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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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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in May 2022

From public holidays and Covid rule changes to a tax deadline and shopping, here are the changes to know about in Germany this May.

Everything that changes in Germany in May 2022

May Day

Germany celebrated International Workers’ Day on May 1st. But Tag der Arbeit or Der Erste Mai, as the day is known in German, didn’t result in a day off work for most people because it fell on a Sunday this year. Schade. But no matter, there is another public holiday ahead…

READ ALSO: German politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Ascension Day/Father’s Day

Is Thursday May 26th a religious holiday or a day when people in Germany, especially men, get extremely drunk? It’s actually both. Christi Himmelfahrt is about remembering Jesus’ ascent into heaven, but it’s also about day-drinking. 

That’s because it’s Father’s Day (Vatertag), or Men’s Day (Männertag), and the traditional way that Germans like to be thankful to dad is with a ton of alcohol. 

It’s a national public holiday in Germany every year so many people will get the day off work, and supermarkets will be closed. 

READ ALSO: Why Germans get wholly wasted on Ascension Day

Two men carry some beer in Geretsried, Bavaria, for Father's Day 2021.

Two men carry some beer in Geretsried, Bavaria, for Father’s Day 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

Covid ‘hotspots’ to drop several rules

Most people in Germany saw tough coronavirus restrictions – like 3G or 2G entry to venues – fall away around the start of April. But two states – Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – declared themselves Covid hotspots and lots of restrictions stayed in place. But that’s set to change. Hamburg’s hotspot regulations are set to end automatically at the end of April, while many of the remaining restrictions in Meck-Pom were lifted on Thursday, April 28th. 

READ ALSO: German Covid hotspot states to lift most restrictions

Pre-sale on €9 monthly travel ticket 

As The Local has been reporting, Germany is getting ready to introduce a massively reduced price ticket for three months over the summer to ease the cost of living and energy crisis. Now some transport providers say they will have a pre-sale on the ticket before it launches on June 1st. So keep an eye out online and in stations over the coming weeks. 

READ ALSO: How will Germany’s €9 monthly travel ticket work?

2020 tax deadline

Those who submit their tax return with the help of a tax advisor always get a little more time to process it. But all things come to an end. The 2020 tax return must be submitted to the tax office by May 31st 2022 at the latest. Anyone who misses the submission deadline will have to pay a late filing fee. This is usually 0.25 per cent of the assessed tax, but at least €25. If this affects you and you haven’t got your tax advisor sorted yet, do it quickly. 

Online banking

Do you have an account with Postbank and use the chipTAN procedure for online banking? Then you are in for a change from May – the method of processing transfers by bank card and reader at home will be dropped. It is to be replaced by the BestSign method, which enables online banking via an app in combination with biometrics or password.

Beer prices likely to go up

We’ve all been dealing with higher costs for the likes of groceries and energy recently. Now beer drinkers will soon have to dig deeper into their pockets. After some breweries already increased their beer prices in April, others will follow suit in May. The Radeberger and Bitburger groups have announced that their beers will become more expensive, according to the Lebensmittelzeitung. The price increase will initially only affect the retailers, but it is likely that they will pass on the additional costs to consumers.

Discounted food to be labelled differently

Before supermarkets remove food going out of date, many offer discounts. Traders have to indicate a new price for these discounted products, with a tag. But from the end of May, a simple notice such as “30 percent cheaper” will be allowed – without indicating the new reduced price. This makes labelling easier for employees and, in the best case, will lead to less food waste.

Vegetables in a German supermarket.

Vegetables in a German supermarket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Price checking to become easier

Price comparisons at supermarkets and discounters are to become easier for customers from May 28th. Up until now, the prices on tags at the likes of Aldi, Lidl, Kaufland and co. have been displayed differently. Sometimes the price is indicated per 100 grams, sometimes per kilogram. Due to a change in the law, the latter will soon be the only price that can be displayed. According to the new Price Adjustment Ordinance, it has to be clear at a glance how much a kilogram or a litre of the product costs. Consumers will therefore be able to compare prices between shops more easily without having to do their own conversions.

READ ALSO: How Germany is making it easier for consumers to cancel contracts

More protection and clarity during online shopping

Many people wonder why when they shop online at places like Amazon or other marketplaces, certain products appear at the top and keep reappearing. This should become easier to understand in future. Under news laws coming in from May 2022, providers will have to show more clearly how the sorting criteria offered came about. This includes, for example, showing the number of views and the date the offer was posted, its rating or that of the provider, the number of sales of the product or the “popularity”, commissions or fees.

According to the new amendment, there is also a clear labelling obligation for sellers to indicate whether they are selling privately, reselling or are direct sellers. Online shopping platforms will also have to ensure the authenticity of product reviews and to monitor the ban on fake reviews more closely.

The change also affects comparison portals such as Check24 or Verivox. From May 28th, they will also have to disclose which providers were taken into account in a comparison. Ticket exchanges will also have to provide information about the original price of tickets in order to inform buyers about additionally charged costs and fees.

Violations of the new information requirements can cost companies a lot: according to consumer advice experts, fines of up to €50,000 are possible. Companies with an annual turnover of more than €1.25 million can be fined up to four percent of turnover.

A woman shops online in a Black Friday sal

A woman shops online in a Black Friday sale. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

Checks for doorstep selling

People in Germany are to be better protected against dubious doorstep selling. In the case of contracts concluded during uninvited house calls, payment may no longer be demanded on the day the contract is concluded. Purchases that were made door-to-door should therefore be easier to revoke if the customer decides so. However, this only applies to items or services costing over €50.

More protection against rip-off ‘coffee tours’

According to estimates, every year five million Germans take part in bus trips which end up being sales events. They are known as “Kaffeefahrten” or coffee tours. But stricter regulations will come into force from May 28th. The providers of these events will have to indicate in their advertising in advance where the event will take place, how participants can contact the organiser and what goods will be offered for sale. And when the new law comes into force, certain products may no longer be sold. For instance, it will be strictly forbidden to offer medical products such as weight loss pills, food supplements and financial services such as insurance or building society contracts. Meanwhile, the fine for violations will increase from €1,000 to €10,000.

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