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What working parents in Germany need to know when their child is sick

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What working parents in Germany need to know when their child is sick
Photo: DPA
16:46 CET+01:00
With the cold and flu season currently affecting adults and children across Deutschland, a common reoccurring question is whether workers have to come into the office when their child is sick.

The first week of February saw 15,188 laboratory-confirmed reports of flu cases in the country, according to a study conducted by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin. This was the highest number of cases within a week since December 2017.

12 percent of these reports were so severe, patients had to go to the hospital. The RKI study also found that many of the cases were reported in schools and kindergartens.

If you’re a mother or father in Germany and you’ve wondered what your rights are with regards to the workplace and an ill child, here’s what you need to know.

Do I still have to work if my child is sick?

The simple answer is no, according to section 45 in the German social security statute book provided by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.

In the event that one’s child is so sick that his or her teachers call for someone to pick them up, “most workers have the right to leave the workplace,” labour lawyer Manuela Beck told Süddeutsche Zeitung, adding that this is especially true if no one else can look after the child.

Every employee is entitled to leave of absence if their child is ill - up to a maximum of ten working days per child in the calendar year. Care for the child must be arranged though if he or she is ill for a longer period of time.

If an employee has more than two children, the maximum entitlement is 25 days. For a single parent, a maximum of 50 working days can be taken off due to sick children. They are meanwhile limited to 20 days per child each year.

What other requirements need to be filled?

The law applies to children under the age of twelve, with the exception of those with disabilities or in need of assistance. The term children can include one’s stepchildren and adopted children.

A doctor’s note must also be issued proving the child’s illness from the very first day the youngster falls ill - unlike for adults who typically require a doctor’s note for their employer on the third sick day.

Both the parent and the child moreover need to be covered by statutory health insurance. Parents with private insurance unfortunately aren’t covered by the legal right to take up to ten working days off per year if their kid is sick.

Another requirement is that no other people living in the household, such as grandparents or a nanny, are able to take care of the ill child.

Photo: DPA

Do I still get paid while caring for my sick child?

Employees typically receive their full income the first five days taken off - though not all companies offer this. As well, some employers include clauses in contracts with their employees that waive this right.

There’s also the possibility for parents with statutory health insurance to take a further five days off (15 days for single parents) under child sickness benefits. But a parent is only entitled to child sickness benefits if they can justify staying home to care for their child as necessary from a medical point of view (i.e. have a doctor’s note to show for it).

Can I take unpaid leave?

There is no general right to unpaid leave in the event that your child is sick. Check with your employer if you have any questions or doubts about this.

If your employer does grant unpaid leave in this circumstance, it should be recorded in writing to avoid colleagues potentially claiming later on that you simply failed to come into work.

If I’ve run out of sick days for my kids, can I call in sick myself?

“This isn’t advisable,” Dr. Gabriele Hußlein-Stich, vice-president of the Association of German Labour Lawyers told publisher Baby und Familie, adding that it is considered a legal violation and could lead to termination.

"If all days are used up, there is still the possibility of taking holiday days or working from home," the labour lawyer said.

I have an important meeting at work that I can’t miss. What do I do?

In several major cities across Germany there are childcare services and organizations that look after sick kids.

While parents have to bear the costs for care themselves, this can be claimed as special expenses when it comes to tax filing season.

‘Notmütterdienst’ operates in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Cologne. There’s also ‘Zu Hause gesund werden’ in Munich and ‘Tagespflegebörse’ in Nuremberg.

With DPA

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