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WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in October 2022

From a nationwide public holiday and new Covid rules to changes surrounding mini and midi jobs, here's what's happening in Germany this October.

An alarm clock lies in the leaves.
An alarm clock lies in the leaves. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

Reunification Day

Germany will celebrate the Day of German Unity, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on Monday October 3rd.

It marks the day that the the German Democratic Republic (GDR) officially ceased to exist as a sovereign state and rejoined the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990. Since then, Germany has been reunited as the Bundesrepublik and the date is celebrated every year with a holiday in every federal state.

This year it’s 32 years since east and west reunified. Because it’s a public holiday, most workplaces as well as shops and other businesses are closed. 

READ ALSO: Which public holidays are coming up in Germany?

New Covid rules

A new set of Covid rules based on the amended Infection Protection Act will come into force from October 1st. 

The rules will apply until April 7th next year. We have a short round up of some of the bigger changes below, but check out our key points article for more information. 

READ ALSO: Key points – Germany’s new Covid rules from October

Mask mandate changes

Under the new regulations, people travelling on long-distance trains in Germany will have to wear an FFP2 mask if they are over the age of 14. Children aged between six and 13, can wear a surgical mask.

A mask mandate is also in force nationwide in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. In nursing homes and clinics, a negative Covid test has to also be shown when visiting. 

Masks will no longer have to be worn, however, on flights to and from and within Germany. 

Further requirements, such as the obligation to wear masks in shops, restaurants or event rooms, can be imposed by the federal states – depending on the incidence of infection. Tests may be required in schools and daycare centres.

States are expected to continue with the mask mandate order on local public transport.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach holds an FFP2 mask

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach holds an FFP2 mask. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Covid safety plans at work – but no mandatory ‘home office’

Employers do not have to offer their staff the opportunity to work from home. But bosses should consider this, as well as regular Covid testing, as an option for employees as part of Covid safety plans. 

A draft law by Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD), which called for mandatory home office rule during the winter months to help with the Covid situation, was toned down after coalition partners, the FDP pushed for a change.

Vaccination status changes

There are changes coming up when it comes to what counts as being fully vaccinated in Germany. In general, people will need three jabs to be classed as fully vaccinated from October. 

Vaccination certificates issued after two shots will only be considered as proof of full vaccination until September 30th. Beginning October 1st, a booster jab (i.e., a 3rd vaccination) is generally required to be considered “fully vaccinated”. Alternatively, two vaccinations and proof of recovery from Covid-19 will also qualify. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status

However, keep in mind that there is no planned vaccination/test requirement to enter indoor public areas in Germany – previously known as the 3G or 2G rules.

If a German state government imposes a mask requirement indoors, then people simply need to wear a mask to enter indoor settings such as bars, restaurants, cultural and recreational venues. People who present a negative Covid test would be exempt from wearing a mask. However, regions can also choose to exempt the freshly vaccinated or recently recovered people from the mask requirement. In that case, people would have to show proof. However, not all states have to bring in this exception.

A person is considered recovered from the 29th day after detection of infection and for a maximum of 90 days. The ‘recovery’ proof can be provided by a PCR test.

Mini-jobbers can earn more

On October 1st, the upper earnings limit for people with so-called mini-jobs will rise from €450 to €520 per month. There will also be changes for employees in midi-jobs, who were previously allowed to earn between €450 and €1,300 per month: the limit will shift to between €520 and €1,600 from October.

READ ALSO: The rules in Germany around mini and midi jobs

A member of staff at a cafe in Stuttgart.

A member of staff at a cafe in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

Minimum wage boost

On October 1st, the statutory minimum wage in Germany will be raised to €12 per hour. It was raised to €10.45 at the beginning of July.

VAT on gas usage to be slashed

Energy prices are currently going through the roof. As a result, the German government has decided to reduce the VAT rate on gas consumption from 19 to 7 percent. The reduction in VAT was intended to offset the controversial gas levy – however, that levy is being shelved. 

READ ALSO:

Property tax deadline 

From 2025, a new property tax calculation will apply in Germany. For this to happen, almost 36 million properties in Germany are being revalued on the basis of information that owners submit.

That means people owning property in Germany have to submit a new declaration to the tax office based on values as of January 1st 2022. Owners have until October 31st of this year to send in updated information electronically via the Elster portal to the tax office.

Commercial tax programmes that offer an interface to Elster can also be used. People who do not have Internet access can also have the declaration prepared by relatives. In exceptional cases, a declaration in paper form is also possible by making a request at the tax office.

READ ALSO: The German property tax declaration owners need to know about

An aerial view of flats in Munich.

An aerial view of flats in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

An extra hour in bed

Don’t forget that the clocks go back this October. 

During the night from Saturday October 29th to Sunday October 30th, clocks in Germany will be set to winter time. At 3am the clock will go back one hour, to Central European Time (CET).

The good news is that we all get an extra hour of sleep (or partying). The bad news is that it’s going to get darker earlier in the evening. 

Driving test questions

People learning to drive in Germany will see a few changes. Starting October 1st, the questions for the theoretical driver’s license exam will change. New questions will be added, while older questions revised. In total, the test contains 52 questions.

No more WhatsApp for older iPhones

From October 24th, the messenger service WhatsApp will no longer be supported on Apple smartphones with an iOS operating system 10 and 11. Apple users must have at least iOS 12 installed from this date to continue using WhatsApp.

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in February 2023

From the end of Covid masks on trains to hiked up prices on beer, here's what's changing in Germany this February.

Everything that changes in Germany in February 2023

No more Covid masks on trains

It’s one of the few remaining Covid rules that still affects day-to-day life in Germany for most people – and it’s due to end on February 2nd. In January, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said he’d be ending the mask-wearing rule on long-distance trains and buses a couple of months sooner than planned.

The move follows announcements from numerous federal states that they would be dropping compulsory masks on local transport around the same time. From early February, people in Berlin, Brandenburg, Thuringia, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania and Saxony will no longer be obliged to bring an FFP2 mask with them when they take public transport.

Several other states – including Bavaria, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein – had already taken the same step in December and January.  

In Thuringia (February 3rd), Bremen, Lower Saxony (February 2nd) and Hamburg (February 1st), the obligation to isolate during a Covid infection will also be dropped.

READ ALSO:

End of pandemic worker safety measures

Alongside Covid masks on public transport, one of the Covid regulations still in place is the so-called Arbeitsschutzverordnung, or Work Protection Regulation. This obliges employers to implement a hygiene concept in the workplace – so things like hand sanitiser and adequate ventilation – as well as supporting workers who want to get vaccinated. 

That’s now due to end a couple of months early on February 2nd. In its place, there’ll be recommendations from the government on how best to protect workers from Covid.

The good news for employees is that they’ll still be able to get a doctors’ sick note over the phone if they need to take time off due to a respiratory infection. The special regulation permitting up to seven days’ ‘Krankschrieben’ over the phone has been extended until March 31st.

Short-term working will also continue if at least ten percent of the workforce is affected by the loss of work. This rule will stay in place until June 30th. 

Test requirement for Chinese visitors

At the start of January, the EU came to an agreement on travel restrictions for visitors from China, which is now being implemented in Germany. 

Any visitors arriving in Germany from China will require a negative Covid test to enter the country. There will also be randomised checks at the border for potential virus variants.

A Covid testing centre at Frankfurt am Main airport.

A Covid testing centre at Frankfurt am Main airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Though Germany eased its pandemic rules last year, there are fears that the current Covid wave in China could lead to new dangerous variants that could then become prevalent in Europe. In addition, China eased its own travel restrictions on January 8th, meaning tourists are likely to be visiting again and residents of China will also be travelling abroad. 

READ ALSO: Germany discourages non-essential travel to Covid-hit China

Major beer brand to hike up prices

The rise in prices has many of us reaching for a beer – but there’s a bit bad news on that front. Yes, the price of some popular beer brands is also set to go up.

To put it more accurately, most of the major breweries have already raised their wholesale prices to combat increased energy and logistics costs in the last few months. But one of the few still standing – NRW’S Warsteiner Group – has now announced a series of price hikes that will come into force in February.

Crates of Warsteiner beer

Crates of Warsteiner beer. Photo: pa/obs Warsteiner Brauerei | Hubertus Struchholz Fotografie

As reported by trade newspaper Getränke News, the price of bottled beer is set to rise by €6.80 per hectolitre, while the price of a barrel of draught beer will go up by €20. 

If costs are passed onto consumers (which seems likely), the following brands could be affected:

  • Warsteiner
  • Herford
  • Frankenheim
  • King Ludwig
  • Kaltenberg
  • Paderborn
  • Isenbeck

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much will grocery prices in Germany go up in 2023?

Over-16s allowed to vote in EU elections

In the next round of European elections, the voting age will be reduced from 18 to 16. The legislation for this will come into force in February.

Unfortunately for youngsters, they won’t be able to exercise their democratic rights straight away: the next round of EU parliamentary elections is scheduled in spring 2024, so it’ll be around a year before 16 and 17 year-olds can head to the polls. 

Hardship fund for pensioners

In what could come as a huge help to people struggling on low pensions, select groups of retirees will soon be able to apply for a special hardship fund. 

From February until September 30th, people affected by the cost of living crisis can apply for a special one-time grant of €2,500 from the Härtefallfonds – or Hardship Fund – Foundation. The fund is primarily aimed at Jewish refugees and late repatriates or people who lost a large part of their pension when East and West Germany were reunited, but others can also access it under certain conditions. For example:

  • Employees of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the Deutsche Post or in the health and social services sector
  • Carers of family members who have had to give up work 
  • Ethnic German immigrants (Spätaussiedler) 

States can also opt to join the Foundation and match the hardship fund provided, meaning pensioners in some states could receive up to €5,000 to assist them with their living costs. Eligible retirees can also submit an application via the Ministry for Work and Social Affairs

READ ALSO: How long do you have to work to receive a German pension?

Woman with wallet

A woman looks in her wallet while grocery shopping. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

Energy-saving lightbulbs with quicksilver discontinued

For around 15 years, quicksilver (or mercury) has been banned in pretty much all forms of electronic and electrical equipment – but there have been carve-outs for certain types of lightbulbs. That’s now due to change.

From February, companies in the EU will no longer be allowed to produce energy-saving lightbulbs using mercury. But don’t be surprised if you see one or two still being sold in the shops – apparently, existing stock can still be sold and purchased even though no new quicksilver lamps can be made.

New cars to come with new first aid kits

If you’re thinking of purchasing a brand new car from February, you should be aware that there are new rules on the types of first aid kit that have to be included.

From this month, the triangular first aid kit will be discontinued and sets included for drivers will have to include at least two face masks. In return, car companies can dispense with one of the first aid cloths that are normally included. 

This won’t affect older cars on the market, however, so there’ll be no retrofitting required. The legislation will only affect new cars that come on sale in February. 

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in 2023

More public drinking water fountains

It’s not quite the weather for dunking your face in an ice-cold water fountain, but this could certainly be welcome come spring and summer.

Under new EU Drinking Water Directive, member states are required to offer more drinking fountains in parks, shopping centres and other public spaces – so don’t be surprised if you see a few more of these springing up from February.

A public water fountain in a park in Hannover.

A public water fountain in a park in Hannover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

House crickets allowed in food 

We may all be consuming a few more insects this year. That’s because certain types of insects are being added to list of acceptable ingredients used in food in the European Union.

Back in 2021, the dried yellow mealworm became a regulated food product, and this has more recently been followed by the grain-mould beetle larvae and the domestic house cricket. The EU points out that many cultures around the world regularly consume insects and that they can be a sustainable and nutritious source of protein.

But if you’re keen to avoid them, never fear: the rules state that food companies have to state any use of insects clearly on their list of ingredients and also include allergen information for people who are allergic to crustaceans, molluscs, and house dust mites. 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article included a section on electronic sick notes coming into force in February. These were in fact introduced in January so we’ve removed this section and we’ll write a separate explainer on this topic. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

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