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Everything that changes in Germany in March 2021

From a plan to relax Covid-19 restrictions to the Baukindergeld deadline, here are the changes in Germany you should look out for starting on Monday, March 1st.

Everything that changes in Germany in March 2021
The artwork "Zeitfeld" (time field) by Klaus Rinke in Düsseldorf's Volksgarten. Photo: DPA

Roadmap out of lockdown expected – and time for a haircut

Tough coronavirus restrictions are in place in Germany until at least March 7th. However, schools have already gradually started returning and hairdressers are set to reopen on March 1st. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders will meet on March 3rd to discuss the next steps. It’s expected they will announce a roadplan for states to come out of the shutdown, although it will be based on the infection situation, and how the variants are spreading.

Some states are already beginning to loosen more measures. Bavaria, for example, plans to open flower shops and garden centres in March in time for spring.

READ ALSO:

Change in energy labels

The energy labels for electrical appliances are changing. Germany, and other EU countries, are getting rid of the labels A+, A++ and A+++. Instead, they will in future only range from G, for less environmentally friendly appliances, to A for very energy-efficient models.

At the same time, the classifications will be tightened. According to the Federal Association of Consumer Centres, previous appliances with the A+++ label will likely reach class C in future. The best class, A, will remain empty for the time being, so that manufacturers have an incentive for innovation.

Source: EU commission

Blue insurance plates

From March 1st, vehicles such as mopeds and electric scooters, will need a new insurance number plate. And from this date, only blue licence plates will be allowed. Anyone who still rides with an old black licence plate after this deadline may be prosecuted – and will not be insured in the event of damage.

A new feature this year is that the licence plates no longer have to be made of aluminium or sheet metal. Some insurance companies also offer them as adhesive foil.

Baukindergeld deadline

Parents who still want to secure Baukindergeld must obtain a building permit or buy a property before the grant project comes to an end on March 31st 2021. You must then apply for the Baukindergeld allowance no later than six months after moving in. The last possible date for submitting the application is December 31st 2023.

The Baukindergeld was launched to make it easier for families (including single parents) with one or more children to build their first new home or buy real estate. Through the programme, families can receive a subsidy of €1,200 per child per year over 10 years.

A house being built in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

Don’t hedge your bets on cutting

If you live in Germany, you’ll be aware that people are very fond of rules. So maybe it comes as no surprise that there’s a rule on hedge cutting during the spring and summer months (yes really). 

Between March 1st and September 30th you are not allowed to cut a hedge heavily, according to the Federal Nature Conservation Act.

During this period no large cuts are allowed on “hedges, living fences, bushes and other woody plants,” stipulates the law. Rather, only “gentle pruning” is permitted, with larger work only allowed starting at the beginning of October. The aim of the law is to protect the animals and birds that tend to call these green spaces home in the spring and summer.

Spring is coming (along with a time change)

You’ll be glad to know that winter is almost at an end. March 1st is the meteorological start of spring in 2021, but the “real” start of spring is a little later, on March 20th.

Meanwhile, get ready to lose an hour’s sleep: the 2021 time changeover to Daylight Savings is scheduled for the early hours of March 28th. The clock will be moved forward by one hour from 2 to 3am, which means the night will be shorter. The changeover means it will be darker in the morning, but light will last longer in the evening.

Berlin public holiday

Most people living in the city state of Berlin can enjoy a day off on March 8th for Frauentag (Women’s Day). That falls on a Monday this year – so most people will get a day off for it.  The Feiertag, launched in 2019, means Berlin now has 10 official holidays. Although this year, sadly, many holidays fall on weekends which means most workers do not get a day off work for them.

Bavaria is the state with the most public holidays – it has 13 in total.

READ ALSO: German word of the day – Frauentag

Stamps getting even more digital

From March, more stamps will be kitted out with individual matrix codes to help stop letters getting lost in the mail.

The codes, which are similar to QR codes, are placed alongside traditional images is billed as “a new generation of stamps”, according to Deutsche Post which launched the initiative in February.

By 2022 they will feature on all stamps in Germany.

READ ALSO: ‘A new generation of stamps’: Deutsche Post rolls out QR-style tracking codes

Germany’s huge political year officially kicks off

Germany’s Superwahljahr (or super election year) officially starts on March 14th with state elections in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg.

About 3.1 million voters will head to the polls in Rhineland-Palatinate to elect a new state parliament.

We’ll find out if Social Democrat state premier Malu Dreyer is to remain in office for another five years – or if her CDU challenger Christian Baldauf succeeds after 30 years of SPD-led state governments.

In Baden-Württemberg, the current government is a coalition of the Greens and the CDU, led by state premier Winfried Kretschmann. In the previous election held in March 2016, The Greens became the largest party for the first time in any German state, winning more than 30 percent of votes cast. 

In addition to these states, voters in Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Berlin will all cast ballots this year. There’s also a federal election in autumn, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is to stand down.

Pension news

Retired people in western Germany will see no increase in their pension payments this year. One reason, according to German media, is due to the Coronavirus crisis which has seen many employees go on Kurzarbeit (reduced working hours). This puts pressure on the system and affects wage growth. It’s the first time there’s been no annual pension increase since 2010.

Pensioners in the eastern federal states will see an increase of at least 0.7 percent from July 1st. However a final decision on the increase will not be made until March 2021 when all the data is available.

We updated this story on March 2nd to include information about the upcoming state election in Baden-Württemberg.

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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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