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Understanding Germany’s New Electronic Sick Note System

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Understanding Germany's New Electronic Sick Note System
Understanding Germany's New Electronic Sick Note System

In Germany, a new electronic sick note system has been implemented since January 1st, 2023. Employees no longer need to pass a physical paper note to their employer, as the information will be transmitted electronically. Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know:

What’s changed?

Obtaining a sick note has become more straightforward if you fall ill in Germany. Instead of getting a yellow paper slip from the doctor, which you have to give to your employer, your public health insurance will send the information electronically to your employer in the form of an “electronic incapacity for work certificate”. This eliminates the need for employees to get multiple certificates from the doctor’s office. This change aims to reduce bureaucracy for both employees and health insurers, as well as to improve the documentation of sick leave.

Who can get the electronic sick note?

Only those with statutory health insurance can receive electronic sick notes, as their health insurer will be the one to forward it to their employer. However, those with private insurance will still need to hold onto their physical paper note for the time being. Similarly, parents with statutory health insurance who need time off work due to a sick child must still keep the physical paper note. And if you fall ill while on holiday and have to extend your stay, you will still need to send the physical sick message to your employer by mail.

Do I need to inform my employer of my sickness?

Even though employees no longer have to submit the paper note physically, they are still required to inform their employer immediately of their incapacity for work. They also have to provide a certificate of incapacity for work from the fourth day of sickness.

What information does the employer receive?

Once an employer is informed of an employee’s sick leave, they can make a digital request to retrieve the electronic certificate from the health insurance company. For example, suppose there are technical problems at the doctor’s surgery. In that case, a physical printout of the certificate will be sent to the health insurance company, which will then be digitized and accessible to the employer. However, the employer cannot see any information regarding the employee’s diagnosis or reason for being sick, except in the case of a workplace accident. The certificate only shows the insured person’s name, the start and end of the incapacity for work, and whether it’s an initial or follow-on sick note. The employer won’t know which doctor issued the certificate either.

Are paper sick notes completely gone?

No, not yet. The patient will receive a physical printout of the sick note for their records, and in the future, it will be possible to have the ill leave saved in the electronic patient file. According to the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in Lower Saxony, not all employers or doctors’ surgeries have upgraded to the new digital system, with an estimated 20% of health practices lacking the necessary technology. The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians fears that many employers may continue to request physical printouts from their employees. Until these practices and companies upgrade, employees will need to pass on physical paper notes to their employers.

In conclusion, the implementation of electronic sick notes in Germany aims to simplify the process for employees and health insurers and improve the documentation of sick leave. However, not all practices and companies have upgraded to the new system, so some employees may still need to use physical paper notes for the time being.

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