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 of 116,38 euros per day (in 2023). 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
Your health insurance company will need to see your incapacity certificate (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung - AU - sometimes also called a Gelber Schein after the yellow paper form). Your doctor will usually send this digitally to your insurer after your medical examination.
Your employer will also need to receive a copy of your certificate. In future, this should be done digitally via your GP practice, but for the time being you may need to submit a paper copy yourself.
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.
Child sickness benefit
Germany also compensates parents for lost earnings if they cannot work due to their child's sickness. If you need to take time off work to care for a sick child, you employer may continue to pay your salary; if not, the child sickness benefit steps in to fill the financial gap.