July 2023: 9 changes affecting expats in Germany
This summer, July brings with it a number of grand changes to important aspects of German society, there will be more money in pensioners’ pockets, long-term care contribution rates will rise and prescriptions will finally go digital.
1. Pensioners will receive more money
Starting next month, Germany’s 21 million pensioners can expect a little more money in their bank account each month. From July 1, pensions in eastern Germany will rise by 5,86 percent and in western Germany by 4,39 percent.
For a pension of around 1.000 euros, this equates to 58,60 euros more per month in the eastern states and 43,90 euros more per month in the western states.
2. School summer holidays begin in most states
Children at school in North Rhine-Westphalia are lucky enough to have already begun their summer holidays on June 22. Pupils in Bremen, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt will begin their break on July 6, with all other states following suit somewhere between the second and third week of the month.
3. Long-term care insurance contributions will go up
Long-term care insurance is a social security contribution to which all workers and pensioners in Germany are obliged to pay. These contributions mean that if and when they need long-term care, such as in old age or after an accident, people in Germany have access to nursing services.
With the new rates, people with children will have to pay 3,4 percent of their gross annual salary into long-term care contributions, an increase from 3,05 percent. People without children will have to pay 4 percent of their gross annual income, an increase of 0,6 percentage points on current rates.
Currently, long-term care insurance payments for people without children are higher because it is thought that they will have less financial help and care from their family in old age. However, from July 1, this policy will also take into account how many children people have: the more children people have, the smaller their mandatory Pflegeversicherung contribution will be. If people have more than one child, from the second to the fifth child that is under 25 they will pay 0,25 contribution rate points less per child.
4. Bürgergeld income thresholds will rise
At the beginning of 2023, the unemployment benefit Hartz IV was replaced by Bürgergeld (citizens’ allowance). The July 1, 2023 change applies to so-called Aufstocker; people who have a low income so recieve Bürgergeld top-up payments.
From next month the threshold of tax-free income that Bürgergeld top-up claimants can earn while still being eligible to receive the benefit will rise. This means that if they have a job that pays between 520 and 1.000 euros per month they will now receive 30 rather than 20 percent of their income as a top-up. In practice, this increase will equate to a maximum of 48 euros more per month for Aufstocker Bürgergeld recipients.
5. Germany will introduce e-prescriptions nationwide
From next month, people who are covered by statutory, private or student insurance in the German health insurance system will be able to use e-prescription services in 80 percent of pharmacies across the country.
The system will function like so; when doctors issue patients with a prescription, they will add information to a database about which medicines the patient has been prescribed. Afterwards, patients will be able to go to the pharmacy, insert their health insurance card into the pharmacy’s card reader and the e-prescription will be visible to the pharmacist.
6. Gas storage levy will increase
Household utility costs for Germany’s gas storage levy (Gasspeicherumlage) are set to go up in July. Costs currently stand at 59 cents per megawatt hour, but from July 1 this rate will increase to 1,45 euros per megawatt hour. For a household of four with an annual consumption of around 20 megawatts, this means costs will increase by around 30 euros per year.
The gas storage levy was introduced during the energy crisis to fund imports to Germany. A new gas storage levy will be set again at the beginning of 2024.
7. Deutsche Post to rebrand as DHL and prices will go up
The German institution that is Deutsche Post is to get a shake-up which the company says is purely functional. From July, Deutsche Post will be known as Deutsche Post DHL Group. Yellow post boxes and black bugles will remain part of the branding and the new name will only act as the company’s trading name.
The company says that the change will not impact any of the services it offers. However, in July, prices will go up for sending a package with Deutsche Post DHL; postage for a 10-kilogram parcel will rise from 9,49 euros to 10,49 euros.
8. Easy access Kurzarbeitergeld applications to end
During the coronavirus pandemic and the energy crisis, the German government simplified workers’ route to applying for Kurzarbeitergeld (short-term allowance). This policy is due to expire on July 1, after which companies will need to meet stricter criteria in order to receive government subsidies to pay their staff. Previously, a business could apply for Kurzarbeitergeld subsidies if 10 percent of employees suffered a loss of pay of more than 10 percent in any given month. From next month, one-third of a company’s employees will have to suffer this loss for the business to be eligible for Kurzarbeitergeld support.
9. Whistleblower law will be introduced
Anyone who exposes misconduct at a company or government authority will soon be better protected by Germany’s whistleblower law. Amendments, which come into force on July 2, include new protection for whistleblowers from dismissal or harassment.
Companies and authorities with more than 50 employees must also establish a contact to whom fraud, corruption, animal welfare or environmental protection violations can be reported.
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