Can HR call your doctor

Notification of sickness: Notification of sickness by email or phone

If you get sick, you can't just stay in bed, you have to call in sick. A formally correct notification of sickness is required by law and protects against a warning for going blue. But when and how do employees have to report sick correctly and notify the employer? We explain your rights and obligations if you have to call in sick. In addition, we help with formulations for reporting sickness on the phone or by email and answer the most important questions ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

When do I have to call in sick?

If you feel sick and unable to work, you can stay at home. To protect your own health and even more so to prevent your colleagues from being endangered (for example, if you have flu or even corona). In this case, go to the doctor, not to work. However, the law stipulates that you must immediately report your incapacity to work to the employer. Likewise, the expected duration of the illness. In Section 5 (1) of the Continued Remuneration Act (EFZG) it says:

"The employee is obliged to notify the employer immediately of the incapacity for work and its expected duration."

Report sick directly in the morning, before you plan to start work or start work, and before you see a doctor. Delayed notification of illness, for example only after the medical diagnosis, could already constitute a breach of duty that can be issued with a warning, as you will be absent without excuse until then. Therefore, regardless of when you go to the doctor, you have to call in sick as soon as possible, preferably before the working day begins.

Please also do not feel a false sense of duty: sick is sick. And those who infect colleagues are not hardworking and committed, but ruthless and short-sighted (keyword: "presentationalism"). If the whole office or a whole department falls ill, it costs the employer much more.

How can I call in sick properly?

Each company can regulate individually how the notification of sickness is to be made. There are no general legal requirements. Often the relevant regulation can already be found in the employment contract. In addition, the first notification of illness can usually be made informally. It is crucial that the boss receives this as quickly as possible. In this way, you will not be absent without excuse and, if necessary, tasks can be redistributed or processes rescheduled.

This first notification of illness can - depending on the operational practice and regulation - be made by phone, email, SMS or Whatsapp. But a quick phone call has proven itself. In this way you can be sure that the sick note has arrived and that your employer has been informed. The official certificate of incapacity for work will then be submitted later.

Formulation for the notification of sickness

If you find out in the morning after getting up that he or she is too sick to work, it is best to pick up the phone directly. Two possible formulations for reporting sickness on the phone are:

Good morning, this is FIRST NAME SURNAME. Unfortunately, I feel sick today and cannot come to work. I have a doctor's appointment at 11 a.m. and will contact me immediately afterwards to let me know how long I will be on sick leave.

Hello Mrs. _____, this is FIRST NAME SURNAME. I've been sick since this morning, so I won't be able to come to the office today. I have an appointment with the doctor at 9 a.m. I will then contact you again if I know whether I will be on sick leave for a longer period of time.

Two pieces of information are crucial:

  • You inform the employer that you are absent for at least this day due to an illness.
  • You inform the company that you will obtain a medical certificate and will then contact you again to inform them of the duration of your absence.

It does not matter whether you have a doctor's appointment at 8 a.m. or not until 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. Doctors' waiting rooms are full, especially on Monday mornings. It is only important that you signal to the employer that you know and fulfill your duties.

Report sick by email or Whatsapp

In principle, you can also call in sick by email or Whatsapp. Unless the company makes clear guidelines on this. For example, if the employer expressly requests notification of sickness by telephone, you must comply with this obligation.

If you want to excuse your absence due to illness by e-mail or WhatsApp, you can, for example, call in sick with these formulations:

Dear Ms (Mr) __________,

Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to show up for work today: I am sick. My family doctor's practice is manned from 7 a.m. I will call them immediately and try to make an appointment. I will then tell you how long I will likely be on sick leave.

With best regards
(First name surname employee)

Good morning Mr _____.
Unfortunately, I don't feel well today, so I can't come to work. I've already called my doctor and can have an examination today at 3:30 p.m. As soon as i know
I will let you know how long I will be out and I will immediately submit a possible certificate of incapacity for work.

For formal reasons, we recommend that you not only send such an email to your direct superior, but also send a copy via CC to the HR department.

For collegial reasons, you can also briefly inform other employees with whom you are currently working on a project. Especially when the deadline or the submission date is imminent.

Do I have to give reasons when reporting sick?

The short answer to this: “No.” In principle, you are not obliged to state the reason for your illness-related absence. The health insurance company is also not allowed to inform your employer about this. What you have and why you don't feel good is your privacy. However, many employees voluntarily give the reason in order not to be considered a simulant.

However: no rule without exception. If you have a highly contagious disease, you must inform the employer. His duty of care not only applies to you, but also to other employees. If you have already infected colleagues or customers, it is important to avoid any further infection. In case of doubt, the health department must also be contacted.

Can the boss check the sick leave?

If your boss doubts that you are really sick, he is basically free to pay you a visit. However, the boss's observations are unlikely to refute a medical certificate. If your doctor has put you on sick leave, this initially continues to apply - even if the boss disagrees. In case of major doubts, the employer can call in the medical service of the health insurance companies. This can check the incapacity for work.

When do I have to present the health insurance certificate?

In the Remuneration Continued Payment Act (§ 5 Paragraph 1 EFZG) it is regulated that an employee only has to see a doctor if the incapacity for work lasts “longer than three calendar days”. In that case, the employee must present a medical certificate of incapacity for work on the following working day. So no later than the fourth day.

This "four-day period" refers not only to working days, but to calendar days. Saturday, Sunday and public holidays count! For example, if you report sick on Friday morning and cannot work on Monday, you have to present the health insurance certificate to the company on Monday (!) - not send it off on Monday. On the other hand, you do not have to present the certificate at the weekend if you are sick during the week - from Wednesday to Friday, for example. Here too, the certificate would not have to be available until the following Monday.

Reduced time to sick leave with medical certificate

There is one important exception to this: the employer can - without justification - demand that the sick note or medical certificate from the doctor must be presented on the first day of the illness. If this is expressly stated in the employment contract, you must comply with it. The Federal Labor Court had decided after a WDR editor had complained.

To make sure that the sick leave is available on time, you should send or submit it by registered mail or messenger. You can also attach a photo or scan of the certificate to your mail.

Without a health insurance certificate, there is a risk of dismissal

If you miss the deadline, call in sick too late or submit the medical certificate late, the employer may refuse to continue paying your wages for this period. Under certain circumstances, there is a threat of a warning. In the case of repetition, usually the third or fourth time, even a termination.

What is a follow-up certificate?

Since the duration and course of the illness are not known at the beginning, your doctor will probably only write you down for one or two weeks at the most. If you are still not healthy afterwards and cannot go to work, you need an update of the sick note - and a new certificate (so-called "follow-up certificate"). This must be seamlessly linked to the previous health insurance certificate. So go to the doctor in good time and get a new health insurance certificate with which you must of course continue to report sick to the employer.

Will I be on sick leave for corona quarantine?

Rising numbers of corona diseases mean that more people are being quarantined at home by the health department. You are not automatically on sick leave. Only when you have actual symptoms and are sick can you officially report sick and receive a corresponding certificate. Otherwise you will receive a notification about the official quarantine order, which you have to present to your employer.

If you are symptom-free and you can, you even have to work from your home office in quarantine.

Digital sick leave from 2021

From January 1, 2021, the “yellow certificate”, i.e. the certificate of incapacity for work in DIN A6 format, is to be abolished. Instead, there is a digital certificate with which sick employees can be reported sick directly. The attending doctor sends this to the insurance company, which in turn informs the employer. As an employee, you have less work to do when you call in sick.

Be careful when calling in sick online

Portals such as or offer so-called online sick leave. There, those affected have to answer a few questions about their well-being and may receive an online health insurance certificate within a few minutes (for 14 euros). It is actually signed by a doctor and is therefore formally valid for a maximum of three days. However, employers do not necessarily have to recognize the digital certificate. There is also no clear case law (yet). Many health insurance companies support the online health insurance certificate, but doctors do not have the "visual inspection" by a doctor.

Even more: because the medical certificate forms the basis for continued payment of wages in the event of illness, online sick leave is legally quite tricky. The "Ärzteblatt" writes about this: "If the employer doubts the correctness of the medical AU certificate, for example by proving that the sick note was issued without a prior examination, he can request an expert review by the medical service of the health insurance company (Section 275 para 1 a, sentence 3 of the Social Security Code V). “It is better to ask your boss beforehand what he will accept.

Rules for reporting sick leave on vacation

The vacation is for relaxation. Anyone who gets sick while on vacation does not recover from everyday work, but fights against an illness. Therefore, the sick days are not counted towards the annual leave in accordance with Section 9 of the Federal Holiday Act (BUrlG). In this case, you should also go to the doctor while on vacation and get sick leave for the time being. The employer must also be notified of the sick leave immediately and the medical certificate sent.

In the event of illness abroad, you are obliged to inform your employer of the probable duration of your illness on the first day of illness in accordance with Section 5 (2) of the Continuing Payment Act (EFZG). You must also provide your address and telephone number where you can be reached at the holiday destination.

However, the vacation days on which you were ill may not simply be “attached” to the vacation. If you want to take these days after your illness, you have to apply for regular leave again and obtain the approval of your boss. Anything else would be a so-called “self-leave of absence” and thus capable of being issued with a warning.

Sick leave when the child is sick?

According to Section 616 of the German Civil Code (BGB), the parental duty of care takes precedence over the duty to work. In other words: Because “no fault and unavoidable personal reasons” force you to do so, you can stay at home if your child is sick. According to the Social Security Code, married employees are entitled to ten days of childhood illness per child. If there are more than two children, the entitlement is limited to a maximum of 25 days per year. Single parents, on the other hand, are entitled to up to 20 days off leave per child; if there are several children, the duration is limited to 50 days.

However, the child must be a maximum of 12 years old (or younger) or disabled and dependent on help. Likewise, there must be no one in the household - grandparents for example - who can look after the child. And you have to submit a medical certificate to the employer that proves that your child is sick and needs care.

In some cases, the employment contract also regulates the extent to which employees are granted special leave for childcare if a child is sick.

Conduct while you are on sick leave

Even if you are on sick leave, you may do everything that does not stand in the way of recovery and that is appropriate during the illness. So you don't have to tie yourself to the bed. For example, shopping, going to the pharmacy and walking are allowed. The latter are even considered beneficial to health (unless you've broken your leg).

When can I come back to work?

Many people don't know that either: you can go back to work sooner if you feel healthy enough. Sick leave is not a general ban on work. The doctor can only estimate the maximum duration of an illness. That means: Those who are fit earlier can also go back to work earlier without having to be “healthy”. To do this, however, they should be really healthy and no longer contagious.

Can the illness lead to termination?

The short answer: “Yes.” It is a common misconception that you cannot dismiss employees during and because of illness. The so-called "termination due to illness" is, however, linked to strict conditions and requirements:

Negative health prognosis: The employer must credibly demonstrate that at the time of termination it can be expected that the employee will not be able to perform his work due to illness in the future (see also: Inability to work).

Impairment of interests: If the employer's operational processes are severely damaged by the employee's illness, the employee may terminate the contract due to illness. For example, the company has to keep paying wages and at the same time suffers a drop in sales or new personnel costs arise.

Balancing of interests: The employer must prove that, in a comparison of the two interests, he cannot be expected to maintain the employment relationship. So there must be no other possibility of continued employment. Labor judges usually see this so-called “reasonableness limit” exceeded if the employee was unable to work for more than six weeks a year for three consecutive years.

During the probationary period, however, both sides - employer and employee - can terminate at any time within two weeks and without giving reasons. This can also happen because of illness or incapacity for work. But the boss doesn't even have to say or justify it like that.

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