Changes in German Employment Law and business Immigration Law in 2020

1. Minimum wage rises to EUR 9,35 per hour.

From 1 January 2020, the statutory minimum wage which applies with a few exceptions, to all adult employees, will rise from EUR 9.19 per hour to EUR 9.35 per hour.

From 1 January 2020, a statutory minimum wage of EUR 515 per month will apply to apprentices in their first year of training. Over the next few years, this will be gradually increased up to €620 per month for the first year of the apprenticeship. At the same time, it is now possible for trainees to take time off before taking written examinations and, under certain conditions, to take part in part-time training.

2. New social contribution thresholds

As of 1 January 2020, the German social security thresholds for the health insurance will increase as follows:

article table 1

The social contribution ceiling is relevant for the calculation of social security contributions and constitutes the upper limit which contributions are deducted. The annual remuneration limit is the salary limit that, once exceeded, allows employees to switch from the statutory health insurance to a private health insurance scheme.

article table 2

3. New salary threshold for Blue Card Application

To apply for a Blue Card, employees’ salaries need to exceed certain thresholds depending on their qualifications. These thresholds are determined each year by the German government. As of 1 January 2020 the annual minimum salary for Blue Card applicants amounts to EUR 55,200 gross. For applicants working in professions with a lack of applicants (such as physicians, engineers, scientists, maths or IT specialists) the annual salary threshold amounts to EUR 43,056 gross.

4. The Immigration of Experts Act comes into force

The Immigration of Experts Act is expected to come into force on 1 March 2020. The aim and purpose of the law is to increase the immigration of qualified skilled workers from countries outside the EU to Germany. This is to be made possible particularly by the fact that the previous practice of allowing immigration only in bottleneck occupations and after prior examination as to whether there are not also suitable German employees for this purpose.

5. Discharge in the area of data protection - data protection officer is only necessary for 20 persons or more

The Second EU Data Protection Adaptation and Implementation Act ("Zweite Datenschutz-Anpassungs- und Umsetzungsgesetz EU") came into force on 21 November 2019. As a result, the threshold value from when a company data protection officer is required increases from 10 persons involved in the processing of personal data to 20 persons. In addition, employees' consent to data processing no longer has to be given in writing, but may also be transmitted by e-mail.

6. Amendment of the Working Time Act - obligation to document working time

On 14 May 2019, the ECJ ruled that Member States should require employers to determine the daily and weekly working time of employees through objective, reliable and accessible working time recording systems. In this respect, Section 16 (2) of the Working Hours Act obliges employers in Germany only recording employee's working time which extends beyond 8 hours per working day. Violations against this can result in a fine of up to €15,000 or even criminal charges. Since the judgment is only binding on member states, it remains to be seen when and in what form the German legislator will amend the existing documentation obligations.

7. The digital certificate of incapacity for work

From 1 January 2022, the current practice of employees having to submit their certificate of incapacity for work in the form of a yellow note to their employer will be discontinued. Rather, according to the Bureaucracy Relief Act III passed by the Bundestag on 18 September 2019, the employer is to be informed (electronically) by the health insurance companies, the beginning and duration of the employee's incapacity to work and when the continued payment of remuneration expires. However, it remains the employee's obligation to notify the employer of his illness and for the illness to be determined by a doctor if the illness lasts for a longer time period.

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