As an employee in Germany, if you are unable to continue working due to sickness, through no fault of your own, your employer will usually continue to pay your regular wage for six weeks. After that, if you are still unable to work, your health insurance will pay your sickness benefit (Krankengeld) for up to 78 weeks, while you recover.
Sickness benefit is funded by your health insurance premiums, meaning that you are automatically covered if you contribute to the German statutory insurance system. If you have private health insurance, the amount and duration of sickness benefit you receive beyond the initial six weeks depends on the type of cover you chose when taking out your policy.
Requirements for sickness benefit
In order to qualify for sickness benefit, you need to meet the following criteria:
- You are employed and contributing to a statutory health insurance scheme.
- You hold a valid residence permit (if applicable) that permits you to work in Germany.
- You have been unable to work due to sickness for more than six weeks and/or your employer is no longer paying you a salary.
- You have a certificate from your doctor attesting to your incapacity for work.
- You attend a medical examination if requested.
If you hold private health insurance, whether or not you are entitled to sickness benefit depends on your individual policy. Check with your health insurance provider if you are unsure.
How much sickness benefit will I get?
Your health insurance provider will cover 70% of your gross salary, up to a maximum contribution ceiling (4.687,50 euros in 2020). The payments cannot exceed 90% of your net salary.
You will be covered up to the end of your certified period of inability to work (usually attested to by a certificate from a doctor), although you cannot draw sickness benefit for more than 78 weeks in a three-year period. Under certain conditions, it may be possible to extend this.
How to apply for sickness benefit
To apply for sickness benefit, you need to send an incapacity certificate (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung - AU) to your health insurance provider as soon as possible. You can obtain this certificate from your doctor after submitting to a medical examination. You also need to submit a copy to your employer.
You will receive a response from your insurance provider in the post, outlining whether you are eligible for sickness benefit and if so, detailing the next steps you need to take. If you are not eligible for sickness benefit, you may be able to apply for unemployment benefit or long-term care benefit.