German states consider scrapping quarantine pay for those without booster shot

In the German states of Lower Saxony and Bavaria, ministers are considering ending quarantine pay for people who haven't yet received their Covid booster jab.

A woman looks out of the window while in quarantine
A woman looks out of the window while in quarantine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

According to reports in the Neue Osnabrück Zeitung (NOZ), Lower Saxony’s Health Minister Daniela Behrens believes employees who face quarantine should lose the right to reimbursed earnings during that time.

If the new rules are brought in, they would come into force in the state on March 1st, she said, and would only apply to people who had had contact with an infected person. 

Under the current quarantine rules, people who had their last dose of vaccine or last Covid infection more than three months ago face quarantine of up to 10 days after having contact with someone with Covid. 

The same applies to people who are completely unvaccinated, but people with a booster jab are exempt. 

Speaking to NOZ, Behrens pointed out that the quarantine could be avoided if people opted to have the recommend third dose of Covid vaccine. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Do I have to work while in quarantine in Germany?

She said that the new rules would therefore be fairer to vaccinated people and the general public.

“In every village you can get a vaccination appointment relatively quickly,” she explained. “Against this background, I think we can no longer expect the taxpayers, the general public, to shoulder payments for contacts in quarantine, although these could have been avoided with booster vaccination.” 

People who had a proven Covid infection will continue to be reimbursed regardless of their status.

In Bavaria, meanwhile, ministers are believed to be considering similar legislation. 

According to reports in the Passauer Neue Presse, the rules in Bavaria would see quarantine pay scrapped for people who had not taken all the recommended Covid vaccine doses. 

In line with the latest recommendations from the Standing Vaccines Commission (Stiko), this would mean that anyone over 12 without a booster jab would face a loss of earnings while in quarantine.

As The Local has reported, lawyers in the federal parliament recently put together a briefing on ending quarantine pay for certain groups of vaccinated people.

This would include people without booster jabs whose last dose of vaccine was taken more than three months ago. The move would be justified by the fact that quarantine could have been avoided in these cases, the lawyers wrote.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s new rules and exceptions for Covid quarantine

Last November, the government ended quarantine pay for all unvaccinated people. 

Behrens is now encouraging other state health ministers to join her in discussing a potential sharpening of the rules at the next state health ministers’ conference, according to NOZ. 

As of Friday, 73.8 percent of the German population was fully vaccinated and 52.2 percent had received a booster jab. 

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Why large families are set to pay less for German care insurance

Germany's highest court has issued a landmark ruling stating that families with lots of children should ultimately pay less for their social security. Here's what you need to know.

Why large families are set to pay less for German care insurance

What’s going on? 

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that parents with more than one child should pay a reduced rate of care insurance compared to people with fewer children – or those with none at all.

The case had been brought by 376 families in a campaign called Elternklage (Parents’ Complaint), who were supported by the Family Federation of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Freiburg. The families had argued that the amount of health insurance, pension insurance and care insurance they pay should be directly linked to the number of children they have.

Since raising a family costs time and money, this contribution to society should be taken into account when setting insurance rates and people with more children should pay lower contributions, the parents argued. 

What does the current law say? 

At present, Pflegeversicherung (care insurance) – a type of social security designed to fund care in old age – is already paid at different rates by parents and non-parents. Since the beginning of 2022, people without children pay 3.4 percent of their income towards social care, while parents pay 3.05 percent of their income.

The decision to have two different rates dates back to an earlier court ruling from 2001. At the time, the judges decided that charging people with children and those without the same amount of care insurance went against the Basic Law. This is because, in the view of the judge, parents pay a “generative contribution to the functioning of a pay-as-you-go social security system”, since their children pay back into the pot later in the life. The two-tiered system for people with and without children was adopted shortly afterwards.

At the same time, however, the judges ruled against a reduction in pension or health insurance contributions for parents. They said it was legitimate for the state to subsidise parents in other ways, such as through free education or topping up the pensions of people who had raised a family. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who pays the most German tax and who benefits the most?

So if parents already pay less, what’s the problem?

According to the plaintiffs, the 2001 ruling made a false equivalence between small and large families and didn’t fully take into account the loss of income, time and cost associated with raising kids. 

The lawyers argued that the plaintiffs suffered a double loss of earnings when raising their children and looking after the older generation, and pointed to the fact that women’s pensions are often much lower than men due to time spent bringing up children.

The Catholic Family Federation also suggested that families didn’t really receive free healthcare for their children. That’s because the parents’ contributions are only assessed on their overall earnings, which means that the number of children they have and the costs associated with that aren’t taken into account.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s new parental benefits reforms

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uli Deck

And what were the counterarguments? 

Arguing against the constitutional complaint, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry said the costs associated with bringing up a child should be shouldered by society as a whole rather than any given insurance fund.

The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV) pointed out that children may not necessarily grow up and pay into the same insurance pot that their parents’ did, making it hard to calculate parents’ contributions based on their children’s future ones. Some children may grow up and move abroad, which would mean they would pay into a different pension or health insurance fund entirely, they pointed out. 

The GKV advocated for reimbursing parents through child benefits rather than through reductions in insurance contributions. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the complicated world of German insurance

Did the judges agree with the plaintiffs? 

Partly – but only on the care insurance issue. According to the judges, the 2001 ruling didn’t go far enough in taking into account the number of children in a family. The more children a family has, the greater the effort and the associated costs for parents, they wrote in a statement announcing the ruling.

“This disadvantage occurs even from the second child,” the statement reads. “Charging the same contribution rate to parents regardless of the number of children they have is not constitutionally justified.” 

School pupils in a German classroom

School children sit in a classroom in Neckartailfingen, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

On health insurance and pensions, however, they disagreed with the plaintiffs. 

They said that time taken out by parents to look after children was already factored into the statutory pensions system and pointed to the fact that people benefit from free healthcare as a teenager and child as part of their parents’ health insurance plans. 

READ ALSO: Ehegattensplitting: How did Germany’s marriage tax law become so controversial?

What happens now? 

The court has given the government until July 31st 2023 to introduce a tapered system with larger discounts for larger families.

Speaking to RND on Wednesday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said his ministry would implement the changes to the law within the agreed timeframe. He said officials would look closely at the reasoning for the ruling and see how it could be best applied to a new tariff system.

However, Lauterbach emphasised that the social care system still needed to be properly financed. “We also want to tackle that,” he said.