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Everything that changes in Germany in May 2021

From a new 'vaccine passport' to extra cash for parents, there are a lot of changes coming to Germany starting on Saturday May 1st.

Everything that changes in Germany in May 2021
A woman walks past a clock in Bremen in April. Photo: DPA/Sina Schuldt

Higher minimum wage for skilled trades

Starting on May 1st, painters and varnishers can look forward to a higher minimum wage. For unskilled workers in these fields, the minimum wage will rise to 11.40, and for skilled workers that amount goes up to 13.80. The new standard is set to apply until May 31st 2022, when wages will again be up for discussion. 

Better protection for young people online

Germany’s new ‘Youth Protection Act’ (Jugendschutzgesetz), which comes into effect on Saturday, obliges major providers of games and films on the Internet to take technical precautions for greater protection of children and young people. 

The platforms must now offer simple reporting and complaint options in the event that young users feel threatened, harassed, or harassed by strangers. This includes bullying, sexual harassment, tracking or cost traps. Uniform age labels for online content will also be required so that parents can have better insight into the products their kids are using.

Child ‘corona bonus’

Families will again receive a ‘Kinderbonus’ in 2021, as they also did in 2020 amid the coronavirus crisis. For each child entitled to the benefit in May 2021, a one-off amount of an additional 150 will be paid out.

Photo: DPA

The Kinderbonus is part of the billions in aid to cushion the impact of the crisis. Last year, 300 was paid per child in a bid to boost consumption. 

READ ALSO:

New toy directives come into force in Germany in May

From May 21st, the EU will set new strict limits on the amount of aluminum and formaldehyde that can go into toys. The substances may then only be used in small quantities for processing and production. 

Comdirect abolishes unconditional checking account

Looking to open a free checking account with no strings attached? It’s still possible in Germany, but there are fewer and fewer of them. Comdirect Bank, which belongs to Commerzbank, is also saying goodbye to this model.

However, this applies not only to new customers, but as of May 1st to existing customers of the bank over 28 years-old. Yet for those who haven’t yet celebrated their 28th birthday, only students, trainees and interns qualify for the free account.

READ ALSO: The complete guide to opening a bank account in Germany

Want to avoid food waste? There’s an app for that

Starting on May 3rd, discounter Netto will introduce the “Too Good To Go” app – but only for its store chain with a dog in the logo, which is not part of the Edeka Group.

          Photo: DPA

With the app “Too Good To Go”, you can look up and see which of the stores give away food which is still good, but  would be thrown away for various reasons. This applies to all products costing up to €3.90.

You can find the more than 300 Netto stores with dogs in the logo in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Berlin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony.

International ‘vaccine passport’ to launch

Starting in May, the “IATA (International Air Travel Association) Travel Pass” will be the first to test travel with a vaccination certificate. The smartphone app allows travellers to store and manage certifications for Covid-19 tests or vaccinations. It aims to facilitate air travel under pandemic conditions, and help travellers avoid quarantines whenever possible. 

The data should remain under the control of the passengers, the association assures. The app is available now for iOS, and a version for Android is also expected to be available soon. 

WhatsApp releases new conditions

This change is one that has been long announced and even postponed, but now it’s getting serious. The new WhatsApp GTCs will come into force on May 15th.

What does this mean for you? If you haven’t agreed by this date, you won’t be able to use the Messenger app for the time being.  If you’re still unsure, your account will be set to “inactive” on the cutoff date.

This means that you can receive messages and calls, but you are no longer allowed to compose new messages yourself. You can do this for up to 120 days – then your account will be deleted forever.

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For members

LIVING IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in 2022

There are several important changes taking place in day-to-day life in Germany next year. There is good news on electricity bills, a streamlined unemployment system and also some tax hikes.

A conductor gives a departure signal for an ICE train on the platform at Berlin Central Station.
A conductor gives a departure signal for an ICE train on the platform at Berlin Central Station. Photo: dpa | Carsten Koall

These are some of the changes most likely to affect the lives of internationals living in Germany.

Jump in minimum wage

The national minimum wage is set to rise at least twice in the following twelve months from a current level of €9.60 per hour.

On January 1st it will go up to €9.82 and then it will go up to €10.45 on July 1st.

The new government wants to raise the minimum wage to €12 an hour by the end of the year. But that move is likely to face a legal challenge from employers’ associations.

READ MORE: German employers weigh up legal challenge to €12 minimum wage

Stamp price increase

Deutsche Post is increasing its postage rates on January 1st. A standard letter will cost 85 cents instead of 80 cents, and the cost of sending a postcard will go up to 70 cents from 60 cents.

Older driving licenses updated

Many local authorities are expecting a rush of people handing in old driver’s licenses in exchange for new ones in the coming weeks. By 2033, all driver’s licenses issued before 2013 need to be exchanged for a standard EU document.

German drivers licence

Two driver’s licenses lie on a table. By 2033, all driver’s licenses issued before 2013 must be exchanged. Photo: dpa | Ole Spata

But the deadline is staggered based on people’s age. Those born between 1953 and 1958 have to hand in their old licences by January 19th, 2020.

Surveys suggest that many people still haven’t done this. Anyone who lets the deadline pass risks an initial ‘warning’ fine of ten euros. 

Extended warranty

Anyone who buys a product that later turns out to be defective will be better protected starting in January. At the start of the year the legal presumption that a defect existed at the time of purchase will be extended from six months to one year.

Drop in renewable energy levy

Wind turbines

Two technicians from Sabowind GmbH maintain an Enercon E92 wind turbine in Saxony. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

There’s some good news for households struggling to pay their electricity bills. The levy to finance green electricity – the EEG levy – will fall to 3.723 cents per kilowatt hour at the turn of the year, a drop of more than 40 percent.

The cut to the levy will probably only stabilise the price though. On the back of surging energy costs, electricity suppliers’ costs have gone up and they and are passing them on to the customer.

Pfand on all plastic bottles

On January 1st, the mandatory deposit on plastic bottles (known in German as the Pfand) will be extended to all drinks in plastic bottles. 

People can collect the 25 cent deposit by returning the empty bottle to a bottle bank.

End to ticket sales on trains

As of January 1st, you will no longer be able to buy a ticket from the conductor on Deutsche Bahn services. Travellers can still by a digital ticket within ten minutes of departure via the bahn.de website or on the Deutsche Bahn app.

Higher fuel prices

The CO2 tax, introduced last year, will also rise in 2022, going up from 25 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted to 30 euros. The tax is aimed at pushing energy companies towards using using renewable technologies, but it is also likely to be handed down to consumers in the form of fuel price rises.

According to calculations by the ADAC automobile club, petrol and diesel are likely to become more expensive by about one and a half cents per litre each as a result.

Hitting smokers’ pockets

A woman pulls a cigarette out of a pack.

A woman pulls a cigarette out of a pack. Photo: dpa | Sven Hoppe

On January 1st, the tobacco tax will go up for the first time in seven years. It will rise by an average of 10 cents for a pack of 20 cigarettes. In 2023, another 10 cents will be added per 20-pack.

Billboard advertising for conventional tobacco products such as cigarettes will be banned from January 1st.

Prohibiting ‘potentially dangerous’ tattoo ink

From January 4th, many chemicals in tattoo inks throughout the EU will be subject to restrictions under the so-called REACH regulation. The ban list will include thousands of substances.

In the EU’s view, many of them are potentially dangerous or have not been sufficiently researched. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) emphasizes that the aim is to “make tattoo inks and permanent makeup safer.”

Compulsory vaccines in care

People employed in the care sector will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want to keep their jobs next year. The vaccine mandates apply to carers, doctors, midwives and nurses and will come into force in on March 15th, 2022.

Those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons will need an exemption from their doctor.

There is also likely to be a parliamentary debate on introducing a general vaccine mandate in January – a move that the German Ethics Council has recommended – so watch this space.

READ ALSO: German Ethics Council recommends extending vaccine mandates

Tightening rules around mini jobs

In an attempt to stop exploitation of “mini-job” rules, the government will require employers to give more details on a mini-jobber such as their tax ID number starting in January 1st. The Minijob-Zentrale will inform the employer wether the employee has another mini-job.

Mini-jobs are part-time contracts that allow people to earn up to €450 a month without paying social security contributions. While someone can have more than one mini job at a time they are not allowed to earn more than €450 in total.

Unemployment registration goes online

Jobcenter Germany

A sign in front of an employment agency location in the Hannover region. Photo: dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

As of January 1st people who sign on for unemployment benefits can do so online using the Agentur für Arbeit website. But one needs a digital ID card to do so.

It will still be possible to sign on by going to your local employment agency.

End to subsidies for plug-in hybrids

Many hybrid cars will no longer benefit from government subsidies from 2022 onwards. A change to the law means that subsidies will only apply to cars with an electric range of at last 60 kilometres.

Ban on thin plastic bags

As of January 1st, plastic shopping bags will no longer be offered at German supermarket checkouts.

The ban applies to super-thin shopping bags. Bags for vegetables and multiple use plastic bags will not be affected.

Higher allowance for children of separated parents

Children of divorced couples will entitled to slightly more maintenance in the new year.

From January 1st, the minimum maintenance for children of separated parents under six years of age will be 396 euros per month, an increase of three euros.

For children aged six to eleven, the minimum maintenance will be 455 euros, an increase of four euros. For children aged 12 to 17, the payment will increase by five euros to 533 euros per month.

SEE ALSO: The best events and festivals in Germany in 2022

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