Social security in Germany
Advisor for international doctoral candidates and researchers
Service for international researchers
German social security (Sozialversicherung) is a national state system that plays a key role in providing coverage for potential risks such as illness or unemployment and comprises five areas. It is also advisable to take out additional private insurance such as liability insurance.
Unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung) is also part of the German statutory social security system. It provides unemployment benefits paid by the government to people who are (currently) unemployed so that they have a secure income while searching for new employment. You are entitled to receive unemployment benefits if you worked in Germany before becoming unemployed, paid into the German statutory social security scheme for at least 360 days or 12 months during the past two years, and are available for recruitment into new employment. You must submit an application for unemployment benefit to the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). Employment periods in other EU and EEA states and Switzerland during which you paid social security contributions may be recognised and taken into account. However the usual requirement is that your last employment was in Germany and subject to social security contributions.
Unemployment insurance contributions are deducted directly from your gross salary. Scholarships and fellowships are usually exempt from compulsory social security contributions. Whether and to what degree unemployment contributions made in Germany can be recognised by other countries depends on whether these countries have a social security agreement with Germany and what insurances are included in the agreement.
The Federal Employment Agency is the administrator of unemployment insurance in Germany.
Nursing care insurance (Pflegeversicherung) is part of your health insurance, private or statutory, so when you sign up for health insurance with a health insurance provider you will be automatically registered for nursing care insurance. It helps people who are in need of care and dependent on assistance from others, and provides coverage for domestic and in-patient care. Contributions to nursing care are deducted from your gross salary along with contributions to health insurance. Employers and employees each pay half of the contributions.
Occupational accident insurance (Unfallverischerung, or Berufsunfallversicherung) is also part of the German statutory social security system. It insures employees for injuries or illnesses that occur at the workplace as well as during the commute to and from the workplace.
Work-related illnesses and diseases are also covered. It does not, however, cover accidents that occur during leisure time. Benefits that are not covered by occupational accident insurance will be covered by health insurance, though health insurance providers may refuse to pay benefits or may only grant partial benefits if medical expenses are particularly high.
Visiting staff who are employed by the University are entitled to occupational accident insurance, which is provided by private-sector employers' liability insurance associations (Berufsgenossenschaften) and by public-sector accident insurance associations (e.g. accident insurance funds, Land (state) accident insurance funds, municipal accident insurance funds). Contributions to occupational accident insurance are fully paid by employers.
You may also purchase supplemental insurance in addition to the mandatory insurances that Germany requires. There are a number of private insurances that cover you against all kinds of potential risks.
Personal liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) is common in Germany. Anyone in Germany can be held liable for damages to a third party. Parents are always liable for any damage caused by their children under the age of 18. We therefore strongly recommend that you sign up for private personal liability insurance for the entire family to cover payment for any unintentional damage you or your family members may cause.
Depending on your personal situation, other additional insurances might be advisable. The Consumer advice centre in Oldenburg offers individual advice (subject to fees).
Depending on whether your teaching or research stay takes place within the framework of an employment contract, or whether you receive a scholarship, you will have to consider certain aspects:
If your stay in Germany is part of an employment contract, you are required to pay contributions to the national social security system. In Germany, the employer and the employee each pay half of the contributions, except for the occupational accident insurance contribution which is paid fully by the employer.
Once your application for health insurance coverage has been approved your insurance provider will send you a social security number (Versicherungsnummer) and a social security pass (Sozialversicherungsausweis), an electronic health insurance card (EHIC), as well as an insurance information booklet. Social security contributions are paid to your health insurance provider and automatically deducted from the gross salary. Before you start work, you employer will ask to see your health insurance coverage/insurance card and your social security number in order to register you and your contributions with the social security scheme.
Social security contributions are not mandatory for scholarship and fellowship holders. In some cases health insurance contributions are part of the scholarship or fellowship, but even then you will have to choose an insurance provider on your own. Please contact your scholarship/fellowship provider for further information and read your documents carefully and thoroughly. Also keep in mind that as a scholarship/fellowship holder you will not be insured through the university, which means that you will be responsible for handling all insurance matters yourself.
Along with health insurance coverage, which is mandatory in Germany, we strongly recommend that you take out liability insurance (and accident insurance if applicable).
As an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you are covered by an EU regulation stipulating the rights and transferability of social security within the EU. These regulations contain two basic principles:
- You are insured in the country where you work.
- You are subject to the legislation of only one Member State at a time.