Getting sick ― it happens to the best of us, and it never happens at a convenient time. If you're employed in Germany, you're legally entitled to paid sick leave for up to 6 weeks, but only if you can present a sick note ('Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung' in German) from your doctor.
Read on to find out what to do when you get sick.
Call your employer
Feeling unfit to work? You should notify your employer as soon as possible. You’re not legally obliged to tell your employer what you're suffering from, but you might be asked when you expect to be fit to work again. Important: find out when you’re expected to hand in a sick note. Some companies require a sick note on the first day of sick leave, while others only do so after three days.
Make a doctor’s appointment
Go see your doctor, ideally on the first day of sick leave. By law, he or she has to verify and evaluate your symptoms on the first day to write a sick note. Doctors will only write a retroactive sick note in exceptional cases, for instance when the doctor’s office was closed on the first day of sick leave.
The sick note, or Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung, is written by your doctor and states the number of days for which you’ll presumably be unfit to work. One of the sheets should be sent to your health insurer and the other is for your employer (this part does not state the diagnosis). By law, you should hand the sick note to your employer on the fourth day of your sick leave at the latest, but your company may request it earlier, so be sure to consult your contract.
Do I always need a sick note?
In short: yes, it is advisable to get a sick note, even if you think you’ll only be sick for one or two days. Even if you're only contractually obligated to provide a sick note to your employer in cases of illness lasting more than three days, you may end up unwell for longer, and in those cases, you will need proof that you were sick already. Importantly, some companies require their employees to hand in a sick note after one day of leave, so it’s best to consult your company on this.
Long-term sick leave
You're legally entitled to six weeks of continuous sick leave paid by your employer, after which your health insurer will take over the costs. If you've had sick leave for the same illness multiple times in the same year, these days will be accumulated. After six weeks of regular paid sick leave, you’ll receive Krankengeld (lit. 'sick money') for a maximum of 90 percent of your wage after taxes for up to 72 weeks.