Sick on vacation: your rights as an employee in Germany
Getting sick shortly before or during your vacation is something that many employees experience. Livia Merla, a specialist in labor law, explains how you can make up for the vacation time missed due to an acute illness.
Due to the stress of vacation preparations and the strains of travel, the immune system is often weakened. Additionally, while on the go—whether at the train station, airport, or in a hotel—people come into contact with a variety of other individuals, increasing exposure to pathogens such as cold viruses.
Vacation days don't simply expire
The good news: Vacation days don't simply disappear, as Livia Merla explains: "If I can provide a medical certificate proving that I was truly unable to work during my vacation, the affected days won't be deducted from my annual vacation entitlement."
However, it's crucial to inform the employer promptly about the illness during the vacation and obtain a medical certificate from the first day of sickness. Under no circumstances, according to the expert, should the time missed due to illness be simply added to the ongoing vacation. "When the lost vacation days can be made up must be discussed with the employer and approved by them."
Foreign certificates must meet German standards
In the case of illness during a trip abroad, it's important to ensure that the medical certificate issued locally clearly states both the inability to work and the exact period of illness. If the return journey cannot be taken in a timely manner due to illness, the employee must still be on sick leave at the time of the return journey, according to the expert. "If the certificate does not meet German standards, it may be questioned," says Livia Merla.
Additionally, the law only provides for saving vacation days when you yourself are ill. "There is no entitlement to so-called sick child days during a vacation. This means that vacation days lost due to caring for sick children are consumed as usual," explains the lawyer. Unfortunately, if you fall ill during the use of overtime, you also have no right to get those hours or days back from the employer, even if a medical certificate certifies your inability to work.
Taking a vacation despite being sick?
And what is the legal situation if you become ill just before your vacation? Can you travel despite being under a doctor's care, or is it always necessary to stay home and rest? "In the case of an existing illness, whether or not to embark on a trip is a matter of discretion," says the expert. "If the trip is conducive to recovery, for example, a relaxing stay by the sea for respiratory illnesses, there is no reason against it." On the other hand, she advises against a "party vacation" – in such cases, the employer could argue that it hinders recovery. Furthermore, Livia Merla recommends: "If I plan a trip despite being unable to work, I should communicate with my employer early and openly to prevent misunderstandings and potential conflicts later on."