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The electronic sick note for work - what you need to bear in mind in Germany

If employees are ill and cannot come to work, they need a certificate of incapacity for work (AU). Previously, they had to send the "yellow certificate" to their employer in physical form. However, this is now being replaced by a digital version (EAU/eAU). In this article, you will learn everything you need to know as an employer about the electronic certificate of incapacity for work and how the EAU works in Germany.

What exactly is the eAU? 

The electronic certificate of incapacity for work (eAU) replaces the previous sick note. It is the digital successor to the "yellow slip", so to speak. Since January 2022, employers have been able to request eAU data from health insurance companies as part of a pilot procedure - retroactively until October 2021.

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When will the eAU become mandatory?

The electronic certificate of incapacity for work must be used in companies from January 1, 2023. This is mandatory, not a "nice to have". In future, the paper certificate will only remain as evidence. For example, if the employer suspects that employees are only faking illness in order to avoid having to come to work - in other words, in the case of "sick leave".

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How does the eAU work?

For employees and HR managers, the introduction of the eAU naturally means a lot less paperwork - but also that they have to adapt to a new procedure. But don't worry: we explain step by step how the new electronic sick note works and what you need to bear in mind, especially as an employer:

1) The examination

This works in the same way as before: If the employee is ill, he or she has a medical examination. This enables the doctor to determine whether the employee is still able to work - or whether they are unable to work.

2) Direct notification to the health insurance fund

If it is established that the employee is unfit for work, the practice notifies the employee's health insurance fund directly by electronic means.

3) Employee must inform employer

This step also remains the same: the employee must inform their employer that they are unable to come to work and when they may be able to recover. This can be done by telephone or via a data protection-compliant messaging service - for example, using the chat function that is integrated into our software solution for digital shift planning. However, notifications of incapacity for work have no place in company chat groups and the like!

4) Retrieving the data records

The employer must now take action: He requests the following data records electronically from the health insurance fund:

  1. Name of the sick employee

  2. Start and expected end of the incapacity for work

  3. The date on which the sick leave was certified by the doctor

  4. Whether it is a follow-up or first notification

  5. Information on whether the sick leave is possibly the result of an accident at work or other accident

Important for HR managers:

Such a data request is actively made by the employer to the health insurance companies and is only possible if an employee has specifically reported sick. Blanket and unfounded queries about an employee's state of health are not permitted.

Supervisors then inform their colleagues about the duration of the sick leave. If you want to know in detail how the electronic data exchange of the statutory health insurance funds works, you can read the principles here.

An example of a procedure for employers could look like this:

As soon as an employee reports sick to their line manager or the HR department, they can inform payroll directly or enter information in the time recording system - such as "sick without sick leave".

The data record then needs to be transferred to payroll accounting - only here can the sickness absence be retrieved. The payroll software then transfers the data record back to the time recording system with the addition "sick with sick leave". The duration of the illness is also transferred.

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Extra info: Sick notes and data protection 

Although it is often well-intentioned, it is a nightmare from a data protection perspective: if an employee falls ill, they quickly send a message to their colleagues - usually via a messenger app, often garnished with smiley faces. Sick notes are sensitive, personal data. This has absolutely no place in group chats or emails. The sick note only concerns the employee and the HR manager. It is up to the employer to inform the colleagues concerned and organize a replacement if necessary. Of course, automatic duty scheduling software can help with this. We explain exactly how this works here.

Is your shift planning GDPR-compliant?

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Is the sick note automatically sent to the health insurance fund?

Is the sick note automatically sent to the health insurance fund?Yes, from January 1, doctors and hospitals will do this for people with statutory health insurance. This means that the employer will no longer have to inform the health insurance fund from 2023. On the contrary: they must request the specific data of the sick note (start and end of sick leave, reason for sick leave, etc.) from the health insurance companies. This will also only be possible electronically from January 1, 2023.

When does the employer have to receive the sick note?

The legislator has stipulated that sick notes must be submitted to the employer after the third day at the latest. However, companies can also request that their employees submit the certificate on the first day of incapacity for work.

With the new electronic certificate of incapacity for work, however, this requirement no longer applies: employees no longer have to provide their employer with a "yellow slip" - provided they are not privately insured (see above). It is therefore sufficient to provide information about the inability to work by telephone.

Can the employee send the certificate of incapacity for work by e-mail?

No. The law stipulates that the original certificate of incapacity for work must be submitted to the employer. However, this only applies or only applied until December 31, 2022, as this requirement will no longer apply when the eAU comes into force. At least for all those with statutory health insurance.

What are the advantages of the eAU?

Even if the electronic certificate of incapacity for work procedure is initially a new process that first needs to be learned and implemented, the eAU can still save a lot of time and therefore money in the future. Companies that are fully committed to digitalization and automation in particular should benefit from the eAU.

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What is an electronic certificate of employment?

It's easy to get confused in the jungle of long German bureaucratic words. This is because the electronic certificate of employment has been around since 2014 and is used by companies and authorities, or more precisely the employment agency. A certificate of employment is required for people who need to state that they are currently or have previously been employed by an employer.

This may be necessary, for example, if they wish to apply for unemployment benefit. They must prove that they have been employed subject to social insurance contributions for at least 12 months in the last 24 months.

However, the certificate of incapacity for work, also known as a sick note, has nothing to do with the certificate of employment.