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Employee notification of sickness: what do I need to know as an employer?

Anyone who is sick shouldn't work. But what are the labor law provisions and how do I handle sick leave as an employer?

In the following you will find all the important information about reporting sick employees. These always apply, even in the case of current developments regarding COVID-19.

My employee is sick - what employers now have to pay attention to

It is not only annoying for an employee when their own health does not play along - it also has various effects for the employer. But what do you have to pay special attention to?

When and how should the employee call in sick?

When employees are sick, this usually cannot be changed. In this case it is important that the Employer informed immediately becomes.

Your employees are legally obliged to notify you as the employer if they are unable to work. If possible, this should be done before starting work. In addition, the employer should be informed how long one is unlikely to be able to work. There is no legal basis for the form in which a sick note has to be made. This can be regulated individually in every company.

This is anchored in the Remuneration Continued Payment Act (EntgFG) in Section 5. There it says: "The employee is obliged to notify the employer immediately of the incapacity for work and its expected duration."

If an illness is not reported as soon as possible, the employer can, for example, give the employee a Warning To give.

Some companies require you to report sickness by phone, in other companies you can also report by e-mail or even via WhatsApp if you are unable to work.

Duration of illness and medical certificate

When does the employee have to see a doctor?

A doctor's certificate of incapacity for work is generally required in Germany from the third day of illness required and must be available to the employer on the fourth day. So if you are only sick for two days, you do not need to see a doctor in most cases.

💡Note: Every company can enforce different regulations here. If the employment contract or collective agreement stipulates that a medical certificate must be submitted from the first day of illness, the employee must then also go to the doctor and get sick leave.

Most employment contracts clearly state when the employer expects a doctor's certificate.

How must the certificate be submitted to the employer?

There are no specifications as to how one has to submit a certificate of incapacity for work to the employer. It is only important that the employer receives this within the appropriate deadlines - in the event of illness lasting more than three days, no later than the fourth day of illness.

You can certainly send the AU to the boss in advance via WhatsApp, but the original must also be available. The postal service is suitable for this. A personal handover is of course also possible, provided that the employee is not highly contagious (an important factor especially in Corona times).

Does the employee have to report the diagnosis if he is sick?

No, an employee does not have to tell what he is suffering from. Except in the case of notifiable illnesses, this is his private matter. However, it is important that he informs the employer about how long he has been ill.

Regulations on continued payment of wages

Continued payment of wages must be paid in the event of a long illness for a full six weeks respectively. Within this time is available to the employee his full salary too.

The employee’s health insurance company then continues to pay the wages.

⚠️ However, the employer is only obliged to continue to pay for new jobs after 4 weeks.

This regulation also applies in the event of an infection with COVID-19.

Special case: absence due to quarantine and continued payment of wages

A special feature of the continued payment of wages concerns the quarantine:

If, as an employer, you have excluded Section 616 of the German Civil Code (BGB) (and thus the obligation to continue to pay) in your employment or collective bargaining agreement, the employee will receive benefits under the Infection Protection Act (Sections 56 and 57).

The employer acts as a payment point and receives the amount reimbursed by the responsible health department upon application (plus the SV taxes). We have compiled further information on the quarantine for you here.

Special case: Actions in the case of COVID-19

In 2020 there will be more and more sick notes and corresponding measures: Because that Coronavirus has us firmly under control.

In the event of illness or a suspected case among your colleagues, there are drastic effects. If an employee is infected with COVID-19, they must be immediately isolated. That usually means: staying at home.

The employer must be notified immediately and the colleagues must be informed, because there is a reporting obligation. In addition, the family doctor usually issues a sick note and the health department imposes a quarantine. All regulations in the case of a quarantine can be found in our blog article.

It must be found out which colleagues, customers, clients or patients had contact with the employee. These people should also have it tested or isolate yourself.

As an employer, you then have to decide how colleagues are to be protected against further spread of the virus - for example by working in the home office, paid time off or even closing the company.

Termination in the event of illness

A termination due to frequent sickness reports is possible. You can fire an employee if he does is sick too often and does not show up for work. Illness does not go hand in hand with protection against dismissal, even if this is often assumed.

Ordinary termination is therefore also possible in the event of (multiple) illness.

Especially for employees who are ill for more than six weeks a year, the illness itself can also be a reason for termination if there is no improvement in sight in the future.

Recovery in the event of illness: when does the employee have to come to work?

The expected duration of illness is usually noted on a medical certificate. The word “likely” is relevant here. Because: If the employee is fit again earlier, he has to go back to work. The certificate serves only as an approximate guide, but in the end the facts decide.

💡 That means specifically: Anyone who was on sick leave until Friday but is healthy again on Thursday must also go back to work on Thursday and Friday. The disadvantage here, however, lies with the employer. It is often not possible to prove that an employee has fully recovered earlier.

Self-inflicted illness and the guilt of third parties

If the employee became ill through their own fault - for example through dangerous extreme sports - it may be that the Entitlement to continued payment of wages expirest. Many companies have legal counsel for such situations and can obtain advice accordingly.

There is an additional regulation if the employee has been injured or incapacitated by a third party. Then continued wages can be paid transferred to the third party. This then also has to compensate for the loss of work.

Special case: child sick

Should the child be one of your employees get sick or, as current, the Supervision by schools or daycare centers is not given the employee must take care of the child himself. The parental duty of care therefore also takes precedence over the employment relationship.

According to Section 45 SGB V, a certificate from the pediatrician must be available and the child must be younger than twelve years so that absence from work is permitted. The general rule:

- For married couples: There is an entitlement to per parent and per child ten days of childhood illnesses a year.

- For single parents: Individuals stand 20 days per child to, with more than two children the upper limit is a total of 50 days.

- At incurable disease of the child: Here both parents have unlimited entitlement to unpaid leave.

If the child is ill that has nothing to do with the current Corona cases, the agreements in the employment contract apply. The employer is generally not obliged to continue paying wages in the event of a “child sick”.

In the Continued payment in the corona case applies:

In general, the employer is obliged to continue to pay remuneration - but it can also be that Paragraph 616 of the German Civil Code (BGB) is excluded in the employment contracts. This regulates the continued payment of wages in the event of temporary prevention, including quarantine.

In this case, however, Section 45 of Book V of the Social Code applies again, in which the right to child sickness benefit is anchored.

That means that the Employees can still look after the child and stay away from work. Child sickness benefit is usually 70 percent of gross earnings, but a maximum of 90 percent of net earnings. The employee must present the pediatrician's certificate to the health insurance company and to the employer in order to obtain it.

In general, it is important to have a direct exchange with your employees on this point. Even if your company has the option of working from home, simultaneous support and concentrated work is often only possible to a limited extent.

Ask directly what options the employee needs in order to get both under one roof (more flexible working hours, different prioritization of tasks, etc.).

Communication: regulations in companies

As already mentioned, consistent and open communication on sick notes, medical certificates and the regulations in the event of illness of the child is essential for successful cooperation.

💡Therefore our tips:

1. Hold in the Employment contracts determine how employees should act in the event of illness.

2. Integrate kOnboarding also includes specific guidelines in the event of illness new employees: this way, they are picked up well from the start.

3. Contentwise These guidelines should clarify, among other things:

- With whom do I call in sick? Do I have to enter it somewhere, notify the HR department?

- How soll the sick note is made (by phone, e-mail, Slack, etc.)?

- By when do I have to call in sick in the morning?

4. Put the written guidelines so that they are common to everyone accessible and easy to find are. A notice is one possibility, but the digital storage of the information is even more important.

5. Make sure that the regulations are adhered to and sensitize you Your colleagues for this - in the event of non-compliance, appropriate consequences should be drawn (attention: you should also determine these beforehand).

6. Also make sure that employees who are sick and still show up for work go back home. Your colleagues are all adults and should be able to assess it for themselves: Nevertheless, there is a risk that they will be different Infect colleagues or "carry off" the disease and therefore take longer than necessary.

What does the employee have to consider?

The employee should adhere to all the guidelines set by the company and, if in doubt, turn to the manager or the HR department once too much.

Just as important are team-internal arrangements for reporting sickness: Do I let my entire team know how I deal with appointments, can someone take over my work? Most of the time, your colleagues are still at the company and have to do their jobs. It may therefore be advisable to find a substitute as soon as possible if there are urgent tasks that need to be completed.

For example, you can give your colleague a quick call and ask them to take care of relevant issues. Nowadays, when WhatsApp groups with colleagues are not uncommon, this type of arrangement is a practical alternative.

If, however, it is established which regulations exist for your company and the documentation can even be carried out digitally, then the biggest hurdles have already been overcome. In this sense: Get well! 😊

We have written other articles on the topic of COVID-19 and would like to assist employers as best we can:

Short-time work in times of Corona - what you now need to know

Corona: absence due to quarantine and effects on pay

Corona: the most important information for employers