Sick Leave

A man being sick at home
Update 31.05.2023

What do I have to consider?

When you are sick and unable to work, you are entitled to rest at home. However, your employer has the right to demand proof; i.e. confirmation of illness/unfitness for work - which you can obtain from a doctor. Colloquially, such a document is known as "Krankschreibung" (sick note), but the official term for it is "Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung " (certificate of unfitness for work) or -for short- "AU".

What do I need to know?

I am sick and cannot work. When do I have to inform my employer?

You need to inform your employer at the start of the first day you are unable to work due to sickness at the latest. You do not have to disclose what illness you have. If you can estimate how long you will be ill, however, you should let your employer know. You can inform the employer by phone, SMS or email.

When do I need to obtain/present a sick note?

Your employer can request a sick note from the first day of sickness. When so, on the first day you miss work due to your illness, you must present the appropriate document from the doctor. However, in many workplaces, the employees only have to submit a sick note from the third day of illness. Ask your employers which rules and regulations apply to you.

Please note: Your sick note must be comprehensive, i.e. it must cover all the days you are missing due to the illness.

What does a sick note look like?

When you visit your doctor, you need to let him/her know you need a sick note. Based on the diagnosis, the doctor decides how many days you will not be able to work before you recover. The sick note itself consists of three parts:

  • A page is intended for your health insurance. Your doctor’s office will directly send it to your insurance company.
  • The second page is for your employer- and only shows the duration of your sick leave, but not the diagnosis, so that your employer cannot learn about the type of illness- and he/she has no right to ask you either. Currently, you must hand in or send this page over to your employer, but soon it will be done automatically and directly.
  • The third page is for your own records.
What happens if my employer doesn't trust a sick note?

If your employer does not believe that you are, in fact, sick or unable to work, they can inform your health insurance company. The health insurance company will then commission the medical service of the health insurance company (MDK) to carry out an examination.

Will I get paid while on sick leave?

It depends on the length of your sick leave:

  • If you are on sick leave for less than six weeks, you will, in principle, continue to receive your salary.
  • If you are on sick leave for more than six weeks and your employer no longer pays you a salary, you will receive sick pay ("Krankengeld") from your health insurer instead of your salary. The amount of sick pay you receive will be less than your wage.
Do I have to stay at home while on sick leave?

It depends on the type of illness. If your doctor prescribes bed rest, you should stay at home. Otherwise, you can go out or travel if you wish so.

Can I stay at home when my child is sick?

This is not clearly regulated, as there are two different legal texts on this subject. One of these laws (SGB V) states:

You can stay at home for up to 10 days a year to take care of your sick child. These ten days apply to each parent per child. Single parents can, accordingly, stay at home for 20 days per child. If you have more than two children, you can stay at home per parent for a maximum of 25 days to care for your sick children. However, this regulation only applies if:

  • your child is younger than 12 years or needs special help because of a disability,
  • you can present a medical certificate stating that your child needs care during his illness,
  • and there is no other person in your household who can take care of your child.

The other law (BGB) does not specify any particular figures or further conditions. So if you have to stay at home to look after a child over 12, you may be able to refer to Section 616 of the German Civil Code (BGB).

Can I inform my employer that I am sick over the phone or online?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was possible to inform your employer that you are ill over the phone. Since 01.04.2023, that is not possible any more.

That means you need to submit a written sick leave request. And your employer can also ask for a doctor's note.  


You must always inform your employer if you cannot get to work.

A project by:
This project is co-financed with funds from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

Funded by: