Parents in Germany to get up to 20 weeks pay to cover costs of caring for kids

The German government plans to compensate parents with up to 20 weeks in wages for loss of work while looking after children during the corona crisis lockdown.

Cohabiting parents will be eligible to apply for ten weeks of a so-called “secondary salary payment” while single parents will be able to receive the payment for 20 weeks, Health Minister Jens Spahn told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Tuesday.

In layman's terms the “secondary salary payment” is a state payment of 67 percent of post-tax salary to parents who have been unable to work because they have been looking after young children. The payment has an upper limit of €2,016 per month.

READ ALSO: When and how will Germany's daycare centres reopen?

The measure is set to be passed by cabinet on Wednesday.

The announcement comes after Spahn, of Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party, faced heavy pressure from his centre-left coalition partners in the SPD to do more to help families ride out the crisis.

As schools and kindergartens are likely to not fully open for weeks – and in some states months – the payment is seen as a measure for securing the livelihoods of young families in the foreseeable future.

“This gives people necessary security in uncertain times,” Spahn said. “Working parents currently bear a heavy burden. As long as kindergartens and schools are not reliably reopened to all, many will need our support.”

Meanwhile, politicians in opposition parties are making the case that he best way to help parents is a swifter re-opening of schools.

“When four medical associations call for the complete opening of day-care centres and schools, politicians must react as quickly as possible,” Christian Lindner, leader of the business-friendly FDP, told DPA.

Lindner was referring to a joint statement made by several medical associations which called for the immediate opening of kindergartens and schools.

“In the opinion of the professional associations, children are not strong drivers of the pandemic. We must draw the right conclusions from this,” Lindner argued.

Some in the government have cautiously backed a swifter resumption of normal school service.

“If it really turns out that children have a lower rate of infection and contagion, we can discuss the return to full regular operation differently,” Families Minister Franziska Giffey told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. However, she added that there were still “no definite findings” on the issue.

Schools and daycare centres throughout Germany were closed due to the corona pandemic throughout much of March and April.

Since the end of April, schools have slowly begun to reopen. Pupils are being taught alternately at school and at home and are divided into smaller groups in order to observe the rules on social distancing.

READ ALSO: All pupils in Germany 'should return to school before the summer holidays'rmany

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.