Sick pay

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Sick pay

Example case
On 01.05 Ewa started work as a warehouse assistant in a supermarket. A trial period of three months was agreed with her. On 16.05 Ewa had very bad back pain and therefore did not go to work, rather she went to the hospital to the emergency room. Ewa was hospitalised there. During the stay in the hospital, it turned out that an operation on the spine and months of rehabilitation would be necessary. This means that Ewa would be unable to work for a long time. She will be happy to return to Poland and continue treatment there to have the support of her family. After four weeks of sick leave, she receives notice of dismissal from her employer with effect from 30 June.

Ewa is worried about paying for her living, health insurance and medical treatment. She has only been in Germany for a short time, working in the supermarket is her first job here and she has read that you only have social rights in Germany after five years. She does not know if she is entitled to anything in the event of illness.

1. Employer

Ewa has to inform the employer on 16.05 that she is sick and cannot come to work. As soon as she finds out how long she is likely to be unable to work, she must also inform the employer of this. Companies regulate differently how the notification is to be made (e.g. by telephone, fax). It is often expressly stated in the employment contract, Ewa should look there. If there is nothing about this in her contract, it is best for Ewa to send the notification by means of which she can simply prove receipt, for example to the official fax number or to the email address or the employer.

Ewa has to prove that she is unable to work. For this, she receives either a certificate of incapacity for work or a certificate of inpatient status in the hospital.  An electronic certificate of incapacity for work has been in force in Germany since 1 January 2023. This means that the employer must electronically retrieve the certificate of incapacity for work from Ewa’s health insurance company. Ewa gets a paper copy of the certificate for her records.

The employer is obligated to continue to pay the full wage (continued payment) that Ewa would have earned if she had been healthy during the first 6 weeks of the illness. However, this obligation only arises after the first four weeks of employment and only exists as long as the employment contract lasts. This means that her employer will only have to start paying continued wages from the fifth week of her employment, i.e. from 29.05. Ewa’s contract lasts until 30.06 and the employer therefore only has to continue to pay the wage until 30.06. From 16.05 until 31.05 Ewa is entitled to sick pay from her health insurance company.

An example of the payment request can be found here:

The employer dismissed Ewa during the probationary period with a notice period of two weeks. Dismissal during illness is fundamentally permissible in Germany, unless it is immoral and therefore inadmissible. However, there is no evidence of this in this case.

2. Health insurance/ Treatment in Germany

From the beginning of treatment in the hospital, i.e. from 16.05, Ewa is entitled to sick pay from the health insurance company. Sick pay is 70% of Ewa’s gross income. Sick pay is not automatically calculated and paid to Ewa Ewa must submit an application for sick pay to her health insurance company. The application is informal, so it is sufficient for Ewa to send an email to the health insurance company, for example. She will receive the sick pay until 28.05. From 29.05. she receives the continued payment of wages from the employer, during this time her sick pay is suspended. From 01.07 she does not receive any continued wages from the employer and is then still entitled to sick pay from the health insurance company

Ewa can receive sick pay as long as she is unable to work. Sick pay is paid for a maximum of one and a half years. The prerequisite for receiving it is that Ewa has the leave from the doctor extended in time and submits it to the health insurance company. In time means that Ewa must have her sick leave extended by her doctor at the latest on the working day following the last day of the first certificate of incapacity for work: If the first sick leave ends on Friday, the follow-up certificate must be issued on Monday. In this case, Saturday does not count as a working day. There must be no gaps between certificates.

If Ewa misses the deadline after the end of her employment on 30.06, she still has a month to go to the doctor and get the certificate of incapacity for work. This is a regulation for the protection of Ewa, so that she does not lose the basis for her health insurance

The sick leave must be received by the health insurance company within seven days. Since January 2023, doctors have been sending the certificate of incapacity for work electronically to the health insurance companies.

As long as Ewa is receiving sick pay, she remains insured in the health insurance company free of charge

3. Job centre

Due to the illness, Ewa does not have a life-sustaining income. Her money is probably not enough for a dignified life. It may therefore be that Ewa is entitled to supplementary citizen’s benefit (Bürgergeld) in this situation.

She was only employed in Germany for two months, but involuntarily lost her job. Ewa has to obtain confirmation of involuntary unemployment from the Federal Employment Agency and submit it to the Job centre. She is therefore entitled to freedom of movement for six months, i.e. her stay in Germany is legal. During this time, she can receive citizen’s benefit (Bürgergeld), provided she meets the benefit requirements (e.g. need for help, no creditable assets). In this case, a permanent residence of five years is not necessary in order to receive benefits from the Job centre

Ewa can apply for citizen’s benefit (Bürgergeld) at the Job centre in her residential district. The application forms are given to Ewa when the application is submitted. They can also be found under the following link:

The Job centre must decide on Ewa’s application with a written notice in which the reasons for the decision must be explained.

An Advice centre for migrants can help Ewa fill out the forms that are necessary for the application. Ewa can find the nearest Advice centre using this search engine:

In her case, the entitlement to citizen’s benefit (Bürgergeld) is limited to six months. After the six months have elapsed, she can contact the authorities responsible in her home country and check whether she is entitled to social benefits there.

4. Health insurance/ Treatment abroad

Ewa can also go back to Poland and receive sick pay from Germany there. While receiving sickness benefit, she remains insured with her health insurance company, even though she has given up her place of residence in Germany. Ewa can continue medical treatment and rehabilitation in Poland. The medical certificates from Poland are equivalent to the certificates issued in Germany and the original can be submitted to the German health insurance company. The health insurance company is not allowed to require Ewa to translate the certificates of incapacity for work. They have to be translated by the health insurance company at its own expense.

Note! The deadline of seven days from the date of issue must also be observed for submitting the certificate of incapacity from abroad. Any delays, even if they are due to the post, are at Ewa’s expense. In order for Ewa to be able to take full advantage of medical treatment in Poland, her European health insurance card is not sufficient

Ewa must therefore apply for an S1 form (former 106 form) from her health insurance company before leaving. This gives her extended insurance cover and can be treated medically in Poland as if she had health insurance there.

Before leaving, Ewa should also remember to apply to the health insurance company for approval to receive sickness benefit abroad. It is legally not clear whether EU citizens are obligated to do so. However, in order to avoid any difficulties and delays in payment, Ewa should submit the application with a reason.

Ewa can find an example of such an application in the Annex under Annex XVI PDF, 2 MB, not barrier-free

Without a residence in Germany, Ewa is not entitled to citizen’s benefit. This service cannot be transferred to another country.