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Working in Germany For Members

Reader question: Can I take sick leave in Germany without visiting a doctor?

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
Reader question: Can I take sick leave in Germany without visiting a doctor?
Photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash

As flu season gets into full swing again - coupled with more cases of Covid-19 - workers in Germany may find themselves unfit for the job. Can they simply call in sick, and for how long, without visiting a GP?

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You have a runny nose, a relentless cough and absolutely no energy to drag yourself to a potentially full doctor’s surgery to wait on a note to be krankgeschrieben, or given sick leave.

But fear not: there are a few ways in which you can receive a sick note without having to set foot at the doctor’s in Germany. 

However you take sick leave, you'll need to give your boss a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day.

But you only need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day (unless it's written in your contract to submit it earlier). 

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

Can I get a doctor's note via a video call?

If your sickness can be assessed by video consultation, it's possible that a doctor will grant you a sick note this way. However, this only ever applies to the initial sick note (Erstbescheinigung), and not any extensions, according to the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV).

If you’re a first time patient, you can receive a sick note for up to three days, whereas regular patients can receive one for up to seven days - a rule which also applies for in-person visits.

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It is important to note, however, that you are not entitled to be on sick leave, with the doctor making the final decision. Many doctors can and will veto your request if it's simply a matter of convenience rather than actual sickness itself, for example a last-minute Kita closure.

READ ALSO: Strikes: Do parents in Germany receive a day off work when Kitas close?

If you have been written off sick and are still not fit when the time expires, then unfortunately you’ll need to pay the practice a personal visit to have this clarified. But in some cases you can also arrange for a Hausbesuch, or at-home visit. 

What about providers who issue a sick note online?

There are various providers who issue a sick note easily and conveniently online - or even messaging services like WhatsApp. 

You click through a few questions about your health and symptoms and, depending on the evaluation, can be handed a sick note or a referral to a specialist. 

However, this does not guarantee that your employer will - or can - accept such a note. 

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A few years back, an employee took sick leave via a note issued by an online portal, but this was not enough for the employer. The case went to court, and in the summer of 2021 the Berlin Labour Court ruled that "an online sick note without personal or telephone contact with a doctor does not meet the requirements for a certificate of incapacity for work.”

Sick leave by telephone is coming back

Up until March 31st of this year, it was possible to get a sick note by phone. This option was introduced to relieve practices and patients during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

But German government announced that sick notes by phone are to be permanent. Guidelines are now being drawn up, with practices all around Germany to accept the notes by the beginning of 2024.

READ ALSO: How sick leave pay in Germany compares to other countries in Europe

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