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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 Germany in July 2022

From energy relief measures and an increase in the minimum wage to rules for making it easier to cancel contracts online, here's what's changing in Germany this July.

Everything that changes in Germany in July 2022

No more free rapid Covid tests for all

From July 1st, taxpayer-funded Covid-19 rapid tests or Bürgertests will no longer be free for everyone. Under the Health Ministry’s plans, the tests will cost €3, however, some groups of people will still get them for free. 

READ ALSO: Germany to charge €3 for Covid tests

Financial relief for families

As part of the government’s energy relief package, the Kinderbonus will be paid out to families in July. Each child entitled to child benefit will receive a one-time bonus of €100.

Due to inflation and rapidly rising food prices, recipients of social assistance benefits, Hartz-IV and asylum benefits will also get a cash boost in July. They will receive two payments of €100 each and their children €20 each.

€9 ticket and fuel tax cut continues

Germany’s €9 monthly public transport ticket offer continues until the end of August so people will be able to buy a ticket and use it in July. Similarly, the fuel tax cut is in force until the end of August. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock.

A Covid test centre in Rostock. Rapid tests will no longer be free for all from July. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

End of the EEG levy 

The Russian war on Ukraine is causing energy prices to rocket upwards. To help people in Germany deal with the price hikes, the coalition government in Germany has decided to abolish the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) charge.

The EEG levy is a green tax that has been used to fund investment in solar and wind power as part of the energy transition. Until January 1st, 2022, it added 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour to people’s energy bills, but at the start of the year, it was reduced to 3.72 cents per kilowatt hour.

From July people in Germany will no longer have to pay the levy. However, It’s not clear whether this will really save consumers much money, due to energy costs going up significantly. 

READ ALSO: Will German energy bills really come down soon?

Increase in the minimum wage

As Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats promised before the German federal election last year, the minimum wage is being raised this year. It is to be gradually increased to €12 by October 2022. In January the minimum wage rose to €9.82, in July it will rise to €10.45.

More financial relief measures come into force in Germany in July.

More financial relief measures come into force in Germany in July. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

Pension increase

People who receive pensions in Germany will get more money from July. In the states that formerly comprised West Germany, pensions will rise by 5.35 percent, in the former East German states by 6.12 percent. The German pension insurance fund says it is one of the highest adjustments since the introduction of pension insurance.

School holidays continue 

More schools in German states are finishing up for the summer. After schools in North Rhine-Westphalia broke up in June, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are next, followed by Hamburg, Berlin and Brandenburg on the Wednesday after (July 6th).

The southern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria will be the last to go off on their school holidays – at the end of July and on August 1st respectively.

Pfand scheme extended 

From July, a 25-cent deposit or Pfand will be charged on more plastic bottles and drink cans. Due to the amendment of the Packaging Act, bottled fruit drinks such as orange juice as well as mixed alcoholic beverages will have to be recycled in future. Under plans to extend the scheme further, milk is set to be charged a Pfand from 2024. 

The regulation has been in effect since January 2022, but retailers were granted a transitional period until July 2022 to implement the change.

Get rid of old electrical appliances

From July, many large supermarkets and discount chains – including Aldi, Rewe and Edeka – will accept old electrical goods. People will be able to hand in products such as old mobile phones, electric razors, kettles and toasters free of charge. 

A kettle stands in a kitchen. Get rid of your old appliances at German supermarkets soon.

A kettle stands in a kitchen. Get rid of your old appliances at German supermarkets soon. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Andrea Warnecke

Driving licence deadline approaching

German people born between 1953 and 1958 and who have a paper driving licence issued before 1999 have to exchange it for a digital one or face a warning fine. The deadline for the exchange was originally planned for January, but due to the pandemic, it was extended to July 19th.

The cost of the exchange is €25.50. To apply for the EU driving licence, a valid identity card, the old driving licence and a biometric passport photo is needed. There is no extra driving or health test involved.

READ ALSO: Drivers in Germany given extension to exchange driving licence 

New rent law comes into force

As of July, tenants and landlords will have to provide information on rental prices if they are asked to by authorities. This is to enable a comparison of rents, especially in large cities. Tenants and landlords will be selected at random. Those who refuse to provide information can face a fine of up to €5,000.

Extension of tobacco tax

At the start of 2022, tobacco tax was increased and the price of cigarettes went up. As of July, this also applies to shisha tobacco and liquids for e-cigarettes.

Cancellations of contracts online to become easier

Since the beginning of the year, consumers in Germany have been able to terminate rolling contracts more easily. And people who have concluded a contract online should also be able to terminate it online in future under new laws. 

From July onwards, firms have to include a cancellation button on websites where contracts can be concluded. If this is not the case, the consumer has the right to terminate the contract without notice.

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

Cost of sending packages goes up

Anyone who wants to send parcels or packages with DHL from July onwards will unfortunately have to dig further into their pockets. The rises apply to domestic and international shipments. DHL said the price hikes are because of the rise in transport, delivery and labour costs.

READ ALSO: What to know about German parcel delivery hikes

Tax deadline extended

One last point – self-submitted tax returns in Germany were due to be sent to the tax office by the end of July. However, the deadline has been extended until the end of October, giving people more time. 

READ ALSO: Why people in Germany have longer to do their tax return this year

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