Anyone who takes sick leave must comply with the rules of their employer. If you don't do this, it can lead to warnings and problems for employees.

When you're sick in bed, work is usually the last thing you want to worry about. For employees, however, contact with the employer is mandatory if they have to stay at home due to illness.

And it can also get tricky very quickly. If employees do not comply with the rules correctly and do not call in sick as intended, you can even receive a warning. What employees need to consider in the event of illness when reporting sick.

1. Report before starting work: Sick leave must be sent to the employer directly in the morning

Even if you feel bad, you can't just sleep in on a sick day – at least not on the first one. If you notice in the morning that you are unable to work, you must inform your employer immediately, preferably before starting work. Paragraph 5 of the Continued Payment of Remuneration Act (EntgFG) states directly in the first section: "The employee is obliged to inform the employer immediately of the incapacity for work and its expected duration."

From 2023, there will no longer be a yellow ticket: How to call in sick properly. (Symbolic image) © Imago

If the duration of the absence is not yet known, it is sufficient to first point out an upcoming doctor's appointment for sick leave and then inform the employer about the actual duration of the absence.

2. Submit sick leave: Who does the employee have to tell that they are sick?

To whom the sick note is addressed varies from employer to employer. In some cases, it is sufficient to tell a colleague who forwards the message. In other cases, the boss personally expects a message.

Therefore, it is best to find out beforehand what to do in the event of a sudden illness so that you don't have to call around for a long time in an emergency. The type of communication may also vary. Depending on the employer, an e-mail, a phone call or even just a What's App message is sufficient.

3. Visit to the doctor: When do employees need the proverbial "yellow certificate"?

The yellow note has not existed since January 1, 2023. Nevertheless, one still speaks of it when one means a sick note confirmed by the doctor. Depending on the employer, this is either due on the first tab of incapacity for work, or for some only on the third day. Employees should also know this beforehand so as not to get into problems if they only go to the doctor on the second day of the illness or later.


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4. Report sick online: Digital certificate replaces the yellow paper certificate

Since October 2021, the certificate of incapacity for work has been transmitted digitally to the health insurance company. In 2023, the yellow ticket for the employer also migrated to the digital world. If a doctor writes an employee off sick, the respective health insurance company is informed electronically by the practice. The health insurance company, in turn, tells the employer how long the employee will be absent according to the current sick leave.

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5. What the employer needs to know: Employees do not have to provide every illness information

When an employee calls the employer to call in sick, they are often asked, "Oh, what do you have?" The employee can give an answer to this, but he does not have to. Neither the state of illness nor the cause or the nature of the illness concern the boss and therefore do not have to be stated. It is only important for the employee to know how long an employee will be absent and whether the illness may be due to operational conditions or an accident at work. Neither the boss nor a company doctor may demand the waiver of medical confidentiality.

In addition, according to § 7 of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), the employee is not allowed to ask whether the illness or absence is due to pregnancy. The question of whether a pregnancy is planned is also inadmissible. The boss must only be informed if pregnancy affects the exercise of a profession, for example due to the risk of illness or physical exertion at work.