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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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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in October 2022

From a nationwide public holiday and new Covid rules to changes surrounding mini and midi jobs, here's what's happening in Germany this October.

Everything that changes in Germany in October 2022

Reunification Day

Germany will celebrate the Day of German Unity, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on Monday October 3rd.

It marks the day that the the German Democratic Republic (GDR) officially ceased to exist as a sovereign state and rejoined the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990. Since then, Germany has been reunited as the Bundesrepublik and the date is celebrated every year with a holiday in every federal state.

This year it’s 32 years since east and west reunified. Because it’s a public holiday, most workplaces as well as shops and other businesses are closed. 

READ ALSO: Which public holidays are coming up in Germany?

New Covid rules

A new set of Covid rules based on the amended Infection Protection Act will come into force from October 1st. 

The rules will apply until April 7th next year. We have a short round up of some of the bigger changes below, but check out our key points article for more information. 

READ ALSO: Key points – Germany’s new Covid rules from October

Mask mandate changes

Under the new regulations, people travelling on long-distance trains in Germany will have to wear an FFP2 mask if they are over the age of 14. Children aged between six and 13, can wear a surgical mask.

A mask mandate is also in force nationwide in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. In nursing homes and clinics, a negative Covid test has to also be shown when visiting. 

Masks will no longer have to be worn, however, on flights to and from and within Germany. 

Further requirements, such as the obligation to wear masks in shops, restaurants or event rooms, can be imposed by the federal states – depending on the incidence of infection. Tests may be required in schools and daycare centres.

States are expected to continue with the mask mandate order on local public transport.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach holds an FFP2 mask

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach holds an FFP2 mask. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Covid safety plans at work – but no mandatory ‘home office’

Employers do not have to offer their staff the opportunity to work from home. But bosses should consider this, as well as regular Covid testing, as an option for employees as part of Covid safety plans. 

A draft law by Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD), which called for mandatory home office rule during the winter months to help with the Covid situation, was toned down after coalition partners, the FDP pushed for a change.

Vaccination status changes

There are changes coming up when it comes to what counts as being fully vaccinated in Germany. In general, people will need three jabs to be classed as fully vaccinated from October. 

Vaccination certificates issued after two shots will only be considered as proof of full vaccination until September 30th. Beginning October 1st, a booster jab (i.e., a 3rd vaccination) is generally required to be considered “fully vaccinated”. Alternatively, two vaccinations and proof of recovery from Covid-19 will also qualify. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status

However, keep in mind that there is no planned vaccination/test requirement to enter indoor public areas in Germany – previously known as the 3G or 2G rules.

If a German state government imposes a mask requirement indoors, then people simply need to wear a mask to enter indoor settings such as bars, restaurants, cultural and recreational venues. People who present a negative Covid test would be exempt from wearing a mask. However, regions can also choose to exempt the freshly vaccinated or recently recovered people from the mask requirement. In that case, people would have to show proof. However, not all states have to bring in this exception.

A person is considered recovered from the 29th day after detection of infection and for a maximum of 90 days. The ‘recovery’ proof can be provided by a PCR test.

Mini-jobbers can earn more

On October 1st, the upper earnings limit for people with so-called mini-jobs will rise from €450 to €520 per month. There will also be changes for employees in midi-jobs, who were previously allowed to earn between €450 and €1,300 per month: the limit will shift to between €520 and €1,600 from October.

READ ALSO: The rules in Germany around mini and midi jobs

A member of staff at a cafe in Stuttgart.

A member of staff at a cafe in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

Minimum wage boost

On October 1st, the statutory minimum wage in Germany will be raised to €12 per hour. It was raised to €10.45 at the beginning of July.

VAT on gas usage to be slashed

Energy prices are currently going through the roof. As a result, the German government has decided to reduce the VAT rate on gas consumption from 19 to 7 percent. The reduction in VAT was intended to offset the controversial gas levy – however, that levy is being shelved. 

READ ALSO:

Property tax deadline 

From 2025, a new property tax calculation will apply in Germany. For this to happen, almost 36 million properties in Germany are being revalued on the basis of information that owners submit.

That means people owning property in Germany have to submit a new declaration to the tax office based on values as of January 1st 2022. Owners have until October 31st of this year to send in updated information electronically via the Elster portal to the tax office.

Commercial tax programmes that offer an interface to Elster can also be used. People who do not have Internet access can also have the declaration prepared by relatives. In exceptional cases, a declaration in paper form is also possible by making a request at the tax office.

READ ALSO: The German property tax declaration owners need to know about

An aerial view of flats in Munich.

An aerial view of flats in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

An extra hour in bed

Don’t forget that the clocks go back this October. 

During the night from Saturday October 29th to Sunday October 30th, clocks in Germany will be set to winter time. At 3am the clock will go back one hour, to Central European Time (CET).

The good news is that we all get an extra hour of sleep (or partying). The bad news is that it’s going to get darker earlier in the evening. 

Driving test questions

People learning to drive in Germany will see a few changes. Starting October 1st, the questions for the theoretical driver’s license exam will change. New questions will be added, while older questions revised. In total, the test contains 52 questions.

No more WhatsApp for older iPhones

From October 24th, the messenger service WhatsApp will no longer be supported on Apple smartphones with an iOS operating system 10 and 11. Apple users must have at least iOS 12 installed from this date to continue using WhatsApp.

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