Notification of illness to the employer

Sick leave employer

Everyone knows it, you wake up in the morning with a strong flu and can not go to work. A sick note to the employer is appropriate. However, many people do not know how to behave correctly when they are ill. Because there are some important things to keep in mind when doing so. If mistakes are made and one does not keep to the rules, trouble threatens like a warning by the employer. What should be considered when notifying the employer of sickness?? When is a certificate of incapacity for work correct??

Sick note employer – immediately communicate

Many employees think, one must announce oneself only starting from the third illness day at the employer ill. This is not correct. Quite the opposite. In the Continuation of Remuneration Act § 5, the time of notification of illness is regulated as follows: "The employee is obliged to notify the employer of the incapacity for work and its expected duration without delay."

The word immediately is interpreted by specialist lawyers as before the start of working hours. This means that if, for example, a shift worker starts work at 6 a.m., he should have informed the employer at the latest shortly before 6 a.m. that he will not be able to perform his work activity today.

Notification of illness – from when must an AU be submitted to the employer?

When submitting a certificate of incapacity for work (AU) for the employer, the time limit of three days, which is known by many, takes effect. If an employee is sick for longer than three days, d.h. from the fourth day of sickness, he is obliged to provide the employer with proof of illness.

The obligation to provide proof requires that one submits a sick bill to the employer, the so-called "yellow bill". The employee usually receives this from his family doctor in triplicate:

  • Execution for submission to the employer
  • Execution for the insured person
  • Execution for the health insurance

So the employer must on the fourth day of the illness the sick report to be present. This is also regulated in § 5 of the Continued Remuneration Act: "If the inability to work lasts longer than three calendar days, the employee must submit a medical certificate confirming the existence of the inability to work and its expected duration no later than on the following working day." Whether a doctor must write sick and how long, about it is informed in the article: Sick leave – how long?

It is therefore not enough, as some people assume, to go to the doctor on the third or fourth day of illness and get a sick bill, but the employer must have the sick bill on the fourth day. If this is sent to the employer by mail, for example, it should therefore be sent preferably on the second and at the latest on the third day of illness. Important: the employer must receive the original sick note on the fourth day of absence.

May the employer from the first day an AU require?

However, the law does not definitively regulate everything to the certificate of incapacity for work, which one might think. Because the employer is allowed to demand an earlier notification of sickness by presenting a certificate of incapacity for work. Different rules must be specified in the employment contract. These are possible and stronger than the law. The employer may demand proof in the employment contract from the first day onwards and the employee must comply with it. There are also no rules or requirements. The employer may establish such a rule without any reason. This was confirmed by a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court (file number 5 AZR 886/11).

Sick notification 3-day period – weekend also counts

Sick note 3 daysAnother common misconception is that only working days count for the 3-day period of sick leave. This is wrong. Calendar days apply when calculating the time limit and not the working days. That is, both Saturday and Sunday as well as holidays are included in the calculation.

Now, you could of course fall ill on a Wednesday, and continue to be ill on Thursday and Friday, which would mean that the fourth day would fall on a Saturday. In such a case, however, the certificate of incapacity for work must not be submitted until Monday, as it only has to be submitted on working days.

Sick leave notification by e-mail

The notice of illness can be sent to the employer by e-mail or fax on the first day before the start of work. Better is the direct personal way and an information of the employer by telephone call.

Sick note workBecause the duty of care that the employer receives the message lies with the employee and not as one might assume with the employer. In this respect, a telephone call is always the safest and best way to proceed. This gives the employee a complete guarantee that the employer has been informed in time.

The certificate of incapacity for work that follows later can be delivered directly to the employer or sent by mail. Also E-mail (scan) or fax are permissible. However, if the employer subsequently demands the original, the employee must present this immediately.

Sick note template and sample

If the sick note is sent by e-mail (or post), you should be brief and get straight to the point.

The following template can be used accordingly as a sample.

"Good morning Mr. / Mrs. Sample boss,

I am unfortunately ill today and therefore cannot come to work.

I will see a doctor immediately and then let you know how long I am off sick and send you the certificate of incapacity for work.

with kind regards,


As described above, you have fulfilled your obligation to notify the employer.

Important: the employer does not have to be informed about the type of illness, more about this in the next paragraph.

The employer must be informed about the illness in the sick note?

Some people think you have to explain to the employer why you are sick or tell them about your illness. This is not correct in most cases. In principle, you do not have to inform your superior about your illness.

However, it is a misconception that one never has to inform the employer about the illness. Exceptions apply if the illness directly affects the employer and is relevant for operational processes. This is the case when one may have already infected colleagues or the employer must take protective measures for possible infection.

If the employer doubts the inability to work and can justify this, he is allowed to call in the Medical Service of the Health Insurance (MDK) to examine the employee.

Corona: Sick leave by phone (until 31.03.2021)

Until 31.03.In 2021, simplified sick leave by telephone without a doctor’s visit is possible. For colds, family doctors can issue sick bills by telephone for up to 7 days.

The exact process of calling in sick during the Corona pandemic is as follows:

  • The patient has a slight cold complaint
  • Patient informs doctor’s office by telephone
  • Telephone consultation between doctor and patient (mere information from the doctor’s assistant is not sufficient)
  • Doctor verbally informs the patient that a sick leave will be taken.
  • Doctor transmits the yellow certificate electronically to the health insurance company
  • Doctor sends the certificate of incapacity to the patient by mail
  • Patient sends yellow slip by mail (or email in advance) to employer
  • Employers are asked to extend the deadlines for delivery of sick leave by employees
  • Employees have up to 7 days to forward the AU to the employer

In addition, a one-time extension of sick leave by 7 days is also possible by telephone.

How to correctly extend the sick leave?

A sick bill from the doctor is always issued only for a certain duration. What happens if you are ill for a longer period of time??

Here it is wrongly assumed that the first day after the expiry of the sick bill is considered as a new start of illness and the same process as described before starts all over again. The original sickness certificate must be extended. In this case, the extension must take place on the last day of validity of the certificate of incapacity for work.

This means that the employee must in turn Inform the employer on the last day of sick leave at the latest As well as visit the family doctor, get a new certificate of incapacity for work and send it to the employer again in time. This is then a so-called follow-up certificate. A complete certificate is important, on the one hand since one stands to the employer in the obligation to prove, on the other hand also for example with sick pay.

The weekend is a special case. If you are on sick leave until Friday and realize over the weekend that you will not be able to work the following week, it is sufficient to go to the doctor on Monday and have the sick leave extended. The prerequisite is that the weekend is free of work.

Work despite sick leave?

Can I work despite sick leave? This is what many people ask themselves when they feel fit again after two days despite the yellow certificate. The answer is: In principle, you are allowed to work despite sick leave.

Working despite sick leaveA certificate of incapacity for work does not constitute a ban on work. A doctor can also only estimate when issuing the AU, how long an employee is sick and therefore unable to work. This means that you can return to work earlier. There is no such thing as a sick note and you are not obliged to go back to work earlier.

Especially in the case of infectious diseases, it even makes sense to stay at home, even if you feel healthy again. In this case, you should not go to work before the expiry of the sick bill, in order not to infect your colleagues. More about this under Work despite sick leave – allowed or not?

Is one allowed to leave the house when one is incapacitated for work?

It is a common misconception that you are not allowed to leave the house when you are sick. What does matter, however, is the nature of the illness and what you are allowed to do.

Basically, the rule is, That employees are allowed to do everything that serves the recovery of the illness and does not make the illness worse. Not every illness requires bed rest, and a walk in the fresh air never hurt anyone. This applies, for example, in the case of sick leave due to burnout.

Here you should use common sense. It is not necessarily appropriate to meet work colleagues for a beer at the local pub in the evening when you are on sick leave with a flu-like infection.

Notification of illness while on vacation – is it allowed to submit a notification of illness while on vacation??

Many people think vacation is vacation and no sick leave is possible. This is not correct. In principle, it is possible to call in sick even when on vacation, so it is possible to save the vacation days. However, special rules apply here.

Here too must the inform the employer immediately, however one must also go to the doctor compulsorily on the first day of vacation and prove this to the employer by a medical certificate. Not all certificates from abroad meet the German legal obligations to provide proof of illness. It is important to make sure that the certificate not only documents the illness, but also the inability to work. This is the crucial aspect, because only those who are unable to work can save their vacation days. Also interesting: already sick – is it allowed to go on vacation??

Result: Sick leave – so correctly

In summary, if you are sick, you should behave correctly. It is important to inform the employer about the absence directly on the first day, preferably by a phone call. Afterwards, you should see a doctor at short notice and submit a certificate of incapacity for work to your employer within the prescribed statutory period up to the fourth calendar day. This can be done by e-mail or scan, but only in agreement with the employer, because they are allowed to demand the original. If you are ill for a longer period of time, you have to inform your employer before the expiration of the certificate of incapacity for work and have it extended by your family doctor in the form of a follow-up certificate. Those who comply and do not engage in activities that aggravate the illness have done everything right and consequently do not face any difficulties.

Frequently asked questions

Many readers have asked questions about sick leave in our comments section. The following are common questions that have been asked by readers.

If I send an e-mail on the first day before work and submit a sick bill on the fourth day at the latest, I am on the safe side?

This is correct. If you inform your employer by e-mail or phone on the first day of work and submit the sick note on the fourth day at the latest, you are on the safe side.

What happens if I fall ill at the weekend, do I have to call my boss at the weekend??

One must inform the boss before starting work. If you do not work on the weekend, you do not have to inform the boss on the weekend.
However, you have to inform your employer about your absence due to illness on Monday before you start work, preferably by e-mail or telephone.

My boss, after more than a month, now claims never to have received the yellow slip. The sick bill was sent by mail as a letter and I read everywhere that even registered mail does not prove with legal certainty that he received the yellow bill. Not everyone has someone who can hand in the sick bill for them. Do I have to report sick to my employer in person and hope to receive a certificate of absence??

Of course, every boss reacts differently. If you have a very bad relationship with your superior or he tends to react in an unwanted way, there are ways to play it absolutely safe. It is considered confirmed that especially a handover letter is legally safe. In addition, you should have a witness with you when you pack the sick bill in the envelope.

I went to the doctor yesterday morning because I was sick and to get a sick certificate. I informed my employer about the absence only after the doctor’s visit. Is this ok?

One must inform the employer by phone or e-mail before starting work (sick leave).
After that, you can go to the doctor and send the employer the yellow certificate (sick bill).

If I am off sick until 20.07. I am on sick leave (Friday) and will be back on the 23rd.07. (i.e. Monday) I report to the doctor again and continue to be on sick leave, is this then an initial certificate or a follow-up certificate??

In this case it is enough to go to the doctor on Mondays. It is then a follow-up certificate.

An employee goes on vacation for more than 2 weeks despite certified inability to work. the employer has not been informed of the trip, a certificate from the doctor that the trip is conducive to recovery has not been provided. A follow-up certificate for a further 4 weeks was sent to the employer from the vacation location, through which he learned in the first place that the employee is no longer at home. The employer now assumes that the trip was detrimental to the course of recovery and accuses the employee of a gross violation of his duty to cooperate in case of illness, not to do anything that could worsen the healing process. Does the employer have the right to take measures under labor law, i.e. dismissal without notice, due to the failure to notify, the lack of a certificate from the family doctor and the deterioration that has occurred?.

This situation shows that some scenarios are very complex. In such complex cases you should call in a specialist lawyer. Here there are also relevant Internet portals, in which one can find appropriate specialized lawyers, who answer also against a small fixed fee first questions directly.

I work in shifts and have an AU until Sunday. When do I have to extend it? The previous Friday or the following Monday. Unfortunately, I have only received an appointment with the psychiatrist in 2 weeks, can my family doctor write me sick until then??

The family doctor can write his patients sick at any time and always. He is always the first contact person for all people. There should be a sick note for every working day.
If you have one one AU is Sunday, one can extend this also on Monday still.

If I call in sick to the employer on Thursday morning, but report myself healthy again on Friday during working hours for Monday, does the weekend count as sick time?? Do I still have to bring my employer a sick note for Thursday and Friday??

Depending on the form of the employment contract, the employer may require a certificate of incapacity for work as of the first day of illness. If there is no separate provision in the employment contract, a sick note must be submitted only on the fourth calendar day

I work in a self-service department store. Do I have to inform my boss? or is it enough to inform my team management? Or the secretary’s office or an employee in the switchboard?

The sick note takes place i.d.R. with the personnel department or with the direct superior. These are the two first points of contact.

You have to get a sick certificate from the doctor on the fourth day at the latest (this is the case in most employment contracts). But then how should the original sick note be available at the employer on the fourth day? The mail can’t fly, and on the second or third day you often think you’ll be fit again sooner. It must be possible to send the certificate as an email attachment or fax (faxes are considered as documents) and to submit the original later on? So how’s that for a fourth day and the original? The same, by the way, in the case of contracts in which the sick note is required on the first day. The sick note cannot be issued by the doctor on the same day and sent to the employer by mail.

The employer must be notified on 4. Day the sick report are present. Some employers accept this by e-mail. According to the law, the original medical certificate must be presented to the employer and the employer can demand this. Sending it merely as a photo or scan in an e-mail attachment is then not sufficient. D.h. by mail it would have to be sent before or jmd. bring it in person.

Is this really the case? My employer has informed us that he no longer needs to have the original. It is enough to send the document by e-mail or upload it in our system. A personal handing over or sending by mail is not necessary.

If the employer is satisfied with the sick note by e-mail or upload, he does not have to be presented with the original.

"The subsequent certificate of incapacity for work can be handed in directly to the employer or sent by post. E-mail (scan) or fax are also acceptable. However, if the employer subsequently requires the original, the employee must submit this immediately."So scan permissible or yet not sufficient?

The employer can require the original, but does not have to. E-mail or fax are acceptable if the employer accepts it.

My son has been on sick leave for 3 weeks. Since it is a serious illness (and he was also partly in the hospital) I as a mother have informed the employer both in writing and by phone. After the phone call with the employer (his direct boss), I even always sent the current sick bills to the boss via WhatsApp BEFORE for info – before the sick bill arrived by mail to him. The boss requires my son to report to him PERSONALLY and has sent him a warning letter because of it. Are you required to report to the boss in person while on sick leave. He has received the info from me as a relative continuously.

One is not obliged to report in person. One is only obliged to inform the employer about the sick call on the first day (z.B. by e-mail or by telephone or as here by a relative) and at the latest on the fourth calendar day to present the original sick note to the employer. If you keep to this, you are on the safe side.

I called in sick today (Wednesday) and I expect to be able to return to work on Friday. Do I have to submit a certificate of incapacity for work to the AG?

No. You are allowed to stay away from work for up to three days without an AU. You reported the sick leave on Wednesday. So the sick note concerns only 2 days. A certificate is necessary as soon as it is at least 4 days long. An exception may exist, of course, if employees frequently call in sick for shorter periods of time. Then the employer can insist or even consider a dismissal, because you would not seem to be able to cope with the workload. But hardly any employee likes to avoid trouble with the works council or the labor court. But if the employer would document everything exactly, the employee would have no chance to fight against the dismissal.

I have reported sick to my employer in time and by e-mail, as had and almost every other employee. Once it happened that the e-mail did not arrive, but I reported in time well before the start of work. There was trouble and I was told to call. However, if I can’t call and am unable to do so, then I write an email, also for the reason that otherwise they can’t prove the sick leave to me. The e-mail has not arrived this time and now I know that a warning is imminent, I feel a gloomy mood. And that although I have again reported sick in time. With my pittance as an apprentice, I can’t afford such good WLAN, but I do my duty. In the worst case, because the employer is angry, can I be dismissed and the contract cancelled on the basis of it?? Against the warning I can do now times nothing. Nowhere was it agreed in writing that I must speak on the phone. I’m slowly thinking of quitting the training, because as the second trainee here in the company, I’m only compared and patterned with the first one there ever was, and I’m only bullied with the mistakes instead of being praised. The fact that I call in sick incorrectly on one day or say no to fetching coffee at the Edeka because I have more important things to take care of is made a big issue here, but that I start at 6 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. and still leave late in the evening does not matter to the staff.

A shaky WLAN is not a reason for the AG to turn a blind eye to it. The sending of e-mail can always be verified in the own outbox the sending. Better is in any case a phone call, so you are always on the safe side.

I am sick at home on Thursday and Friday. Am on Monday but still not fit and stay at home and go to the doctor. There is no work on SA and Sunday.
Is it legally sufficient if I go to the doctor on Monday to get a sick note and then hand in the sick note on Tuesday??

The weekend counts for the calculation of the deadline, because the deadlines refer to calendar days. If the date of submission of the sick note falls on the weekend, in this case on Sunday, it must be submitted on the next working day. Those who are sick on Thursday and Friday would have to submit their certificate on Sunday, but since this is the weekend, the sick note has to be submitted on the following Monday.

I called in sick by phone on Monday until Wednesday inclusive. Thursday is the fourth day and you go to the doctor, who writes you off sick from Thursday and Friday. Are the first 3 days, so from Monday to Wednesday then still legal without sick leave?

I reported sick to the employer on Monday, only went to the doctor on Thursday (he was on vacation), AU issued from DO, what about the days MO, DI, MI – am I officially sick there??

A doctor is allowed to give a sick note up to 3 days retroactively. In both previously asked questions and cases, the most right-safe solution is to do this. Then you would be on sick leave for the whole week, from Monday to Friday and can present this to the employer as well as the health insurance company in writing. The original sick note must be received by the employer no later than Thursday.

I have been on sick leave for 7 months. Now the holidays are coming and my specialist has decided to take a vacation after New Year’s Day after all.
The last sick bill ran until the WV appointment on 2.1.20, since the appointment now falls on the 9.1.20 was postponed I got an AU extension until then. It was issued on 17.12.19 issued. Now my question: When do I have to hand in the sick bill, is it enough to hand it in on the 2nd day?.1. to be handed in or must be handed in within the next 3 days?

In this case it is a follow-up certificate. Just like the initial certificate, this must be submitted to the employer within the 3-day period and to the health insurance company within one week.

My colleague was on sick leave until Friday. On Monday he did not show up for work, when I messaged him via Whatsapp where he was staying, he wrote me that he is at the doctor and we do not need to expect him for the next 6 months. No phone call, no sick note until today (Wednesday). what can we do? He does not fulfill his duty of proof with the boss.

In this case the employee has to present a follow-up certificate. For these the 3-day period applies. That is, a submission by Thursday would be permissible, otherwise a warning may be issued.

"Important: the original sick note must be submitted to the employer on the fourth day of absence. It is not enough to just send it as a photo or scan by mail attachment."or: "Also E-Mail (scan) or fax are permissible" Which is correct now??

Correct: The employer can request the original. Otherwise, e-mail and fax are also permissible if the employer accepts it.

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