Certificate of incapacity for work: sick leave by telephone is possible again

Under certain conditions, patients will now be able to receive illness notice from their medical practice by telephone. The regulation applies immediately, as announced by the Berlin-based Joint Federal Commission of Doctors, Health Insurance Funds and Clinics.

According to the information, the regulation applies to patients known to the medical practice concerned and who do not have serious symptoms. The prerequisite is that video consultations are not possible. Doctors can then issue a certificate of incapacity for work for a maximum period of five days.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) sees the new regulation as an “important relief for employees, employers and doctors”. “This is particularly important in times of infection like this,” said the SPD politician. From his ministry’s point of view, the new regulations will reduce bureaucracy. This should also avoid unnecessary visits to the doctor.

Such special regulations already existed during the coronavirus pandemic. It had been extended several times but expired in the spring. With the new resolution, this regulation will now be permanently anchored. During the summer, the Federal Joint Commission was commissioned by the traffic light coalition to define the relevant regulations.

General practitioners see little risk of abuse

The aim of telephone sick leave is to relieve the pressure on practice teams and reduce the risk of infection in waiting rooms. The General Practitioners Association welcomed the decision. Doctors’ practices are working “on the limit” due to the current wave of colds and corona, said association president Markus Beier. The possibility of taking sick leave by telephone facilitates practice processes.

Beier emphasized that doctors have always demanded that this option be open only to “known” patients. He therefore considers that the risk of abuse is low. It is also clear that this is only used for milder illnesses, for example when “the nose is running and the head is a little squeezed.” In practice, according to Beier, this would work in such a way that someone would call the front desk and then be called back by the doctor for clarification.

“Industrial peace in companies is strongly called into question”

If symptoms are more serious, patients should of course continue to come to the office, Beier emphasized. “We need time for the seriously ill,” warns the head of the association.

However, on the employer side, there were and still are concerns about the now permanent regulations. The general director of the employers’ association BDA, Steffen Kampeter, sees this as a measure which “significantly jeopardizes” industrial peace in companies, as he told Deutschlandfunk.

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