July 2021: 11 changes affecting expats in Germany
From new rules on travelling to online gambling, there’s a lot of change happening in Germany as June becomes July. Here are 11 things expats should know about.
1. Compulsory home working rule expires
Back in January, the German federal government put into effect a “home office” obligation to try to encourage people to work from home and thus minimise the risk of infection in workplaces and on public transport. This legislation expires as of July 1, meaning companies are no longer required to allow their employees to work from home - but your boss may still allow you to do so.
If you do return to the office, your employer is obliged to offer staff regular coronavirus tests and to keep social distancing, mask wearing and room ventilation rules in place.
2. End of blanket travel warning
Travel guidelines are also changing in Germany as of July 1, as the government lifts its blanket warning against tourist travel abroad. In practice, this means that travellers will no longer be discouraged from travelling to countries and regions of the EU that are not classified as risk areas. Instead, they will be asked to exercise “special caution”.
Non-essential travel is “discouraged” for “basic” risk areas with a seven-day incidence rate between 50 and 200, and warnings will remain in place for countries and regions classified as high incidence or virus variant areas by the Robert Koch Institute.
3. EU COVID digital certificate launches
The EU’s COVID digital certificate launches on July 1, with the aim of making travel across the bloc easier. The certificate, which can be displayed on a mobile phone, will allow travellers who are fully vaccinated to travel anywhere within the EU or Schengen Area without needing to follow certain guidelines like quarantining or testing. Note however that strict measures are still in place in “virus variant” countries like Portugal.
4. Minimum wage rises across Germany
The minimum wage in Germany will rise once again from July 1, this time by 10 cents from 9,50 euros to 9,60 euros per hour. Minimum hourly wages are gradually being raised step by step over the next two years to reach 10,45 euros by the end of 2022.
5. Pensions rise in eastern Germany
It’s typical for pensions in Germany to go up in the summer. Most years, this happens on July 1. However, due to the continued economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government has announced that pension benefits will not increase in Germany’s western federal states in 2021.
Retirees in the eastern (new) federal states will get a minimal adjustment of 0,72 percent as of July 1, to continue the process of equalising pension values in east and west Germany by 2024.
6. 10 single-use plastic items banned
The legislation was signed off last year, but now it’s finally coming into force: many single-use plastic items will be banned in Germany from July 3. The products, which together make up an estimated 70 percent ocean waste, all have suitable non-plastic alternatives.
The ban affects styrofoam containers for food and drinks, as well as plastic cutlery, cotton buds, balloon sticks, coffee stirrers, plates, bowls and drinking straws. Existing stock can continue to be sold and used, so that unused items do not end in the bin.
7. End of 3G networks in Germany
Time to bid goodbye to 3G. Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone will switch off their third-generation networks (3G or UMTS) on June 30. This only affects customers with very old smartphones or who have a contract that does not include the 4G / LTE standard. O2 is planning to switch off its 3G network by the end of the year.
8. Higher import duties within EU
Previously, imported goods with a value of 22 euros or less were exempt from taxation, but that will change across the European Union as of July 1, 2021. From now on, all goods coming to the EU (and therefore Germany) from outside the bloc will be subject to VAT, whatever their value.
If you’re a frequent online shopper who makes purchases from businesses outside the EU, this could push up the price of your items. Businesses need to register with the Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS), or the customer will be forced to pay the VAT bill. It is possible that postal companies will charge their customers additional fees to collect VAT and carry out necessary importing procedures.
9. New DHL delivery procedure
Also good to know if you’re a frequent online shopper: DHL will change its delivery procedure as of July 1. Couriers will no longer have to ring the doorbell when making deliveries to some customers.
The change only affects customers who have previously selected a specific drop-off location or “safe place” for the courier to use if they are not home. This could be, for instance, the customer’s garage, porch or the corridor to their apartment. If you have previously selected this option, DHL couriers will no longer ring your doorbell. New customers can also set up this option, if they would prefer.
10. Online gambling made legal
From the beginning of July, uniform federal rules will make it possible to play poker and roulette on the internet across Germany. Up until now, the rules have been different from state to state. The new legislation is intended to protect players and particularly children from online gambling sites.
In future, gamblers will have to create a gaming account, for which they will be required to identify and authenticate themselves, thus excluding the possibility of under-18s being able to gamble. Players will also only be able to deposit a maximum of 1.000 euros per month. In order to curb the black market, online poker variants and virtual slot machines will also be allowed for the first time.
11. Say goodbye to Real
Cheerio, Real! Marking the end of an era, one of Germany’s supermarkets is shutting its doors for good - well, sort of. Since the beginning of the year, the supermarket chain’s branches have either been closing down or being taken over by Kaufland, Edeka or Globus. Another wave of takeovers is due to take place in July.