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LIVING IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in December 2020

We have entered the last month of 2020. From railway timetable changes to new laws and public holidays, these are the changes you should be aware of.

Everything that changes in Germany in December 2020
There's lots changing in the last month of the year. Photo: DPA

New coronavirus rules and shutdown extended

The shutdown in Germany is being extended until at least December 20th and possibly into January.

There are also tightened contact restrictions –

  • From December 1st, only five adults from a maximum of two households are allowed to meet (down from 10 people currently). Children under 14 are excluded from this rule and don't count towards the total number
  • From December  23rd to January 1st, the rules will be temporarily relaxed. During this time meetings with a maximum of 10 people are allowed, regardless of the households involved. Again, children up to 14 are not counted

There are some differences in the rules between federal states so check with your local authority.

For more information check out our coverage:

Deutsche Bahn timetable and price change

From December 13th 2020 a new timetable will come into force on the Deutsche Bahn rail network. The winter timetable 2020/2021 will be in place until June 12th 2021. Among the changes are more connections, including between Hamburg and Berlin.

Long-distance train ticket costs will increase by an average of one percent when the new timetable comes into force, but will still be below the previous years' level: on January 1st 2020, tickets were reduced by around 10 percent due to the reduction in VAT for long-distance tickets as part of the climate protection package.

Flexprice tickets will also become 1.5 percent more expensive on average compared to the current price from December 13th. The BahnCard 100 cost will go up by 1.9 percent. Savings prices and the BahnCard 25/50 are to remain the same price with the timetable change.

Note that Deutsche Bahn will have less seats available for booking on long distance trains during the December shutdown in a bid to allow for more social distancing.

Free tests after travel from risk zones to end

People returning from coronavirus risk areas outside Germany will soon not be able to receive a free test. Up until this point, travellers have been able to end their mandatory 10-day quarantine five days after returning with a free Covid-19 test.

However after December 15th, tests will no longer be free of charge, reported DPA on December 1st.

Time to relax on public holidays

This month, Germany has nationwide public holidays on December 25th (known as the First Day of Christmas) and December 26th (Second Day of Christmas). However, as December 26th falls on a Saturday, most people will not get a day for it as Germany does not transfer holidays to weekdays when they fall on the weekend.

Most companies also give their staff December 24th off as a gesture. January 1st 2021 is also a public holiday and it falls on a Friday.

This year due to the pandemic, the government is urging companies to give their staff company holidays or generous home office solutions between December 23rd and January 1st so that people can stay at home during the festive period before meeting with friends and family.

READ ALSO: What and where are Germany's public holidays in 2021?

A Christmas tree in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

New residential property law strengthens owners' rights

On December 1st, the revised German Condominium Modernisation Act (WEMoG) came into force. “The current Condominium Act of 1951 is no longer up to date,” says the federal government. Construction changes and modernisation of residential property, for example to allow for upgrades to burglary protection, e-mobility or faster internet connections, are to be made easier under the law change.

In future, flat owners and tenants will have the right to install a car charging station in the underground car park or on the property of the house. Owners will also have the right to inspect administrative documents.

Free flight rebooking still possible

In December and January, budget operator Ryanair will continue to waive the rebooking fee for flights booked from June 10th 2020 and scheduled to operate up to and including January due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, passengers must notify the company with any changes at least seven days before departure. It is possible to rebook to another Ryanair Group flight departing before September 30th 2021.

Lufthansa will also waive rebooking fees until the end of the year, as will its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines. All fares on short, medium and long-haul flights worldwide can be rebooked several times free of charge.

READ ALSO: Will travel in Germany be allowed at Christmas?

Long term unemployment benefit changes

The standard benefits for Hartz IV welfare recipients will increase from 2021 – although the money will be transferred as early as December 2020.

On December 30th and 31st the new Hartz IV benefits for 2021 will be paid out. Here's how the standard benefits will increase:

The Arbeitslosengeld (ALG) II – known as Hartz IV – basic standard rate (for a single household) will be €446 (plus €14) per month. The rates for young people in a so-called community of needs (Bedarfsgemeinschaft) will rise to €373 (plus €45). Children up to the age of five who live in a long-term unemployment household will receive €283 (plus €33) per month from 2021.

Meanwhile, Hartz IV benefits for couples or spouses will be €401 per person instead of €389 from 2021. Young adults under 25 who are still living with their parents will receive €357 (plus €12). The only exception are the rates for children between six and 13. Here the adjustment allocated to them through their parents or caregivers will be an increase of €1 to €309.

For more information contact the Bundesagentur für Arbeit.

Sellers must contribute to broker's commission

Until now, anyone buying a property has usually had to pay the broker's commission in full – a maximum of seven percent of the purchase price. From December 23rd 2020 this will change: sellers will also have to contribute to the costs of a broker. In future, those who commission a real estate agent will have to pay at least half of the commission themselves.

The buyer will also have to pay his or her share of the commission only after the seller has proven that he or she has paid it. This is to prevent sellers from passing on the full commission to the buyer. However, the German “Bauherren-Schutzbund” organisation said it fears that in future sellers will add the costs of the estate agent directly to the price of the property.

Stricter rules for DAX

More than three decades after its launch, DAX, the blue chip stock market index consisting of the 30 major German companies trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, is undergoing sweeping changes as part of a reform. From September 2021, it will comprise of 40 companies instead of 30, and stricter rules are to ensure greater quality as early as December of this year.

From December onwards, groups will have to provide proof of earnings before interest, taxes and other financial expenses in their last two financial reports before inclusion in the stock market barometer. From March 2021, companies in the DAX will be obliged to publish annual and quarterly reports – any breach of this requirement will lead to exclusion.

Brexit transition period comes to close

Not much has changed for Brits in Germany since Brexit happened at the end of January 2020. But from December 31st the Brexit transition period ends – and there will be lots of changes after that, such as end to freedom of movement in the EU.

But there is good news: Germany has just passed a law to ensure Brits already living in the Bundesrepublik can secure their residence status.

If you are a Brit living in Germany, you must be registered in the country and you must report your residence to the foreigners authority (Ausländerbehörde) responsible by June 30th 2021. Some foreigners authorities have already asked Brits to register, while other areas will wait until January 2021 to start the process.

We've been reporting on Brexit issues in the run up to December 31st, but we'll also do more in the coming weeks so keep an eye on our Brexit section.

READ ALSO: Britons in Germany urged to apply for residence status by June 2021

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

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.

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