For members


Everything that changes in Germany in December 2019

From new train timetables to better labour laws, here's everything that's going into effect as November becomes December on Sunday.

Everything that changes in Germany in December 2019
An antique clock in Cologne

Deutsche Bahn gets on track with new changes

On December 15th, Deutsche Bahn will be releasing its new timetable for the winter of 2019/2020. Among other things, more ICEs and Sprinter high-speed trains will come into use.

For the first time, an ICE will also travel from Germany to Switzerland. Some further connections to neighbouring countries will also be expanded.

READ ALSO: How travelling by train in Germany is set to improve

Connections will also be improved domestically. Trains traveling between Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia will be increased by 15 percent. 

Photo: DPA

ICE trains will travel between the existing routes Berlin-Erfurt-Munich and Berlin-Braunschweig-Frankfurt/Main without making any other stops. 

For the first time in several years, Deutsche Bahn has refrained from increasing its rail prices, as is usually the norm with timetable changes, a company spokesman told Bild.

The step is connected with the reduction of the railway prices decided by the German government in the course of the climate package.

READ ALSO: What does Germany's planned climate protection package mean for you?

New EU Commission lead

The new EU Commission, run under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, will officially begin on December 1st.

The EU Parliament has just given the green light for Ursula von der Leyen's new EU Commission. On Wednesday in Strasbourg, 461 MEPs voted for the team of the new Commission President on Wednesday in Strasbourg, 157 voted against it and and 89 abstained. 

READ ALSO: Who is Ursula von der Leyen, the surprise candidate set to take the EU's top job?

Von der Leyen replaces Jean-Claude Juncker after five years (one term) as Commission President.

WhatsApp cuts back

For a long time WhatsApp has been one of the most popular messaging apps in Germany, with an ever-expanding range of uses. But now one of the uses is being taken away. 

READ ALSO: These are the essential smartphone apps for living in Germany

Starting on December 7th, the messaging service will no longer be permitted to send mass messages such as newsletters. In principle, such sending already violates the usage guidelines, WhatsApp explains in its FAQs. 

Photo: DPA

Yet up until now, the sending of newsletters, which is mainly used by companies, has been tolerated. From December, however, the messenger service says it plans to take legal action against those who continue to send mass messages. 

WhatsApp is taking this step to sharpen its profile as the original intention of the service was direct communication between friends, family, and acquaintances.

READ ALSO: Don't use new WhatsApp sick note service, German doctors advise 

Plant-ing ahead

The European Commission is revising its “phytosanitary legislation” that has been in force for more than 40 years. As part of a new EU plant health regulation, potted plants or seeds, for example, must be labelled with an official label (a so-called EU-Pflanzenpass, or EU plant passport) starting on December 14th.

The EU wants to improve traceability and prevent pests from being introduced or spread. According to the Federal Research Institute for Cultivated Plants, the plant passport proves that the goods are free of pests and that all plant health requirements have been met.

A package deal for subcontractors

The German government wants to put an end to unacceptable working conditions in the parcel industry, and at the same time take the fight against undeclared work seriously.

The Parcel Courier Protection Act will therefore come into force on December 1st, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs announced recently. 

In order to increase cost efficiency, large parcel service providers (main contractors) often pass on orders to subcontractors. However, some of them pay little or no social security contributions.

 With the new law, the government wants to ensure that subcontractors pay social security contributions properly.

Letters are posted through a postbox in the centre of Cologne. Photo: DPA

Health insurance funds and employers' liability insurance associations can issue subcontractors with a so-called clearance certificate if they meet their social security contribution obligations.

The main purpose of the certificate is to remove the main contractor from liability if the subcontractor withholds social security contributions.

Paying it forward to Austria

Starting on December 1st, travellers heading to Austria by car will have to pay more. In future, the annual vignette – a type of permit – will cost €91.10, up from the current €89.30. 

The two-month ticket, currently €27.40, will cost 60 cents more in future, and the ten-day ticket, currently €9.40, will cost 20 cents more in future.

However, there is also a bit of good news for motorists. The Austrian parliament recently decided by a large majority to exempt five short motorway sections close to the German border from tolls. With this measure, the parties want to curb alternative traffic, especially by German drivers on country roads.

The exceptions to the toll are to apply, among other things, on the west motorway (A1) between the Walserberg and the Salzburg Nord junction and on the Inntal motorway (A12) between the border and the Kufstein-Süd junction. 

Netflix change

Planning to stay in on some cold wintry evenings with a good book or movie? The streaming service Netflix will discontinue support for some Samsung TVs on December 1st, said the Korean electronics manufacturer in a statement. The extent to which German devices are affected is still unclear.

Member comments

  1. “For the first time, an ICE will also travel from Germany to Switzerland.” Strange, pretty sure I’ve been regularly getting ICEs down into Switzerland for a few years…

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For members


Everything that changes in Germany in August 2022

From the €9 ticket and fuel tax cut, to travel chaos, tax deadlines and digital steps forward, here's what's changing in Germany this August.

Everything that changes in Germany in August 2022

€9 ticket and fuel tax cut runs out

Germany’s €9 monthly public transport ticket offer continues until the end of August so people will be able to buy and use it for the month before it it’s gone when September starts (sadly).

The fuel tax cut is also in force until the end of August. For petrol, the government-subsidised “tank rebate” is about 30 cents per litre, for diesel about 14 cents per litre. The reduction is limited until August 31st.

No plans have been announced yet to extend these measures. 

Travel chaos continues in Europe

The summer months have been chaotic for travellers, and we have seen examples of airports congested throughout Europe. This will continue during August, as airlines have cancelled more than 25,000 flights from their August schedule. 

In Germany, around 6,000 flights operated by Lufthansa alone have been scrapped from the summer schedule.

More strikes?

German airline giant Lufthansa ground staff staged a one-day strike on Wednesday July 27th. Negotiations between Verdi union and Lufthansa will happen on August 3rd and 4th.

It may be that more strikes are announced if an agreement on pay for the 20,000 ground staff isn’t reached. Keep an eye on The Local’s homepage. 

READ ALSO: Flights disrupted across Germany as Lufthansa strike begins

Travellers queue at terminal 2 of Frankfurt airport on July 23rd.

Travellers queue at terminal 2 of Frankfurt airport on July 23rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

August regional holiday

There is only one official holiday in Germany in August – Assumption Day – or Mariä Himmelfahrt – on August 15th. It is a regional holiday for the states of Bavaria and Saarland.

It falls on a Monday, so don’t forget to prepare yourself for it, as most shops and supermarkets will be closed on the holiday and Sunday as well (as they always are in Germany).

Tax deadline

Those who have their tax return for 2020 prepared by a tax advisor or an income tax assistance association still have until August 31st to hand it in.

The deadline was extended again in May to relieve tax advisors who have extra work in their plate with auditing Covid financial assistance during the pandemic period.

READ ALSO: Why people in Germany have longer for their tax returns this year

More transparency in employment contracts

Whether it’s the scope of work, length of probationary period, possible overtime or notice period, employment contracts issued from August 1st onwards must clearly state in writing the working conditions for new jobs.

It must also be documented what wages will be paid, how they will be made up, what further training has been promised, what the shift system and rest breaks will be like, and what applies to the remuneration of overtime, allowances and bonuses.

Information on contracting parties, remuneration and working hours must be provided in writing to new employees no later than the start of employment – all other supporting documents can be given within seven calendar days.

More assistance for students

From August 1st, there will be more BAföG financial assistance for students. The maximum support rate for students will be raised from €861 to €934 per month. The tax-free amount on the parents’ income, which is the basis for calculating the education grant, will also go up. This also increases the group of those eligible for support.

The previous tax-free allowance of €8,200 for the assets of trainees will also be increased – to €15,000 for people up to the age of 29, and to €45,000 from the age of 30. Furthermore, the age limit for BAföG funding will be extended from 30 to 45.

READ ALSO: German students to get higher grants from winter 2022

View of the Martin Luther University (MLU) campus in Halle.

View of the Martin Luther University (MLU) campus in Halle. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hendrik Schmidt

Minimum wage goes up

For stonemasons and people in the stone-sculpting trade, new industry minimum wages will apply from August 1st 2022; instead of €12.85 per hour, employees will get 50 cents more, raising it to €13.35. Independently of this, there is also the German statutory minimum wage, which will increase to €12 in October.

Digital step for founding companies

From August 1st, anyone who wants to establish a GmbH (a company with limited liability) or KG (limited partnership) can do so without having to attend the notarial certification in person – they can also do it via online video communication.

This is regulated by the Act on the Implementation of the Digitalisation Directive (DiRUG). “The parties involved are identified by means of an electronically transmitted photograph in conjunction with an electronic proof of identity, e.g. the German identity card with eID function,” explains the Hanover Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

Pupils return to the classroom – or go on holiday

Schools in several states will return after the summer break in August. But the southern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are the last to go off on their school holidays – at the end of July and on August 1st respectively.

Cheaper medicines in the pharmacy

Patients who are prescribed biopharmaceuticals (or biologics) by their doctor, which are often used for Crohn’s disease, arthritis or cancer, can be given cheaper medicines of the same type at the pharmacy from August 16th. This is regulated by the “Law for More Safety in the Supply of Medicines”.

The biosimilars, i.e. similar biological medicines, are to come into circulation more quickly, and drug costs are to be reduced. The law is intended to relieve the burden on health insurance companies. The imitation products are produced and tested by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) under strict criteria as soon as the patent for a drug expires, and are considered to be just as effective as the respective original.

General measles vaccination mandate in care facilities applies

Since March 2020, measles vaccinations have been compulsory in communal facilities such as Kindergartens, asylum seekers’ and refugees’ accommodation and in medical facilities – for caregivers and other employees in the facilities.

Those who already worked in one of the above-mentioned facilities before March 2020 were granted a transitional period until July 31st 2022 to present proof of vaccination.

People who do not comply with the vaccination obligation will be banned from care or work from August 1st, and could also face fines of up to €2,500 if they flout the rules. People who cannot get the vaccination for medical reasons and those born before 1971 are exempt from the measles jab mandate.

A vaccination pass with the measles box ticked.

A vaccination pass with the measles box ticked. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tom Weller

Titanium dioxide banned in food

Titanium dioxide is used as a whitening agent in wall paints, varnishes, cosmetics and medicines. But foodstuffs such as chewing gum, sweets, baked goods, soups and salad dressings also often rely on it, especially in the USA. It’s found on the packaging as the additive E171.

As of August, however, titanium dioxide can no longer be used in food production in Europe. The European Commission imposed the ban because it could not be ruled out that the chemical substances could alter “genetic cell material” and that the food additive could therefore no longer be considered safe. In France, titanium dioxide hasn’t been used in food since 2020.