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LIVING IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in August 2021

From schools restarting to possible train strikes and a bonus for struggling families - here's an overview of what's changing in Germany in August 2021.

Everything that changes in Germany in August 2021
The clock in the tower of the Lambertikirche, Oldenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

Start of the new school year

Children will be returning to the classroom after the summer holidays in Germany. Schools in each state take their holidays at a different time. The first to return are the youngsters in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein, starting August 2nd. There has been lots of debate about possible restrictions on schools when they open again after summer. German states are determined for children to get back in the classroom full time – but there are fears that the Delta variant will make this difficult and cause a spike in Covid cases among children. 

READ ALSO: ‘Nobody can rule out enormous fourth wave’: Schools fear Covid spike 

Possible train strikes

The news no one wants to hear – anyone taking the train to work or planning a trip in August should find out beforehand whether their train will actually be running, because there could be strikes on the railway network. Claus Weselsky, head of the German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL), announced at the end of June that industrial action could happen after August 9th. 

Union members are voting on whether to go on strike. The dispute with Deutsche Bahn is over wages and working conditions. The union is demanding 3.2 percent pay rise and a one-time pandemic bonus of €600.

If there are disruptions that lead to more than 60-minute long delays, including as a result of a strike, rail passengers can get part of their fare back. People can do this using a form available at DB travel centres. However, since June 1st, the refund can also be applied for online.

People boarding a train in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Matthias Rietschel

Identity cards need fingerprints

Fingerprints on new ID cards in the EU will be mandatory in future. The aim is to provide better protection for ID cards and their holders against forgery by criminals. Anyone applying for an ID card must provide two fingerprints, which will be electronically scanned and stored in the chip of the ID card. The EU regulation comes into force in Germany on August 2nd, 2021. Existing documents remain valid until their expiration date, even without fingerprints. 

However, not everyone is in favour of the new measure: critics describe the procedure as a huge encroachment by the state on the civil liberties of the population. They are advising people in Germany to apply for a new ID card before August 2nd, which would then be valid for 10 years. The association Digitalcourage e.V. also wants to take legal action against the fingerprint requirement.

Children’s leisure bonus (Kinderfreizeitbonus) for struggling families

Germany is set to give some extra support to low-income families in August. The government is handing out a one-time bonus of €100 per child to families who receive state benefits. This applies, for instance, to families who receive Hartz IV, housing benefit, benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act or the child supplement for families with low incomes. The children’s leisure bonus is intended to provide financial support for youngsters to enjoy leisure activities that they may not be able to afford.

The bonus is part of the “corona catch-up program” with which the federal and state governments want to mitigate the long-term consequences of the long restrictions on education and leisure activities for children and young people.

Political talk shows return

As the election campaign heats up, the political talk shows are coming back from their summer break. Sandra Maischberger returns on August 4th, Frank Plasberg (hart aber fair) on August 23rd, Maybrit Illner on August 26th and Anne Will on August 29th. For Markus Lanz on ZDF, the summer break is very short this time: his break begins on August 5, and he’ll be back on August 24th. Get ready to test your German skills and enjoy some heated political debate ahead of the September 26th election. 

EXPLAINED: Who can vote in German elections

Conservative chancellor candidate Armin Laschet will be desperate to impress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcel Kusch

Absentee ballots printed

Speaking of the Bundestagswahl or federal election, people who don’t want to vote in-person on September 26th can apply for absentee ballots and vote from home beforehand. The application for an absentee ballot can be submitted now to the local responsible authority. Ballots will be issued to people in early August. 

More time for tax returns

Tax returns had to be submitted by August 2nd 2021 this year – but are now not due until the end of October 2021. Those who have their tax returns filled out by a tax advisor or an income tax assistance association have until the end of May 2022. The reason for this automatic deadline extension is due to the pandemic. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rules and deadlines for filing German taxes in 2021

Copyright rules

New rules will apply to online platforms from August 1st when dealing with copyrighted works. A key point is that platform operators can be held liable if users upload copyrighted works such as images, texts or videos without permission. Platforms can take precautions via licensing agreements and at the same time may have to block content in some cases. Uploading small excerpts remains permitted. Germany is implementing an EU directive from 2019 that has been the subject of fierce dispute. 

Glyphosate partially banned

Here’s one for the gardeners – private users will soon no longer be allowed to use the controversial weedkiller glyphosate in their gardens. The active ingredient can also no longer be used on playgrounds and sports fields or in parks. According to the government, products with a valid approval are exempt. This change is to come into force in the next few weeks. The weedkillerwill be permitted on some lands in exceptional cases.

A national ban is not possible under European law, because glyphosate is still approved throughout the EU until the end of 2022, and plant protection products containing glyphosate with a transitional period are accordingly still approved throughout the EU until December 31st, 2023. The weed killer is said to wipe out insect populations crucial for ecosystems and pollination of food crops.

READ ALSO: ‘What harms insects harms people’: Germany to ban cancer-linked pesticide 

Fans of Tatort, the wait is over

On August 29th, German public broadcaster Erste will air the first new Tatort (crime scene) show after the summer break – starting with a case of the Frankfurt investigators: “Wer zögert ist tot” (“Whoever hesitates is dead”). Tatort is one of Germany’s most popular and longest running crime dramas. It turned 50 last year. We’ll be tuning in…

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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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