Until now, managers could only request a signed doctor's form after an employee had been off work for four days. Erfurt labour court, in the central state of Thuringia, ruled that they could ask on the first day.
The case was prompted in 2010 when managers asked a top journalist at a Cologne-based radio station for a sick note dated from the first day she missed work. She saw the request as harassment, as this was not standard practise at the station, and filed a legal complaint.
But she lost the case – the judge decided no official disciplinary investigation was required to prompt the demand for a sick note dating to the start of a member of staff's absence.
In 2011, an average German employee – of which there were around 37.5 million – took 9.5 days off sick.
German law has long stated that employees must inform their workplace if they are going to miss days due to illness.
The interpretation was, the defendant's lawyer Joachim Gärtner said, “unfriendly towards employees,” and carried a risk of being abused by managers.
The Confederation of German Employers' Associations, said it welcomed the change though.