March 2022: 8 changes affecting expats in Germany
It’s not just coronavirus restrictions that are changing in March 2022: from rules on insurance to hedge trimming ordinances, there’s a lot coming as spring arrives in Germany. Here are eight changes expats should know about.
1. Coronavirus restrictions gradually lifted
The rolling back of coronavirus restrictions is already underway in Germany, but in March 2022 things will be stepped up another notch as the federal states implement steps two and three of the plan agreed to at the coronavirus summit on February 16.
From March 4, 2G rules will be replaced with 3G in restaurants, bars and hotels in Germany, meaning unvaccinated people will once again be permitted entry, so long as they can present a negative test result. The 3G rule will also apply at big events like concerts and football matches. Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen under 2G plus rules (vaccinated or recovered plus a negative test).
From March 20, all “far-reaching” measures are to be lifted, including 2G plus, 2G and 3G rules. The only measures that will remain in place are the obligation to wear a mask in shops and on public transport. The requirement to work from home will be lifted.
2. Vaccine mandate for healthcare workers come into effect
Anyone who works in the German healthcare system, including in nursing homes, doctors’ surgeries and day clinics, will be subject to a vaccine mandate from March 15, 2022. After this date, employees should be able to provide proof of a full vaccination, a previous infection, or a medical certificate attesting to the fact that they cannot be vaccinated.
However, local health authorities are to have individual discretion when it comes to implementing measures. Unvaccinated workers are therefore unlikely to immediately lose their jobs; it will be considered a last resort.
3. Clocks go forward
It’s that time of year again! As always, on the last Sunday in March, the clock will change from winter to summer time. In 2022, the date for your diaries is March 27. At 2am on the night from Saturday to Sunday, the clock will go forward to 3am. The bad news is you get an hour less in bed; the good news is that the evenings will be lighter.
4. New insurance plates for motorbikes, mopeds and e-scooters
The colour of the insurance plates for motorcycles changes every year, in order to make it easier to check whether their vehicle insurance is still up to date. In March 2022, the blue plates will be replaced with green plates, and all motorbikes, mopeds, scooters and fast e-bikes with a top speed of 45 kilometres per hour need to make the switch. Without an up-to-date licence plate, your insurance cover will be considered invalid and your vehicle not permitted on German roads.
5. New rules on organ donation
A new law is also coming into force in March 2022 that should make it easier for people to decide whether they want to donate their organs or not. From March 1, informational material and organ donor cards will be available at ID card offices (for instance inside citizens’ offices). GPs will be allowed to advise their patients on the subject of organ donation every two years. A national digital organ donor register will also be created.
6. Contracts now easier to cancel
Germany’s Fair Consumer Contracts Act comes into effect on March 1, providing welcome relief to consumers who have long battled with long and inflexible contracts for mobile phones, internet, streaming services, newspaper subscriptions, gyms and electricity and gas supply.
The law, which was passed last year, is intended to ensure that customers don’t get locked into automatically-extending contracts that they no longer want. Up until now, general terms and conditions have generally stated that fixed-term contracts need to be terminated three months before the end of the contract period, otherwise they can be renewed for a whole year.
From March 1, 2022, this no longer applies: the minimum notice period will be shortened to one month. And if you miss the deadline, your contract can be extended indefinitely, but the one month’s notice period continues to apply. From July 1, 2022, the provider must have a cancellation button included on their website if you have concluded the contact online, to make terminations faster and easier.
7. Last month for tax-free COVID bonuses
Employers can continue to pay their employees a coronavirus bonus of up to 1.500 euros that is exempt from taxation until March 31, 2022. Beyond that date, the tax exemption status will expire.
8. No more hedge trimming until October
With spring and better weather on the horizon, you might be thinking it’s the opportune moment to get outside and do some gardening, but beware: Germany has strict laws prohibiting hedge trimming and tree felling between March 1 and September 30 each year, to protect animal habitats and plants. Only “gentle shaping and care cuts to eliminate the growth of plants or to keep trees healthy” are allowed, so don’t get too trigger-happy with those pruning shears.