On January 1 2016 a new form was introduced for physicians to attest incapacity for work, simplifying how to report to employers and the health insurance system.

Employees must inform their employers if they are ill. Section 5(1) of the Act on Continued Payment of Remuneration requires employees to report their incapacity for work and its anticipated duration. If the incapacity lasts longer than three days, the employee must submit a medical certificate (attestation). If the incapacity for work lasts longer than stated on the medical certificate, the employee must submit a new certificate. Even if the six weeks during which the employer must to continue to pay remuneration have expired and the health insurer has paid sickness benefits, the employee must still inform the employer.

The new form is to be used as evidence from the physician for the entire duration of illness. The Agreement on Forms for Care by Practice-Based Physicians regulates which forms must be used during medical treatment. The new form has four pages. A physician must now use the yellow page (known as a 'yellow report') for the entire duration of incapacity for work, even if the period of sickness exceeds six weeks.

If incapacity for work lasts longer than six weeks, the physician must tick the box "as of the seventh week of incapacity for work or other case of entitlement to sickness benefits" in every subsequent certificate documenting incapacity for work. In doing so, the physician indicates to the health insurer that the current certificate documenting incapacity for work was issued in a case of potential entitlement to sickness benefits. However, the physician does not assess whether the insured is actually entitled to sickness benefits.

The new form ensures that the employer is kept informed for the entire duration of incapacity for work, because the employer automatically receives a certificate for the period after the continued payment of remuneration has ended.

The health insurer also receives information more quickly after the continued payment of remuneration has ended. It is hoped that this way, sickness benefits will be paid out more quickly.

Problems that occurred in the past are thus unlikely to occur in the future. Until now, physicians have used a certificate to document incapacity for work during the first six weeks of sickness only. After the first six weeks, it became complicated because no other form was available. Instead, the health insurer sent the employee a payout note, which the employee had to have completed by his or her physician. The payout note would then be returned to the health insurer, which then paid the sickness benefits to the employee. Employees would often have to wait for payment.

Employees would often fail to report continued illness to their employers because they no longer had a medical certificate. However, the employer would still want to know how long the employee would be ill and when he or she would return. This frequently led to disputes, formal warnings and dismissals.

It is hoped that such delays and difficulties are now a thing of the past and that the additional form will simplify the process.

For further information on this topic please contact Martin Lützeler at CMS Hasche Sigle by telephone (+49 221 77 16 305) or email (martin.luetzeler@cms-hs.com). The CMS Hasche Sigle website can be accessed at www.cms-hs.com.

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