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The sick note is a fundamental tool for workers to stand up for their own rights. In Germany, there are rules to manage the relationship between employer and employee; therefore, we would like to give you some guidelines to understand what to do in case of sickness and absence from work.

General rules

In case of sickness, employees should always notify the employer of their absence. They are requested to provide proof of unfitness only starting from the fourth sick day. The proof consists of a document where the doctor assesses the health of the patient, and it must be ready by the fourth day of sickness leave. Therefore, it is important to request it in advance. Moreover, you should keep in mind that the limit of three days can vary according to each work contract. This means that the boss can demand the certificate even from the first day; in that case, employees are legally bound to provide it. The sick note (in German “Krankschreibung” or “Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung”) states the timeframe within which recovery is expected. For the first six weeks, the salary is paid as usual. Starting from the seventh, health insurance will cover for it.

Is it allowed to work on sick leave?

In case you feel like you have healed before sick leave has expired, are you allowed to go back to work beforehand? The answer is yes, and you are not required to show any proof of recovery. Nonetheless, you should keep in mind that there may be exceptions. If the employer thinks it is too soon for one to come back to work, they are entitled to reject the employee. Employers are legally bound to do so because it is their responsibility to make sure working conditions are optimal for all the staff, especially in case of contagious diseases. Obviously, doctors suggest workers should rest in order for their body to recover completely, thus avoiding worsening their conditions.

Moreover, insurance stays active when employees work on sick leave. This means that if one has an accident at work or on the way to it, health insurance covers for them.

Digital sick notice

The pandemic of Covid-19 has drawn attention to the need of digitalizing bureaucracy, including the process required to get the sick note. As a consequence, a new paragraph will be added to the existing law Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz (EFZG), the law on the continued payment of salary during festivities and sick days. According to this clause, the doctor verifies the health of the patient and then draws up the certificate digitally to deliver it directly to the insurance agency. Employees are solely requested to report their absence to their boss and to notify how many sick days they are taking (obligation to notify). Should the employer demand proof of unfitness, he will have to turn directly to the insurance company. The hard copy is still relevant in case of litigation between employer and employee. This element of change will have a twofold effect: it will simplify the bureaucratic procedure and promote transparency between the two parties.