April 2021: 8 changes affecting expats in Germany
April 2021: 8 changes affecting expats in Germany
From driving test changes to higher minimum wages, there’s a lot of new things happening in Germany as April 2021 arrives. Here’s an overview of eight of the most important changes expats should know about:
1. GPs to start administering coronavirus vaccines
After a long wait, general practitioners in Germany have finally been given the go-ahead to start administering vaccinations against COVID-19. “With the quantities we expect in the first weeks of April… it will initially be possible for GPs to start with the equivalent of one vaccination clinic per week,” Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn told DPA.
That’s relatively low - only around 20 appointments per week - but is expected to increase as Germany receives more vaccine doses. The first shipment of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which in March became the fourth shot to be approved for use in Germany, is scheduled to arrive in the federal republic in April. 2,3 million doses are due to arrive in May and a further 7,1 million in June.
2. Home office regulation extended
The Corona Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance has been extended to April 30, 2021. The home working rule stipulates that companies must allow their employees to work from home wherever possible.
3. Longer receipts
No, this is not an April Fool’s joke. From April 1, receipts in Germany will get even longer. This is because in future they will have to contain more information - including various codes for accounting, and the start and end time of the checkout process - to help prevent tax fraud. Receipts will also have to be stored digitally.
4. Changes to driving test rules for automatic cars
Until now, anyone who passed their practical driving test in an automatic car only received a driving licence that permitted them to drive automatic cars. From April, however, this rule will be changed. This means that people will be allowed to drive cars with manual gear sticks even if they passed their driving test in an automatic car.
However, the proviso is that they must have completed at least 10 45-minute lessons in a manual car while learning to drive, so they at least know how to use one.
5. New, free Deutsche Bahn hotline
What’s a hotline, the younger generation may ask? Well, in technophobic Germany, where websites are often woefully inadequate, sometimes the only way of getting an answer to your question is via telephone. It’s always been possible to get a hold of Deutsche Bahn via their hotline, but in the past you’ve had to pay for the privilege. That will change this coming month, as the long-distance train operator switches to a new Berlin number, as follows:
- For information on fares and timetables, services and the BahnCard: 030 2970
- To report lost or found items on trains or in stations: 030 5860 20909
- For the service centre to claim fare reimbursements: 030 5860 20920
- For the mobility centre to plan accessible travel: 030 6521 2888
6. Salary increases for public sector workers & nurses
With the new month, employees working in Germany’s public sector can look forward to more money in their bank accounts. Wages will be increased by 1,4 percent, as a result of a new collective bargaining agreement. All public sector employees, including trainees, apprentices and federal civil servants, will receive at least 50 euros extra per month from April 1. Another pay rise of 1,8 percent is to follow on April 1, 2022.
Members of the federal government, federal ministers, state secretaries and presidents of the highest federal courts will not benefit from the pay rise.
On April 1, the minimum wage for nurses will also rise. In the western (old) federal states, nurses will be entitled to 12,50 euros per hour, and in the eastern (new) federal states, it will be 12,20 euros per hour. This disparity is due to be gradually phased out in future salary increases.
7. Better employment rights in the meat industry
This time last year, a number of high-profile coronavirus outbreaks in abattoirs put Germany’s meat industry under the spotlight and exposed some questionable work practices. The federal government eventually vowed to crack down on malpractice in the industry, and the new Occupational Safety and Health Control act is the result of that.
The use of subcontractors with low-wage workers has been banned in the German meat industry from the beginning of 2021, and from April 1 new legislation will also largely prohibit the use of temporary work contracts. Exceptions will be made for companies for fewer than 50 employees. It will also become compulsory for employees to record their working hours (e.g. the start and end times of their shifts) digitally.
8. Unhealthy food to be more strictly regulated
And finally, from April 2 a new ordinance will apply that regulates certain foods more closely. In the future, food in Germany may only contain a maximum of 2 grams of industrially-produced trans fat per 100 grams - anything above this may no longer be sold.
Foods containing trans fatty acids typically include deep-fried products like crisps, baked goods like donuts and croissants, and margarine. The rule does not apply to animal products like milk and meat.