Krankengeld. You must get a separate Krankentagegeld insurance.

After that

You can get Krankengeld for 78 weeks every 3 years. After 6 weeks of sick pay and 78 weeks of Krankengeld, you must go to the Arbeitsagentur, and apply for disability benefits.

Two things can happen:

  1. 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 month1.
  2. 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 pension1.

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 recovery1, 2, 3.

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.

After 6 weeks, you get Krankengeld or Krankentagegeld, but only if you pay for it1. Most freelancers don't, so they get nothing.

How to protect yourself

  • If you have public health insurance, pay a little more to get Krankengeld when you are sick. Your health insurance will cost 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)1.
  • 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.
  • In your contracts, define what happens if you are too sick to finish a project in time.

Other scenarios

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 vacations1, 2. 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.

If you have a hangover

If you have a hangover, you can take an unpaid sick day1, 2. You don't get paid because the hangover is your fault1, 2. In reality, you rarely explain why you are sick, so you get a paid sick day1.

Missing work because of a hangover looks really bad. If it happens often, you can get fired1. If you go to work and you are not sober, you can get fired1, 2, 3.