• Nursing Relatives: New Leave Entitlement
  • November 2, 2008
  • Law Firm: Faegre & Benson LLP - Minneapolis Office
  • Nursing relatives in need of care often demands a great deal of someone. A new law has been enacted in Germany that protects employees who require leave from work to care for relatives against hindrances from their employers.

    The Nursing Leave Act ("Pflegezeitgesetz") is a novelty in German law. As of 1 July 2008, employees have the right to claim time off in order to look after relatives in need of careā€”so-called "nursing leave." Relatives include not only members of the immediate family but also grandchildren, grandparents and parents-in-law. However, the new law only applies if the relatives are seriously dependent on care.

    An unexpected and urgent need for care entitles the employee to take up to 10 days off from work to make the necessary arrangements to care for the relative (short-term nursing leave). In these situations, the employee can take time off without the express consent of the employer. However, the employer must be informed "without undue delay." Upon request, a medical certificate must be submitted. While on nursing leave, the employee generally receives his normal salary. Employers can exclude this financial liability in an agreement with the employee.

    An employee who decides to care for a relative can also claim to be released from work for a period of up to six months (long-term nursing leave). The employer must be informed of this 10 days in advance. There is no obligation to pay the employee during this time. Small businesses with fewer than 15 employees do not have to grant long-term nursing leave.

    An important provision of the law is the protection against termination. Employees requesting nursing leave can only be terminated in exceptional cases. This requires the consent of the competent public authorities.