Sick Leave

A man being sick at home
Update 16.01.2024

What do I have to consider?

When you are sick and unable to work, you are entitled to rest at home. However, your employer has the right to demand proof; i.e. confirmation of illness/unfitness for work - which you can obtain from a doctor. Colloquially, such a document is known as "Krankschreibung" (sick note), but the official term for it is "Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung " (certificate of unfitness for work) or -for short- "AU".

What do I need to know?

I am sick and cannot work. When do I have to inform my employer?

You need to inform your employer at the start of the first day you are unable to work due to sickness at the latest. You do not have to disclose what illness you have. If you can estimate how long you will be ill, however, you should let your employer know. You can inform the employer by phone, SMS or email.

When do I need to obtain/present a sick note?

Your employer can request a sick note from the first day of sickness. When so, on the first day you miss work due to your illness, you must present the appropriate document from the doctor. However, in many workplaces, the employees only have to submit a sick note from the third day of illness. Ask your employers which rules and regulations apply to you.

Please note: Your sick note must be comprehensive, i.e. it must cover all the days you are missing due to the illness.

What does a sick note look like?

When you visit your doctor, you need to let him/her know you need a sick note. Based on the diagnosis, the doctor decides how many days you will not be able to work before you recover. The sick note itself consists of three parts:

  • A page is intended for your health insurance. Your doctor’s office will directly send it to your insurance company.
  • Another page is for your own records.
  • The last page is for your employer- and only shows the duration of your sick leave, but not the diagnosis, so that your employer cannot learn about the type of illness- and they have no right to ask you either.

Since January 1, 2023, sick leave for people with statutory health insurance has been processed digitally throughout Germany. This means that issuing of sick leave note is entirely electronic: If you want to take sick leave, the doctor's office sends the sick note electronically directly to your statutory health insurance company, from where your employer receives the notification.

Nevertheless, as an employee, you must inform your employer directly about your absence whenever you are ill.

What happens if my employer doesn't trust a sick note?

If your employer does not believe that you are, in fact, sick or unable to work, they can inform your health insurance company. The health insurance company will then commission the medical service of the health insurance company (MDK) to carry out an examination.

Will I get paid while on sick leave?

It depends on the length of your sick leave:

  • If you are on sick leave for less than six weeks, you will, in principle, continue to receive your salary.
  • If you are on sick leave for more than six weeks and your employer no longer pays you a salary, you will receive sick pay ("Krankengeld") from your health insurer instead of your salary. The amount of sick pay you receive will be less than your wage.
Do I have to stay at home while on sick leave?

It depends on the type of illness. If your doctor prescribes bed rest, you should stay at home. Otherwise, you can go out or travel if you wish so.

Can I stay at home when my child is sick?

Yes. According to the so-called Children's Sickness Benefits Act, statutory health insurance pays benefits if a doctor confirms that the child is ill and requires supervision, care or nursing. In this case, one parent is allowed not to go to work.

Each parent can stay at home for 30 days per year for each child to look after them during sickness. That makes a total of 60 days for both parents per child. Single parents are entitled to stay home for 60 working days per year and child. If there are several children, the entitlement is a maximum of 65 working days per parent (a total of 130 days for both parents) or 130 days for single parents.

However, this regulation is subject to certain conditions:

  • your child must be younger than 12 years or need special care because of a disability,
  • you must be able to present a medical certificate which confirms that your child needs care during his illness,
  • and there must be no other person in your household who can take care of your child.
Can I obtain a sick leave note from my doctor over the phone? Or inform my employer that I am sick over the phone or online?

In 2023, after the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, it was decided that sick leave must be applied for in writing and after visiting your doctor’s office in person. But since 07.12.2023, once again, you can call your doctor (to get a sick note) and your employer to let them know you are sick.



You must always inform your employer if you cannot get to work.

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