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WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in April 2022

From an increase in wages to an overhaul of Covid rules, here are all the changes happening in Germany in April.

Everything that changes in Germany in April 2022
A cuckoo clock in Schonach, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

States dispense with (most) Covid rules…

The headline news this month is that the vast majority of Covid restrictions are set to be lifted across the country. Technically, Germany’s so-called “freedom day” was due to happen on March 20th, but the states were given a two-week transition period to implement the changes, which ends on April 2nd.

Once that happens, most people will be able to put away their vaccine passes and CoronaWarn apps for a little while at least, because the ‘G’ rules such as 2G and 3G are set to be lifted. That means you’ll no longer need to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a test to enter places like cinemas, bars, restaurants and gyms. However, regular tests will continue in care homes, hospitals, schools and nurseries. 

In perhaps the most controversial step, the government is also dispensing with the mask-wearing requirement in leisure and retail venues as well as bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs. You will have to bring your mask with you if you’re doing a bit of travelling, though, because you’ll still be expected to cover your mouth and nose on public transport and planes.

A quick word of caution, though: it’s worth keeping hold of the CovPass and CoronaWarn apps as they may come in handy again sooner than you think. That’s because the new Infection Protection Act allows regions to declare themselves ‘hotspots’ under certain circumstances, which allows them to keep a few things like masks in shops and 3G in bars and restaurants in place.

So far, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania and Hamburg look set to do this. It’s unclear if other states will follow. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why Germany is in a bitter row over Covid measures

… but free-of-charge tests remain in place

As restrictions are lifted, you’ll still be able to get hold of a rapid test while out and about as the free Bürgertests are set to continue for another few months at least. The regulation allowing for the free tests technically expires on March 31st, but with the current high infection rates, the Finance and Health Ministries have agreed to extend them until the end of May. 

A free rapid Covid test centre in Stralsund

A free rapid Covid test centre in Stralsund. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

People who take time off work due to illness will also be able to continue to get a letter from their doctor over the phone for another two more months – once again, until the end of May. 

READ ALSO: How long will Germany offer free rapid Covid-19 tests?

Wage increases in several sectors

April brings with it some excellent news for certain workers, who are set to see a pay rise at the start of the month. The first group, public-sector workers, can expect to see their pay packet go up by around 1.8 percent on April 1st.

Meanwhile, temp and agency workers on minimum wage will see their pay go up by more than 40 cents to €10.88 per hour – but it won’t stay that way for long. The government is due to hike the minimum wage to €12 an hour this year, so the same workers will see yet another pay rise in September. 

In the care sector, a special minimum wage applies that’s already higher than in other sectors: currently, this group can earn between €12.50 and €15 per hour depending on their skill level. However, following recommendations from the Care Commission, further pay rises are due to take place in April as part of a step-by-step plan to significantly increase wages for carers by 2024.  

As the first step next month, nursing assistants will receive a minimum of €12.55 per hour, qualified nursing assistants will get €14.60 per hour und care workers will receive €15.40 per hour. This amount will continue to rise over the next 20 months to an hourly rate of €14.15, €15.25 and €18.25 respectively. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: When will Germany raise the minimum wage?

New theory questions for learner drivers

If you’re hoping to get your German driving licence this year, make sure you get some up-to-date study aids as a new set of questions for the theory test are about to be introduced. A working group called Theoretical Driving Test and Task Development apparently worked on the new questions, which affect all classes of licence. Some old questions are also being removed from the test.

According to Statista, more than a third of people failed their theory test in Germany in 2020, so perhaps this set of questions will be easier than last time? Either way, anyone who makes a living producing study aids for driving tests will be rubbing their hands in glee. 

Tax bonus for re-locators goes up 

If you’ve moved to be closer to your workplace in the previous year, you may be interested to know that you and your family are entitled to a juicy rebate in your 2021 tax return. Not just that, but as of April 1st, the amount you can claim for a work-related relocation is going up.

Dog and moving boxes

A dog lies amongst boxes as a family moves home. You can claim money back for family members who relocate with you for work – though unfortunately not for your dog. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Katja Sponholz

From April, the flat-rate moving allowance for a single person is €886 (up from €870). If your spouse or partner and/or children move with, you can claim an additional €590 in each case – up from €580 last year.

The definition of a work-related move is quite specific, however. You’ll have to have moved to avoid a daily commute to work of an hour or more each way, and have covered the costs of relocating yourself. 

April Fool’s Day 

Who could forget the highlight of any prankster’s calendar – April Fool’s Day on April 10th?! Just messing with you! It’s obviously April 1st. 

If you’re wondering whether your German friends will appreciate a good old-fashioned leg-pulling, we have good news for you: Germany has a long history of pranking people at the start of the month, which they call, “sending someone into April”. The tradition of the Aprilscherz (or “April joke”) became widespread in the country in the 19th century, but newspapers were printing tall tales way back in the 1700s. 

In fact, the oldest recorded newspaper joke in Germany was printed in 1774. Apparently, it was a mock advice-column about how to breed multi-coloured hens. In other words: be on your guard for tricks on the first day of April, and maybe even start plotting one or two of your own. 

Kurzarbeit no longer covers social contributions

Another staple of the pandemic years – the Kurzarbeit scheme – is being extended until the end of June, allowing workers on reduced hours to still receive a hefty chunk of their usual salaries.

One thing that’s changing however, is that the scheme will no longer be reimbursing 50 percent of social security contributions unless employees are participating in a vocational training scheme. If you’re unsure what this means for you, get in touch with your employer to discuss the changes. 

New social security process for “grey-area” workers

This is a bit of a convoluted one and (dare we say it) rather German, but it could also be a significant change for some. From April, there will be some tweaks to the way the German Pension Insurance Federation (DRV) decides whether individuals are treated as employed or self-employed. 

The issue is that there are certain groups of “grey-area” workers, including craftspeople and midwives, who may fall into a slightly fuzzy zone between employment and self-employment. To clarify this they can go to the DRV, who will make a decision on whether they should have part of their social security and pension covered by an employer. 

Practice doll pregnancy

A “practice” doll on a maternity ward to help expectant parents learn the ropes. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

Previously, they also decided what type of health insurance was needed, but from April this will be the domain of the health insurance companies. In addition, people will be able to request an oral hearing if they feel they have been treated unjustly. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How a new EU personal pension scheme works if you’re moving country

Access to DHL parcel stations becomes app-only 

If you usually collect your post from one of DHL’s parcel stations, then you’ll need to use an app in future. From March 31st, the four-digit collection code and DHL customer card will be invalid as the company is switching to an app-only system.

Luckily, it’s free of charge, so if you have a smartphone, just hop onto the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store and download the Post & DHL app as soon as you can.

Schools break up for the Easter holidays

Children will be enjoying a few weeks of fun this month as schools break up for Easter. 

As always in Germany, each of the 16 federal states has their own specific timetable. The northern states of Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony look set to go on their holidays the earliest, with schools in these states ending their term on April 4th.

Several other states, including Bavaria, Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia break up on the 11th, while others like Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate take their holidays even later. If you need to remind yourself of the holiday dates in your state, Kalenderpedia has a useful list.

Lifting of Covid travel restrictions? 

According to the Health Ministry, the current law for Covid travel regulations is due to expire on April 28th. At the moment, we can’t say whether it will be extended or not, as a lot depends on the current situation. 

However, if the government chooses not to extend it, then people will no longer be required to supply proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test when entering the country. 

To find out more, check out our recent article on the subject:

When will Germany’s Covid travel restrictions be lifted?

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WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in November 2022 in Germany

From cheaper subscriptions to more worker rights, here's a look at what's changing in Germany starting Tuesday, November 1st.

Everything that changes in November 2022 in Germany

Sick pay not just for those who are sick

Starting November 1st, anyone who accompanies a person with a disability to the hospital – whether its their friend or relative – can claim loss of earnings in the form of Krankengeld, or sick pay. The prerequisite is a certificate stating that it was medically necessary to stay by the patient’s side. This Bescheinigung is issued by the attending physician together with the hospital admission.

READ ALSO: Working in Germany: The 10 rules you need to know if you fall ill

Rights for work meetings – even virtual ones

As of November 1st, general assembly or stakeholder meetings (Hauptversammlungen) can be held virtually — and officially carry the same weight as in-person gatherings. What started as a provisional measure amid the pandemic is now written into German law. Among other things, the new legislation stipulates how shareholders can exercise their rights – such as the right to speak and the right to information – at virtual general meetings. “We are creating more legal certainty for companies in the conduct of meetings,” wrote Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann.

A woman uses her kitchen worktop as a standing desk while working from home.

A woman uses her kitchen worktop as a standing desk while working from home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

Vet visit increases

Starting November 22nd, visits to the veterinarian will go up between 20 and 100 percent, depending on the service. Each general visit for dogs will go up by €10, bringing the total cost to €23. The costs of vaccinations for both dogs and cats will go up €5.77 to €11.50. The new price tags are part of Germany’s “Fee regulation for vets” which has been updated for the very first time since 1999. 

READ ALSO: Hundesteuer: Germany collects record amount of dog tax

More equitable energy costs

Amid skyrocketing energy costs, many German energy suppliers introduced new – and significantly higher – tariffs for new customers to cover their high procurement costs. This will no longer be possible as of November, according to the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). Older contracts that included such price hikes will also have to be adjusted as of November 1st.

Get an extended tax deadline – and a public holiday too

If you still haven’t filed your 2021 taxes, and don’t have a Steuerberater (tax advisor), there’s still a small window of time left. While the deadline was extended Germany-wide to October 31st, it was pushed to November 1st for states that recognize the Feiertag of Reformation Day.

READ ALSO: Who benefits the most under Germany’s tax relief plans?

Higher public toilet prices

Starting November 18th, Autobahn drivers may have to pay a bit more to find relief at a rest stop: the prices for the approximately 400 public toilets operated by Sanifair will be going up from 70 cents to one euro. 

Drivers might not mind the toilet increase after being stuck in a traffic jam on the Autobahn. Photo by GUENTER SCHIFFMANN / AFP.

Netflix lowers its costs, with a catch

Looking to cut down on your finances but don’t want to give up your Netflix subscription? You can still save a few euros, as the popular online streaming service is now offering its service in Germany for €4.99 per month starting on November 3rd – at least for viewers who can put up with four or five minutes of ads per hour. This does not apply to children’s programming however. 

Google cleans up its act

Google is already doing its spring cleaning in November: starting at the beginning of the month 900 apps from its play store will no longer be available. Most of these soon-to-be-deleted apps don’t meet its new privacy guidelines.

App developers have until November to make adjustments to meet new standards. Those who need more time for this can request an extension of the deadline by six months from Google. However, apps that are already installed can still be used.

Sealing the deal on car insurance

Anyone who wants to change their car insurance to a cheaper provider should do so by November 30th. They must also have closed their former insurance by this date.

READ ALSO: What to know if you are buying a used car in Germany

Charges to exchange Ukrainian banknotes

Previously Ukrainian refugees in Germany could exchange hryvnia banknotes for euros free of charge. But the offer, agreed upon by the German Federal Ministry of Finance, the Deutsche Bundesbank and the National Bank of Ukraine, will expire on November 18. In all participating banks, Ukraine refugees can exchange up to 10,000 hryvnia (€275.95). Hryvnia bills in the amount of 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 are being accepted.

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