What parents need to know now: More days of childhood illness – but not for everyone

Working parents are under particular pressure in the pandemic. Schools and daycare centers are closed in many places, the children at home. At the same time, everyday work should continue. Where that doesn’t work, additional days of childhood illness should bring relief. In the morning, the Bundestag decided to expand the existing regulation accordingly. But the law is not yet in force – and there are loopholes. ntv.de clarifies the most important questions.

Who is eligible?

Child sickness benefits can only be applied for by legally insured, working parents. The regulation does not apply to privately insured persons and also not to legally insured persons whose children are privately insured. Parents of children up to the age of 12 or, in the case of children with disabilities, up to the age of 18 are entitled.

How many childhood illness days will there be in 2021?

The number of childhood illness days per parent and child has been doubled from 10 to 20 for the current year, and from 20 to 40 for single parents. Couples and single parents with two children can apply for a maximum of 80 days. If there are more children, the entitlement increases to a maximum of 90 days per parent couple or single parent.

When can the childhood illness days be taken?

The entire number of days can be used not only in closed schools and daycare centers, but also if only the presence requirement is suspended or access to the daycare center has been restricted. According to the draft law, this also applies if parents have been officially recommended not to bring their children to school or daycare – i.e. also in federal states such as Hesse or Brandenburg, in which the care facilities remain open. In addition, parents who could theoretically work in the home office can also apply for child sickness benefit. However, there must be no other person in the household who can look after the child.

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Can I work in the home office and still receive child sickness benefit?

No. Those who work in the home office have no claim to compensation – because they receive their regular wages. In this case there is also no entitlement to child sickness benefit. The reason for the concession that parents should also be able to work from home was the insight that working from home and childcare cannot be managed at the same time. In addition, if you receive child sickness benefit, you cannot also apply for compensation claims via the Infection Protection Act.

Can I take the childhood illness days from now on?

This is not yet completely legally secure. Although the Bundestag passed the regulation today, the Bundesrat is not planning a special session until January 18, in which the law will be discussed and passed again. It can then come into force at the earliest. “If parents already take advantage of the planned new regulation, then they have to trust the word of the responsible politicians in the governing coalition that the legal situation will actually be adjusted retrospectively,” says the Munich constitutional expert Walther Michl when asked by ntv.de. “As long as there is no political controversy about this point – and I don’t see that, it is relatively harmless.” Once signed, the law will apply retrospectively from January 5, 2021. Children’s sick days can then also be requested retrospectively.

How should the need be proven?

If the child is sick, the pediatrician usually has to certify the need for care. According to the draft law, this is no longer necessary. Parents only need a certificate from the daycare center or school that the child should be cared for at home due to closure or suspension of attendance. Nobody has to fool the pediatrician into an alleged illness.

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Where do I have to apply for children’s sick days?

With the statutory health insurance.

How much is the reimbursement?

The health insurance company reimburses 90 percent of net earnings. But there is a statutory maximum amount – this year it is 112.88 euros per day. Contributions for pension, long-term care and unemployment insurance are still deducted from this amount.

Do I get the money right away?

No. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, child sickness benefits can be applied for as soon as the loss of earnings is certain. However, the payment will only be made by the health insurances once the employer has billed for the month in question. Because only then would the health insurance companies have the data they need to calculate the reimbursement amount,

Why are privately insured not entitled?

Most private health insurers do not offer any regulation analogous to children’s sickness days at statutory health insurers – with the exception of Signal Iduna or Arag. The approach of using such a regulation as a basis for expanding claims in the wake of the pandemic is therefore not effective. Both the SPD and the Association of Private Health Insurance (PKV) refer to the Infection Protection Act, which provides for compensation in the event of loss of earnings for all employed persons. Parents who look after them together receive compensation for up to ten weeks, single parents up to 20 weeks. Self-employed people can apply for this for the full period. You will then receive 67 percent of the loss of earnings – but a maximum of 2016 euros per month.

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What will it all cost?

Nobody really knows. When asked by ntv.de, the Ministry of Health points out that the amount of the costs depends on how many parents will apply for child sickness benefits during the lockdown. Originally, a sum of 500 to 700 million euros was expected, but the draft law now only mentions 300 million euros, which are paid by the federal government as a subsidy to the health fund. If the health insurance companies incur higher costs, these should be settled retrospectively by July 2022.

Will that be enough?

The German Trade Union Federation (DGB) is already expressing doubts about this – and warns that the statutory health insurance companies could increase their contributions because they may have to make massive advance payments by 2022. “Even today, the statutory health insurances are recording enormous financial deficits due to the pandemic,” said DGB boss Reiner Hoffmann to the “editorial network Germany”. “The legislature digs deep into the pockets of the contributors without reimbursing the costs directly.”

Is there any other criticism?

Indeed. The PKV in particular complains that the compensation of parents who make a special sacrifice in the pandemic is a “nationwide service” and must therefore be regulated by the Infection Protection Act. Only that is fair, because then “all families would have the same entitlement”. The statutory health insurances also criticize that the “payment of children’s sickness benefits for the care of healthy children in the long term cannot be the responsibility of statutory health insurances”.

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