Aside of what is written on a job-contract, I would like to know if there is in Germany a general rule or law, that enables a worker to be sick for some days without having to bring to work a medical certificate stating he was in fact sick.

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    You may want to ask this question on Law.SE.
    – Seth
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:38
  • I'm also looking for "general rules", whatever they may be. I know that some companies leave their coworker stay at home for a maximum of 2 days without them having to bring a certificate, but I don't know if this is law, or just widely accepted Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:40
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    You should rephrase your question in that case.
    – Seth
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:41
  • @Seth feel free to edit the question, if you want... I don't know what else to write instead of "...a general rule or law..." Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 7:51

4 Answers 4


General rules

The relevant law (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz - § 5 Anzeige- und Nachweispflichten) says that:

  • a medical certificate (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung) is required for a sickness of more than three calender days
  • additionally, an employer may request the certificate sooner (including for the first day) if they want to

In practice, most employers will allow one or two sick days without a certificate. That should be mentioned in the employee handbook or similar. Note that employers may request a certificate on the first day, for all employees or just for particular ones, so make absolutely sure you know the rules of your employer.

Also, note that you must notify (by telephone, email or similar) your employer immediately (as in: as soon as you are physically able to) when you fall ill. This is independent of whether or not you later go to the doctor.

Rules about medical certificates

Digital medical certificates (since 2022)

In 2021/2022, digital medical certificates (Elektronische Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung, eAU) were introduced, to replace the old paper certificates. This means:

  • The medical certificate is automatically transmitted to your health insurance by your physician, so submitting it yourself is no longer required. This started between October 2021 and January 2022.
  • Since July 2022, the health insurance make that information available to employers, so the paper certificate mentioned below is obsolete. Since January 2023, employers must use this new system.

Old rules - paper certificates

Old, obsolete rules, for historical interest only :-)

Before 2022, the treating physician would issue you a paper certificate certifying that you are not fit to work, and for how long (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung).

The employer had to receive the certificate the day after it is due. So if your employer allows two days of sickness without certificate, you had to get the certificate on the third day at the latest (unless you are ok again), to send it immediately so it arrives the same day. Not all employers would insist on this, still better to play it safe.

Ideally, you send in the physical paper certificate, or deliver it personally. If you cannot get the physical certificate to the employer in time, you can send it by fax or by email to satisfy the official time limit (source: lawyer's advice). You must still send the paper certificate, too, so it arrives as soon as possible.

Note: Some employers accept a scan/photo of the paper certificate instead of the original - but that is a special favor to employees. By law, employers can always demand the paper certificate, so ask your employer about the rules they apply.

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    Only partly related, but a not widely known part of Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz: during the first four weeks of a new job you have not earned the right to get salary while you are sick (which you usually have for up to six consecutive weeks). In that case the insurance Krankenkasse pays your salary, just like they would after the six weeks. But they only do that if you send in the sick note immediately. So do not delay mailing the paper to your Krankenkasse if you're new at your current job. That will get very expensive!
    – simbabque
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 8:54
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    It should really be highlighted that it is calendar days, not working days, one of the most common mistakes I see.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 9:12
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    @PlasmaHH so if you are ill on friday and on monday, does that automatically count as 4 days? You might have had a cold on friday, been fine during the weekend and contracted the flu on monday. It sounds really stupid to base the requirement on calendar days.
    – aross
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 10:48
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    @aross: This scenario would be unbelievably uncommon, and yes it counts as 4 days, which means during monday the doctors certificate must arrive at your workplace. Remember that the company could ask you for the certificate already on friday if they wanted. It seems that this is partially intended in preventing people from giving themselves a free longer weekend.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:00
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    @aross: Maybe viewing it that way helps you: You don't have to do work, but earn money anyways, so this bit of hassle is your "work" now and what makes you earn your money. From the pov of the employer at each of those days costs them money, but they don't get your workforce, so inconveniencing the really ill people a bit to discourage others from slacking off isn't that bad of a thing.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 11:21

I will try to answer the question a bit more broadly, maybe we can keep it around in someway.

A lot of companies allow you to call in sick for 2/3 days without a notice from a doctor, however it comes down to what is in your contract.

If it states that you have to bring a doctors note from day one, you have to do it. Otherwise you tread on dangerous grounds even if the general rule is you only need to bring it on day 3.

If the company wants you out they have their excuse ready and since you have a signed contract saying something different you are on the short side.

Why do companies give you the benefit of the doubt?

First visiting the doctor for something mundane as a bad stomach is rather pointless. We all know how to treat those minor stuff.

Secondly if we do visit the doctor, at least in my experience, I will be sent home for atleast a week. Most companies want to avoid that since they still have to pay you. (In germany up to 6 weeks, after that the "Krankenkasse"(health care system) starts paying you partialy.


However, you should never try to cheat that system. There is no need for you to stay at home when you call in sick, however, if you said you got explsoive diareh and visit the cinema next to your workplace for 2 hours straight, you will be in trouble.

Personally I can call in for 3 days straight, however I always bring a doctors note if I am more than one day at home.

Also never forget that people notice patterns easy: "Hey look its friday, guess who is sick again?" Even if you are really ill, better avoid those rumors at all costs. If you are new at the company, always get a doctors note. always. Trust has to be earned.

Don't be that guy.

  • Don't worry, I'm not trying to be that guy, I asked because I was curious, and because I do spend a lot of time in the waiting room when I go to the doctor for some flu (not to mention that it's not clever being forced to walk to the doctor while it is snowing, when you are ill)... Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 8:57
  • Hi, Shaeldon, just dropping in as part of the community review. Great first answer. As a side note, these things have not detracted from your post, but perhaps proofreading would help make your answer more accessible for those who are not all native English speakers? Thanks again for your very thorough answer and welcome to The Workplace Stack Exchange! Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 10:20
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    "however it comes down to what is in your contract." I've never had a contract specifying this. It was always part of the employment handbook (and the employer could change it arbitrarily according to law if so inclined). You are also not required to tell your employer what kind of illness ails you and there are illnesses which don't prevent you from visiting the cinema.
    – user29390
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 15:38

This has already been said, but to make my answer complete:

Usually, most employers allow you to call in sick for 3 days before requiring a certificate. This is also the legal standard, if nothing else is explicitly demanded by your contractor.

Your employer can demand that you give a certificate earlier, even for any sickness day. This does not require a reason, but it can't be to harass or discriminate someone. E.g. demanding it from all employees is fine, as is demanding it from those who are often away sick. Demanding it only from women is not.

Finally, something many people are not aware of: weekends count! If you call in sick on Friday and are still sick on Monday, this will count as your fourth day and you will need to go to the doctor.


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

As far as I know a certificate is required to be handed in on the first day of calling in sick. You're not required to hand it in personally, but the original document has to arive at your workplace on day one.

That being said, most companies allow you up to 2 days without certificate, requiring it on the third consecutive day of calling in sick. However, this "benefit" can be revoked at any time. This often happens if an employee calls in sick a lot (not two consecutive weeks in a year, but rather 10 individual days).

So, to answer your question: No, as far as I know there is no such law enabling the worker to not hand in a certificate for being sick for a while.

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    "the original document has to arrive at your workplace on day one" Do you really think every German has access to a 24h express delivery service to deliver their sick-notes same day? That would be super weird. I don't envy the courier that has to reach my company same-day, when it closes at 17:30 and my doctor lets me wait and I come out of their office at 18:00. Hell of a ride for sure.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 11:43

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