Lufthansa and German government agree on ‘€9 billion rescue deal’

Coronavirus-stricken German airline group Lufthansa has agreed in principle a nine-billion-euro rescue deal with Berlin that would see the government climb aboard as a shareholder, DPA reported on Monday.

Lufthansa and German government agree on '€9 billion rescue deal'
Numberous Lufthansa planes parked in Frankfurt's airport. Photo: DPA

With mangers and ministers in agreement, Lufthansa's supervisory board and the government's economic stabilisation fund (WSF) must now rubber-stamp the
proposal, before shareholders and competition regulator the European Commission are asked for their green lights.

The airline, whose subsidiaries include Austrian and Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and Swiss, confirmed last week details of the rescue under  discussion.

The German government would take a 20-percent stake in Lufthansa, as well as a convertible bond worth five percent plus one share — allowing it to claim a blocking  minority shareholding to shut out hostile takeover attempts.

The package would also include a three-billion-euro state loan to the airline as well as two government-appointed seats on the supervisory board.

Conditions are also likely to include “the waiver of future dividend payments and restrictions on management remuneration”, Lufthansa said Thursday.

While 90 percent of Lufthansa's fleet has been grounded because of the pandemic, costing the company around one million euros per hour, politicians in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government spent weeks wrangling over the details of a possible rescue.

Conservatives wanted to minimise state involvement and control, while centre-left leaders hoped to fend off job cuts and hold the airline to  environmental objectives.

Chief executive Carsten Spohr has warned that the company likely now has 100 planes too many, putting 10,000 jobs in danger.

READ ALSO: German airline giant Lufthansa puts 87,000 jobs on reduced hours

Lufthansa at the weekend confirmed reports that it plans to double its active fleet to in the coming weeks and add popular German holiday destinations back onto its much-reduced flight plan.

But the majority of its roughly 760 planes will remain grounded as coronavirus restrictions are lifted only gradually.

Still places loved by German holidaymakers such as the Spanish island of Mallorca, Greece's Crete and the German North Sea retreat of Sylt will return to the schedule, with 160 Lufthansa aircrafts – including those of subsidiaries Swiss and Eurowings – set to take off on a more regular basis in June.

READ ALSO: Germany's Lufthansa to ramp up European flights in June

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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.