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

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.

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

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.

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7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

Taking the decision to go it alone and freelance in Germany can be a daunting prospect. But, if you do it right, it can be an exciting and liberating path. Here are some of our top tips on how to survive.

7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

1. Get a tax advisor

The German tax system is complicated, even for Germans. All the associated paperwork uses the Amtsprache (authority language) which is more like legalese than ‘normal’ German, and mistakes when filling out tax forms can cause you, at best, a massive headache and, at worst, a costly fine. So it’s best that you employ someone who knows what they’re doing to help you out.

That person is called a Steuerberater (tax advisor) in Germany. They will help you register with the tax office, correspond with them and submit your tax declarations.

Be aware that, in Germany, different deadlines apply for tax returns depending on whether you employ an official tax advisor or not. If you are doing the tax return on your own, the deadline for submitting your annual tax return is earlier than if you use a tax advisor’s services. 

READ ALSO: What NOT to do when you’re freelancing in Germany

When looking for a tax advisor, a top tip is to use your network to get recommendations. Ideally, you want someone who will do more than just fill in the forms for you, but who will actually advise you on how best to manage your business finances so that you can make tax savings.

2. Keep your accounting in order

The better you keep your own accounts in order, the easier it will be for your tax advisor to compile your tax declarations and therefore the cheaper their services will be.

As a freelancer, there are a lot of costs you can deduct from your taxes – from train tickets, working materials, to meals out – so it’s best to keep hold of all your receipts and to keep them in good order.

2 euros and 50 cents lie on a receipt in a beer garden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

In Germany, you’re obliged to keep hold of receipts for two years, in case of a tax inspection, so it’s a good idea to photocopy the type of machine-printed receipts you get from restaurants so that they stay legible for a long time.

There are also a few things to be aware of when writing your own invoices. Firstly, make sure that you include your tax number. This isn’t the 11-digit Steueridentifikationsnummer that everyone gets when registering in Germany, but the 10-digit Steuernummer you get from the Finanzamt after registering yourself as a freelancer. 

Most companies won’t pay you if you don’t have this on your invoices so make sure you include it.

You should also make sure that you number your invoices properly – ideally in ascending order so that you can easily keep track of them. You are not allowed to issue two invoices with the same number and if you do so and the finance office notices, you could face an inspection of your whole accounting system.

There are numerous great accounting software programmes you can use to help you, such as Lexoffice and Sevdesk and, even if you have to pay for them, the costs will be tax deductible!

3. Find out if you’re eligible for financial support

In Germany, there are several opportunities for freelancers to gain financial support and to cut their outgoings, and its worth finding out if you’re eligible for them.

If you’re claiming unemployment benefits under ALG 1 and are thinking about becoming a freelancer, the employment office offers a special type of financial support to help you to get your freelance business off the ground.

Called the Grundungszuschuss (“foundation grant”) the payment is a six-month grant equalling your monthly entitlement under ALG 1 plus €300 towards your insurance costs can be applied for those in receipt of this unemployment benefit.

READ ALSO: Will freelancers benefit from Germany’s €300 energy allowance?

If you are engaged in some form of artistic profession in Germany – which can include journalism to pottery – you may be entitled to membership to the Kunstlersozialkasse (artists’ social insurance).

Being a member of the KSK means you only have to pay half of your health insurance and pension contributions, and the KSK will pay the rest.

4. Work out how much you think you will earn

As with starting any business, you need to have some idea of your expected earnings from the outset.

If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, or have some freelance gigs on the side of an employment position, then it might be worth considering registering yourself as a Kleinunternehmer (“small business”).

As a Kleinunternehmer, you can currently earn up to €22.000 per year without having to charge VAT and having to submit only yearly tax declarations. 

An income tax declaration form lies on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hans-Jürgen Wiedl

Be aware that if you are registered as this kind of freelancer, you must include the following sentence in your invoices: ‘Gemäß § 19 UStG wird keine Umsatzsteuer berechnet’ which means ‘In accordance with Paragrah19 of the German VAT law, no VAT has been added to this invoice.’

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about your German tax return in 2022

If you think you will earn more than €22.000 per year, you will need to pay Umsatzsteuer (VAT) and will have to submit tax declarations in advance and more often. Depending on how much you earn, this could be every month or every quarter. 

5. Get your insurance in order

In Germany, it’s a legal requirement to have health insurance.

If you’ve just made the move from employment to being a freelancer and want to keep the same health insurer, you should get in contact with your health insurance provider straight away to tell them about your change of circumstances. They will ask you to re-register and to tell them your projected freelance earnings for the year, so they can amend your monthly fees.

If you don’t keep your health insurer provider updated, you could continue to be charged the higher rate that you had from your previous salary.

The insurance cards of the health insurance companies DAK, AOK, Barmer and Techniker-Krankenkasse TK lie with euro notes under a stethoscope. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Daniel Karmann

It’s not just health insurance you need to think about as a freelancer. It’s also wise to think about protecting yourself from any sort of claims that could arise as a result of any working mishaps. 

If, for example, you lose your laptop which contains confidential client information, you need to be protected against claims.

That’s why it’s good to have both Betriebshaftversicherung (business liability insurance) and Rechtschutzversicherung (legal protection insurance).

6. Plan your time wisely

All of these bureaucratic obligations take time. So it’s really important that you take account of that when planning your time. For example, planning half a day a week to deal with your invoices, filing, emails to clients, and conversations with authorities can be really beneficial when scheduling your working time. 

7. Grow your network

As a freelancer, networking is absolutely crucial to success. 

Keep an up-to-date profile on websites like LinkedIn and German equivalent XING and keep in contact with anyone you’ve ever worked with, no matter how brief the contact was. 

Having a network is not only about getting more clients, but also about building a support network in your field to exchange advice, tips and generally for your own enrichment. 

Participating in workshops related to your field, going to seminars, and meet-ups, can be great ways of broadening your network. 

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