The social protection in Germany is carried out through the individual branches of the social insurance: statutory medical, healthcare, pension, unemployment and accident insurance. The legal basis is provided by the Social Security Code (Sozialgesetzbuch) and the specific Acts.
The Social Security Code:
Entry into the social security system is via the medical insurance scheme. In Germany, statutory sickness insurance and private medical insurance exist side by side. Statutory medical insurance funds are obliged to accept all applicants, whereas private insurers may also turn them down. It is not always possible to switch between a private and a statutory medical insurance scheme. Self-employed people can choose between voluntary, statutory or private medical insurance. The healthcare reform of 1 January 2009 made insurance compulsory for all residents in Germany.
Employees are insured by statutory accident insurance against accidents at work and occupational illnesses; the providers of statutory accident insurance are the industrial and agricultural employers’ liability insurance associations (Berufsgenossenschaften) and public-sector accident insurance providers. The members of the employers’ liability insurance associations are the companies themselves. Employees themselves are required to help prevent accidents.
The ‘General Equal Treatment Act’ outlaws discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief system, disability, age or sexual identity.
Health and safety at work
The Labour Protection Act [Arbeitsschutzgesetz] of 21 August 1996, which is the main basis for occupational health and safety in Germany, obliges the employer to provide a suitable labour protection organisation and to carry out a risk assessment, i.e. to assess the working conditions in the company from the point of view of labour aspects. In addition to this national labour protection, there are also accident insurance providers in Germany (a ‘dual system’). According to § 14 of the seventh part of the Social Security Code (SGB VII), accident insurance providers have to use all appropriate means to prevent accidents at work, commuting accidents, occupational illnesses and work-related health risks. The protection of young workers is regulated by the Act Protecting Young People in Employment [Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz]. Rules on working hours are contained in the Working Time Act [Arbeitszeitgesetz].
When workers are posted to Germany, ‘The Employee Posting Act’ has to be applied. It obliges the employer to provide certain mandatory labour conditions for their employees for the duration of the secondment at the relevant place of employment in Germany. The Act requires both employers based in Germany and those based abroad to comply with certain legal provisions on working conditions. Working conditions agreed through collective agreements may additionally be laid down for certain industries listed in the Act and made binding by a declaration of their generally binding nature or a legal regulation. These must then be complied with by both employers based in Germany and those based abroad.
Mandatory social rules complete the requirements related to managing staff.
Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum social legal requirements at their own initiative.
Social security system
Employers are required to pay contributions for pension, medical, unemployment and care insurance for employees. The German pension fund [Deutsche Rentenversicherung] checks this every four years.
Employers must also enroll their staff on the medical insurance scheme; this in turn handles registration with unemployment and pension insurance schemes. Everyone insured for pension insurance receives a social security ID. In some branches the ID always has to be carried along (e.g. construction industry, catering industry). The employer has to advise the employee at the outset whether the social security ID has to be carried.
The various providers (pension insurance companies, sickness insurance and care schemes, and for Accident insurance are the industrial and agricultural employers’ liability insurance associations and public-sector accident insurance providers).
The Data Collection and Transmission Act of data for providers of social insurance determines the manner in which the data of employees relevant to social insurance are collected and sent to the appropriate insurers. It also contains regulations on the mandatory electronic procedure on employers reporting notices and their proof of contributions.