Doctor’s appointment during working hours: What is allowed and what is not?

Doctor’s appointment during working hours: What is allowed and what is not?
Photo: Christin Klose/dpa-tmn

Arranging doctor’s visits outside of working hours is often a challenge for full-time employees. But do you have to put in the effort at all or can you schedule the appointment during working hours? The most important rules at a glance.

The dentist’s points booklet hangs almost reproachfully on the large pin board with the to-dos for the coming weeks. The check-up is urgently due, but the schedule simply doesn’t allow for any gaps. Unless you use the break between two telephone meetings.

But are employees even allowed to go to doctor’s appointments during working hours? Do you have to inform your employer? And do they still get paid? Legal experts explain which rules must be observed for medical appointments during working hours.

Do I have to inform my employer about doctor’s visits?

Yes. And as quickly as possible. “The employer must have the opportunity to make plans and adapt to them. As soon as I know that I am going to the doctor or to rehab, I have to inform the employer,” says Nathalie Oberthür, a specialist lawyer for labor law in Cologne.

The obligation to report always applies immediately if you do not show up for work unscheduled, says Tjark Menssen from the legal protection department of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB). “You shouldn’t just wait until you’ve been to the doctor and they issue a certificate of incapacity for work.” This also applies to unemployed people at the job center.

Visiting a doctor during working hours: Am I allowed to do that?

Anyone who is sick and therefore unable to work can see a doctor – at any time. Although a doctor’s visit is not working time within the meaning of the Working Hours Act, “the law regulates that the obligation to pay for doctor’s visits that do not last long still remains,” says Menssen.

The situation is different with preventive appointments. If nothing is stipulated in the employment contract, the following applies: “If I am not sick – in the sense of being unable to work – I generally have to schedule appointments outside of working hours. Unless the doctor doesn’t offer such appointments,” says Nathalie Oberthür. What works and what doesn’t is a case-by-case decision. Working hours play just as important a role as the flexibility of the doctor’s practice.

If there is no possibility of attending the appointment outside of working hours, “the employer must accept medical, time or scheduling requirements,” says Menssen. This is the case, for example, if an examination has to be carried out at a certain time of day or the doctor’s office does not offer consultation hours outside of working hours.

When do I need a sick note?

It is worth taking a look at the employment contract here. The law requires that a certificate of incapacity for work be presented after three days. “According to the employment contract or by special order of the employer, a certificate can also be required on the first day of incapacity for work,” says Tjark Menssen.

By the way: Since July 2022, doctors have been officially obliged to forward the certificate of incapacity for work electronically to the health insurance company in the case of statutory health insurance. Since January 1, 2023, employers have had to participate in the reporting process for the electronic certificate of incapacity for work (eAU). Since then, employees are no longer required to present a paper AU certificate to their employer.

When do I have to take vacation if I want to see a doctor?

“There is no obligation to take vacation under any circumstances,” says Tjark Menssen. This would not be legally possible in the event of incapacity to work. Anyone who falls ill while on holiday will retain their holiday entitlement. “In this case, you have to present a certificate for all days,” says Menssen.

What applies if the child needs to see a doctor?

Here, too, a distinction is made: Is the child sick and needs to be looked after or is this a planned preventive examination? In the second case, “I have to try to get an appointment outside of working hours,” says Nathalie Oberthür.

Things are different if the child needs to be cared for due to illness and it is a short illness. “Then I am entitled to stay at home with pay to look after the child. That would also include appropriate visits to the doctor,” says Nathalie Oberthür.

In addition, legally insured employees are generally entitled to unpaid leave during which they receive child sickness benefit. In 2023, an expanded entitlement will apply: Each parent may take 30 days of leave per year per child, and a maximum of 65 days per year for multiple children. Single parents are entitled to child sickness benefit for 60 days per child per year, and a maximum of 130 days for multiple children.

What should employees pay attention to?

Not all employment contracts are the same. In some cases, special regulations are formulated or excluded with regard to doctor’s visits, sick leave and remuneration. Here it is worth taking a look at your own employment contract. As a rule, it is on the safe side that the employer is informed immediately in the event of illness. “Even if you are still unable to work, you have to inform your employer that you are still sick,” says Menssen.

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