As we enter the New Year, many new laws and regulations take effect in Germany. Some of them are very important changes, such as no more cell phone roaming charges in the EU, while others don’t make a big difference (for example, a modest minimum wage increase). Sola Jolaoso and Vivian Asamoah take us through the changes that we should know.
Increase of minimum wage
From 1 January 2017, the minimum wage in Europe’s biggest economy will increase by four per cent to 8.84 Euros per hour from the current 8.50 Euros. Germany’s minimum wage, according to law, is revisited every two years.
For comparison, the minimum wage in some neighbouring countries: France (€9.67), Luxembourg (€11.12), Poland (€2.55) and the Czech Republic (€2.15). Austria and Switzerland have no minimum wage laws.
Increase in basic tax-free income
As from 1 January 2016, there will be an increase in the minimum tax-free subsistence income. The basic subsistence income for single persons rises by 168 euros to 8,820 Euros; for married couples 17,640 Euros. This means that tax is deducted on an income only if it is more than these amounts. Moreover, tax deduction allowance for children will also be raised to 4,716 Euros.
Child support: Children of separated parents get more money
As from 1 January 2017, parents who are separated will pay more for the upkeep of their children.
– The minimum monthly support for children under the age of six increases from 335 to 342 Euros.
– Children from 7 to 12 years of age are now entitled to a support of 393 Euros per month instead of the current 384 Euros.
– From the age of 13 until they are 18, children will receive 460 Euros instead of 450.
– For a child who has come of age, the minimum claim is now 460 Euros instead of 450 Euros.
More generous Hartz IV
The welfare scheme known as Hartz IV (Hartz vier) offers a modest increase in benefits from 1 January 2017.
– Support for unmarried beneficiaries will increase from 404 to 409 Euros per month.
– The basic monthly support for children between 6 and 13 years will be increased by 21 Euros to 291 Euros.
– Children under six years continue to receive 237 Euros per month while youths from 13 to 18 years of age will receive 311 Euros.
New Restrictions for Temporary Agency Work
From 1 April 2017, several changes to the German Act on Temporary Agency Work (Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz – AÜG), which covers the regulation of temporary employment and work contracts, will enter into force.
The major, most important changes are:
– Temporary workers may only be posted to a client company for a period no longer than 18 consecutive months
– Temporary workers should also receive the same wages as the comparable permanent staff after nine months at a client company
– “Precautionary” permit will no longer protect job agencies and client companies from the consequences of illegal personnel leasing in case of bogus work and service contracts.
– Striking employees of the client company may no longer be replaced by temporary agency workers
New €50 bank note
A new €50 bank note will go into circulation as from 4 April 2017. The introduction of the new €50 banknote is to make it safer from counterfeiting. The old notes will still be a legal tender after introduction of the new notes but they will be graulally withdrawn from circulation.
The new orange €50 bank note has a number of new security features, including a secret window on its left side. When held against the light, it reveals a portrait of Europa, a figure from Greek mythology.
The bill’s design also includes features that “disappear” when viewed under infrared and ultraviolet lights, which should help cash handlers determine whether a banknote is authentic.
The €50 is the most widely used euro banknote, accounting for 45% of all euros in circulation. According to the central bank, there are more €50 notes in circulation than the €5, €10 and €20 put together.
Euros are used across the 19 countries of the euro area.
Roam like at home in the EU
As from 15 June 2017, consumers in Germany and other European Union member countries will be able to call, text and download data in another EU country for the same price they pay at home.
Under new rules, roaming costs will be eliminated for those travelling abroad for up to 90 days in one year, but not for a period longer than 30 days at a time.
The time limit is to ensure “fair use” of the system and prevent consumers from SIM shopping around the bloc to get cheaper deals, the European Commission says.
Mobile operators will monitor user data if they suspect customers are defrauding them, and will be allowed to apply a roaming “surcharge” to recoup any lost revenue.
Free WiFi on board ICE trains and at stations
After trialing free Wifi on some lines in 2016, Deutsche Bahn has now rolled it out nationwide.
With your WiFi-enabled device, you can access the internet at over 127 stations, in DB Lounges and on board ICE trains.
You can use the internet for free, but your data volume is limited if you’re in a second class coach. Deutsche Bahn offers you a basic internet service that allows you to network and communicate, send and receive e-mails, and stay up to date with Facebook, Twitter and the like.
Electricity bills go up
Hundreds of German electricity providers started raising their prices by an average of 3.5 percent, partially due to increased subsidies for renewable energy. The price hike is also due to higher costs of upkeep of things like power lines.
Those seeking further advice on providers and how to save electricity at home can call up the Federation of German Consumer Organizations at 0800 809 802 400. This can be done in English or German.
One More Public Holiday
For the first time ever, Reformation Day (31 October ) will be an official holiday all across Germany in 2017.
Currently the Protestant Reformationstag is a holiday only in the German states (Länder) of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen (Saxony), Sachsen-Anhalt (Saxony-Anhalt) and Thüringen (Thuringia).
Reformation Day commemorates the date when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg 500 years years ago. Because 2017 is also The Year of Luther (Das Lutherjahr), German lawmakers decided to make Reformation Day an official holiday all across Germany for that year. But it’s a one-off just for 2017. After the special nationwide observance on Tuesday, 31 October 2017, the holiday will return to being observed only in the five states mentioned above.
The African Courier wishes you a fulfilling New Year!