April 2022: 11 changes affecting expats in Germany
From coronavirus regulations to driving theory test questions, there’s a lot of change going on as we move from March into April. Here are 11 things expats in Germany should look out for in April 2022.
1. Nationwide coronavirus rules replaced by hotspot regulations
The saga surrounding Germany’s measures to combat coronavirus continues. Although most restrictions were due to be scrapped on March 20, the federal states were given a two-week transition period that ends on April 2. They pushed for this to be extended further, but this was rejected.
So where does that leave us? In a nutshell, most far-reaching coronavirus measures will be scrapped after April 2 (with the exception of the mask requirement on public transport), unless a region declares itself a hotspot, giving authorities the power to retain certain rules like 3G and masks in shops.
For most areas - including Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein - from April 2 this means no more 2G and 3G rules, no more vaccination certificates or tests in public places like cinemas, bars, restaurants and gyms, and no more masks in leisure and retail venues.
Some regions have, however, already announced that they will be implementing the hotspot regulation. So far, this includes the whole of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Hamburg. Other regions may also declare themselves hotspots in the coming days and weeks. It’s confusing, for sure, but it’s worth checking the guidelines in your local area to make sure you’re not caught out.
2. Easter school holidays start
The scrapping of coronavirus restrictions in most parts of the country comes at a great time for kids, who will be enjoying a break from lessons as the school holidays kick off in April ahead of the Easter bank holiday weekend.
Primary and secondary schools will be ending first in northern Germany, with holidays starting on April 4 in Bremen, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. The holidays start latest in Saxony, on April 15. To cope with demand, Deutsche Bahn is putting on extra trains.
3. Minimum wages and salaries rise in some sectors
Lots of people working in Germany can look forward to more money in their pay packets from April. From the beginning of the month, salaries in the federal and municipal public services will increase by 1,8 percent, and in the construction industry wages are going up by 2,2 percent.
Temporary workers will see their minimum wage increased from 10,45 to 10,88 euros per hour from April 1 - ahead of another planned increase to 12 euros per hour in September 2022. Nursing assistants are also in for a pay rise.
4. Mortgages likely to get more expensive
Mortgages in Germany are set to get more expensive from April. This is because banks and other lenders are now required to implement an additional capital buffer as a precaution against possible economic volatility. The cost of this will likely be recouped from people looking to buy a house, who are already facing higher interest rates.
5. New system for determining employment status
This one is a little complicated, but no doubt crucial for some people. From April 1, 2022, the German Pension Insurance (DRV) will make some changes to the way it determines if someone is employed or self-employed.
This matters because sometimes people end up in a kind of grey area where they’re not sure of their status, which has implications for things like pensions. Now, anyone who is unsure can apply to the DRV to have their status clarified. They can also appeal for an oral hearing if they feel a mistake has been made.
Previously, this also affected their health insurance, but from now on health insurance companies will decide whether the person needs to take out statutory health insurance or private health insurance.
6. More relocation costs deductible on tax returns
Employees who relocate in Germany for their jobs stand to save more on their tax returns from April, as the flat rate tax deduction for work-related relocations is increasing. Single people can claim up to 886 euros in deductible expenses (up from 870 euros), while married couples can claim up to 590 euros per person.
A work-related move is defined as a relocation that helps you avoid a daily commute of an hour or more each way. To deduct the expense from your taxes, it also needs to have not been covered by your employer.
7. Higher child allowance to support low-income families
Low-income families in Germany are supported by the government with a monthly child allowance (Kinderzuschlag) of up to 209 euros per child. A regulation that made the benefit easier to apply for has been extended to the end of 2022.
8. Government no longer covering Kurzarbeit social security payments
During the coronavirus pandemic, the government was covering all or part of employees’ social security contributions if they were put on Kurzarbeit. From now on, however, the Federal Employment Agency has said that these will no longer be reimbursed. If this affects you, you should consult your employer.
9. DHL app to replace cards at Packstations
Many people waiting to receive parcels in Germany opt to have them sent to a DHL Packstation, ready to be collected at their convenience. Previously, customers had the option of using a card and a four-digit pick-up code. Now, however, the service is going fully digital. From April onwards, parcels can only be picked up using a code on the Post & DHL app. If you already have the app, it’s worth updating it to make sure you have this new feature.
10. Cost of calling 0137 numbers capped by law
Numbers with 0137 area codes are often used by TV stations in Germany, for viewer interactions like voting or competitions. Consumers who dialled these numbers often faced astronomical costs and a nasty surprise when their phone bill arrived.
To stop this, the Federal Network Agency capped the per-minute cost of calls to these numbers from fixed-line phones. Now, the same will apply to calls from mobile phones. The price is anywhere between 14 cents and 1 euro per minute or call, depending on the next digit in the phone number.
11. Learner drivers face new theory test questions
And one last one for those out there who are learning to drive. In April the bank of theory test questions in Germany will be updated, with some new questions added and some older ones retired. The new questions affect all classes of driving licence. If you’re brushing up on your German road signs and driving rules, make sure to get some up-to-date study resources.