The 3-day strike will affect regional and long-distance trains all over the country/Photo: Femi Awoniyi

Germany: New laws and regulations in April

Like at the beginning of every month, new legal changes enter into effect in April 2021, affecting, for example, income support for self-employed persons, short-time work benefits, driving licence and minimum wage for care workers, among others.
Here’s what you should know:

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Simplified access to basic income support extended
Due to the ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government has extended simplified access to basic welfare schemes (Grundsicherung) until 31 December 2021. It was initially to expire on 31 March 2021.
The scheme primarily supports small entrepreneurs and solo self-employed persons who have experienced economic hardship due to the pandemic. According to the federal government, “the asset test will only be carried out to a limited extent”.

Application deadline for short-time work extended
Companies can continue to take advantage of the facilitated access to short-time work benefits (Kurzarbeit). The federal government has extended the application deadline by three months until 30 June 2021. Temporary workers also benefit under the scheme.
Previously, companies that reintroduced short-time work by 31 March or after a three-month interruption were granted facilitated access to short-time work.

Driving licence test only with automatic gear transmission
As from 1 April, drivers who take their driving test for driving licence class B in a car with automatic gear transmission will still be allowed to drive cars with manual transmission if they have also completed at least ten driving hours in a vehicle with manual gear.
In addition, a certificate of fitness to drive with a manual gearbox must be presented. This is issued when the candidate proves in a 15-minute test drive that he or she can also operate a car in driving licence class B with manual transmission.

Minimum wage for qualified care assistants
For the first time, a minimum wage for qualified nursing assistants has been set. After a one-year of training, they are entitled to a minimum wage of 12.50 euros (western states) or 12.20 euros (eastern states) from 1 April 2021. A uniform minimum wage of 13.20 euros will then apply from 1 April 2022.

More pay for public servants
Wages and salaries in the public sector are to be increased by 1.4 per cent, but at least by 50 euros, on 1 April 2021. A further increase of 1.8 per cent is planned for 1 April 2022. Trainees will receive 25 euros more.

Deutsche Bahn with new service number
From 1 April, the new central service number of Deutsche Bahn will be 030-2970 replacing the 0180 hotlines. Information on timetables and tickets, for example, will then be available at local call rates.

New limit for trans fats in food
The amount of industrially produced trans fats in foods intended for end consumers may not exceed two grams per 100 grams as from 2 April. Until now, this was regulated on a voluntary basis in Germany.
Trans fats are unsaturated fatty acids that are chemically altered. For example, in the production of margarine or in ready-made meals, when vegetable oil is industrially hardened to become greasy. Or when oil is heated very strongly or several times over a long period of time, for example in a deep fryer.
A number of scientific studies, including those by the European Food Safety Authority, emphasise that the intake of trans fatty acids should be as low as possible to avoid health risks. According to the German Nutrition Society, trans fats increase the likelihood of coronary heart disease. In addition, trans fats impair metabolism.

Femi Awoniyi

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