Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung (certificate of incapacity to work)
By law, you must submit a sick note = certificate of incapacity to work to your employer on the 4th calendar day (not working day!) at the latest. However, your employment contract or collective agreement may specify a shorter time / deadline. Always check beforehand. In German, a certificate of incapacity to work may be referred to as an Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung, AU-Bescheinigung, Krankschreibung or "gelber Schein".
You will receive the certificate from your doctor. It contains the information that you are unable to work because you are ill. It also states which day you saw the doctor on. The doctor decides how long you will be off sick and enters this date on the sick note.
If you are still ill after this date, you must go back to the doctor. There must be no gap between the last day on your sick note and the next visit to the doctor. Otherwise you do not have a sick note covering this gap.
Please note: if you are ill for a longer period and your sick note is not valid for every day, there may be problems with continued payment of your wages and sick pay.
When you receive a certificate of incapacity to work from the doctor, you must send it immediately by post to your employer and to your health insurance company. You can also send the certificate to your employer by fax or scan. However, he/she can request the original at any time, in which case you have to give it to him/her.
Please note: your employer can refuse to continue paying your salary if you do not present a certificate of incapacity to work!
The certificate of incapacity to work must be submitted to the health insurance company 7 days after the date of issue. If you do not meet this deadline, the health insurance company might not cover any sick pay.
Important: you will usually receive 3 copies of a certificate of incapacity to work. One is for the employer, one is for the health insurance company and one is for your records.
In future, there will be an electronic procedure for transmitting certificates of incapacity to work to the health insurance companies and the employer. Electronically transmitting certificates of incapacity to work to the health insurance companies has been mandatory for doctors who have the technical means to do so since 2022. Doctors will also continue to issue the certificate in paper form. In future, employers will be able to retrieve data on incapacity to work from the relevant health insurance company when they are informed by their employees that they are unable to work.
Find out from your doctor whether they already do electronic transmission. If not, you must pass on the certificates of incapacity to work to the health insurance company and your employer.