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JOBS

EXPLAINED: The ‘special’ days when you can get paid time off in Germany

It's not just for vacations or sick leave: there are many situations in Germany where you can take paid time off. We break them down.

EXPLAINED: The 'special' days when you can get paid time off in Germany
You could get a day off when moving house in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

All full-time employees in Germany who work a full-day week, are entitled to at least 20 paid vacation days by law. This is a bare minimum, however, with many companies offering between 25 and 30 days per year – or even more.

READ ALSO: Vacation days in Germany: what to know about your rights as an employee

Yet what about days which aren’t for holiday, but rather something that needs to be done during normal working hours, such as moving house or caring for a child who falls sick? And what about big life events, like weddings or religious ceremonies?

We’ve got some good news for you: these can qualify for paid-time off work outside of the normal holiday allowance – with a few exceptions. Here’s what qualifies for the so-called Sonderurlaub, or special holiday. 

Moving

While on the one hand it’s an exciting time, moving house can be a real pain. Packing up all of your prized possessions takes time that many of those clocking in full time hours simply don’t have. 

That’s why you can take a sigh of relief to know that moving qualifies for a paid day off work under two core conditions: you are moving for your job – for example being transferred to another location – and the move needs to take place on a weekday or during work time, for example because you have to be out of your home by the end of the month. 

That said, Germany is a heavily unionized country, and each union has its own special rules and exceptions to the general law. For example, the union IG Metall grants its employees a day off work for a move, regardless if they are moving for work-related reasons or not.

Public sector service employees can also expect a day free from the job, even if they are just moving their belongings next door. 

In some cases when the move requires a great distance and effort, your employer can be reasonably expected to grant you a few days off of work. 

Weddings

Photo: DPA

Have an urge to tie the knot on a Wednesday afternoon? Maybe you’ll be more up for it when you learn it means a day off of work – in addition to the proper holiday time which we hope you also carve out for the Honeymoon. The same applies for civil unions. 

In some cases, this time off work can be granted for up to three days, in case you want to carve off more time following a typical Sunday celebration. Yet paid time off typically is not longer than a day. 

READ ALSO: ‘Ja, ich will’: Internationals share what it’s like to get married in Germany

Special anniversaries

What better way to celebrate a work anniversary than not working? That’s at least the philosophy of most public sector jobs which will grant a day off of work for 25th and 40th anniversaries of time logged at work. Although if you reach the latter, we hope that you are well on your way to retirement soon!

The same applies to celebrating your own 25th wedding anniversary, or the 25th or 50th wedding anniversary of your parents. Some unions will also grant their employees a day off for these special celebrations, known respectively as silver and golden weddings in Germany. 

Birth of your own child

It should go without saying that, in addition to the generous Elternzeit (parental leave) that both parents are entitled to in Germany, you can also take time off for the birth of your child. This doesn’t just apply to the woman giving birth but also her partner. 

READ ALSO: What parents in Germany need to know when their child is sick

An injury

According to Section 616 of the German Civil Code, an employer must continue to pay a salary to the employee following an injury that prevents them from working under the following two conditions: the injury wasn’t caused by the employee themselves, and lasts “a relatively insignificant amount of time,” although in Germany this can mean up to six months. 

Doctor visits

Photo: DPA

Employees are also granted time off within the course of a working day for doctor and medical visits. For more intensive procedures that span more that part of a day – an operation, for example – the employee can receive up to a few days off of work.

Taking care of a sick family member

If a family member under your care falls sick and needs your care, you are entitled to up to 10 days Sonderurlaub, even on sudden notice, and up to six months unpaid time off from work.

Religious reasons

Employees can also take time off in order to attend religious ceremonies such as a communion or confirmation, although whether this is paid depends on the employer. They are also allowed to leave work during the day in order to pray as long as this has previously been communicated with the employer.

READ ALSO: These three German cities offer ‘the best work-life balance’

Death

In the sad event that someone close to you passes away, you are entitled a paid day of grievance leave. For close family members, this is usually two days. Of course, this is the bare minimum written into law, and many employers will also make exceptions based on the individual case. 

Other types of leave

Germany also grants a generous amount of paid leave for parents (Elternzeit), sick leave, educational leave (Bildungsurlaub), and unemployment.

You can visit our guides on the following and contact us at [email protected] with additional questions or comments.

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For members

HEALTH

7 things to know about visiting a doctor in Germany

Going to the doctor when you're living abroad is a necessary part of life, but it can feel a little daunting. Here are some cultural quirks to look out for in Germany.

7 things to know about visiting a doctor in Germany

Germany is known for having one of the best healthcare systems in the world. 

But there are some cultural differences that can take a bit of getting used to when you’re not from the country. 

Here’s a look at what you should keep in mind. 

You might have to pay at the doctor

People used to a healthcare system that’s free at the point of contact, such as the NHS in the UK, may be a little confused if they are asked to pay money at a doctor’s appointment. 

But the fact is that certain things will not be covered by your health insurance in Germany, and some optional extras could require that you have to dip into your wallet. 

For instance, many gynaecologists may offer to carry out an optional pelvic ultrasound check during a Pap smear test. If it’s not covered by your insurance, they will state in the appointment that it is an extra cost so you can decide if you want to pay for it or not. 

You should also ask if you have to pay for it upfront at the practice or if it will be sent out as a bill. 

Similarly, other specialists may also offer extra services that you could pay extra for. 

READ ALSO: ‘It works’: Your verdict on the German healthcare system

You’ll get different types of prescriptions

Another point to watch out for is that there are different kinds of prescriptions. A prescription (Rezept) given out on pink slips is usually given to people on statutory health insurance. People have to pay a reduced contribution – usually around €5-€10 – when picking up prescription medicine at the pharmacy. 

Patients with private insurance in Germany are more likely to be given a blue-coloured prescription slip. Private customers have to pay for their medicines in full before their insurance company reimburses them. You can also be given a blue slip if your public health insurance doesn’t cover the treatment.

Green slips include treatment that the doctor recommends. Meanwhile, yellow prescriptions are issued by the doctor for special controlled substances and are only valid for seven days. 

Polite waiting room etiquette

Germans may not be well known for being super friendly. But there are a few unexpected spots which are very welcoming. And one of those places is the doctor’s waiting room. 

Yes, it can be very surprising for foreigners when they are greeted with a little “Guten Morgen!” or “hallo!” in the waiting room when someone arrives. It’s customary for patients to give a polite hello and goodbye in the waiting room.

A person being vaccinated against Covid-19 in Hamburg in 2021.

A person being vaccinated against Covid-19 in Hamburg in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

… But you may face a stern receptionist or doctor

Ask a group of international residents about their experience of going to the doctor in Germany – or indeed other German-speaking countries – and you will likely hear about how the bedside manner is “different”.

This is because some doctors, and even receptionists, have a stern and direct approach when dealing with patients, which can be intimidating for newcomers to the country.

It can also be a little weird if you have to take some clothes off for an examination. You probably won’t be handed a gown, towel or even asked to undress behind a curtain. Everything is out in the open in Germany!  

Don’t worry though – none of this is personal. It’s just a different way of doing things. 

If you do come across a grumpy doctor, the best way to handle it is to either accept it or find a different doctor.

Be prepared to wait

Most Hausarzt (GP) practices in Germany operate on a drop-in basis during set times, known as Sprechstunden (consultation hours).

This means you can simply pop in during a two or three-hour window. During these times, it’s also first-come, first-served.

The advantage of this system is that it’s possible to see a doctor, for example, on a Wednesday morning without an appointment, as long as you have time to wait.

But if you are in a rush, or have a strict schedule, then the drop-in approach can be time-consuming. Depending on when you arrive, it could mean a short wait of several minutes or up to an hour.

The best advice is to arrive just as the doors open to secure a place near the top of the queue.

You can also book an appointment or Termin. But even if you book, you’ll probably still face a wait of at least 15 minutes. 

You are usually referred to a specialist

In Germany, if you are covered by public health insurance, you usually have to visit a GP to be referred to a specialist doctor.

There are exceptions in some cases, such as for gynaecologists and ophthalmologists where you can make an appointment without a referral.

If you have private insurance you can book appointments with specialists more easily.

READ ALSO: How to get a faster appointment with a specialist in Germany

Visit (or call) a GP for a sick note

If you’re sick from work then you have to get a sick note – Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung or Krankschreibung – after three days of illness to give to your employer. Some bosses may require this sick note earlier, so check your contract or ask HR. 

Generally, you have to visit your doctor to get this document. But during the pandemic, people have been able to get a sick note over the phone from their GP for mild respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19. 

READ ALSO: The 10 rules you need to know if you fall ill in Germany 

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