Germany: Introduction of Electronic Sick Leave Notice (eAU)
Effective January 1, 2023, German law is scheduled to introduce an electronic certificate to authenticate incapacity to work.
Currently, doctors working under contract with Germany’s public health insurance (not applicable to privately insured insurance) system are obligated to electronically communicate information about employees’ inability to perform work due to sickness to health insurers. Effective January 1, 2023, it shall be the employer’s responsibility to retrieve electronic medical certifications from health insurers.
Shift towards the employer’s duty to retrieve medical certificates
In accordance with Section 5 of the German Act on Continued Payment of Remuneration (EFZG), all employees shall continue to have the duty of notifying (Anzeigepflicht) their employer without undue delay of any incapacity for work and its anticipated duration in the future. If the incapacity to work lasts for more than 3 working days, then the employees are obliged to present their employer with the certificate of incapacity (medical certificate) for work no later than the 4th day of such leave.
The requirement for providing medical certificates will go through a significant change in the case of employees with public health insurance from January 1, 2023. Employees will no longer be required to submit the yellow certificate (sick note) to their employer themselves. This basically means that the onus of providing a medical certificate by the employee shall be shifted to the employer, wherein it shall be the employer’s responsibility to attain the medical certificate from the health insurers. Therefore, employees with public insurance will no longer be required to give their employer a ‘yellow certificate’.
A yellow certificate is a sick note that a doctor issues to an employee indicating that they are incapable to perform work.
While the employee should still obtain a copy of the medical certificate for their records, it is now the employer’s responsibility to obtain the certificate directly from the health insurer. Doctors on the other end will be submitting the certificate electronically directly to the health insurer. Based on the medical details, the health insurer shall prepare a report for the employer, containing the following information –
- Employee’s name
- Start and end date of the incapacity to work
- Date of diagnosis
- Whether it is a follow-up or a first appointment
- Indication of an accident, if any.
The employer is required to gather this notification electronically from the health insurer (Holschuld).
Employers may delegate a third party (e.g. the external payroll provider) to gather this notification. Either way, secure and encrypted transmission of the information must be ensured. Furthermore, employers shall only retrieve a medical certificate from the insurer if an employee has previously notified their employer of an incapacity for work and its anticipated duration.
In accordance with Section 5 of the Continued Payment of Remuneration Act, employees with private health insurance shall remain unaffected. Privately insured employees shall be required to submit a medical certificate (in paper form) documenting their incapacity to work by the 4th day at the latest, unless the employer needs it earlier, either contractually or by instruction on a case-to-case basis (Vorlagepflicht).
Employers should start preparing for the introduction of the new electronic procedure by informing their employees of the new requirements.
In order to comply with the new legislative framework, employers need to modify their standard employment contract for current as well as new employees to reflect the new legislative framework’s requirements for sick leave and how employees will be governed under state or private insurance.