On 1 September, some changes to parental allowance (Elterngeld) come into force. The reform opens up more part-time options and is intended to increase the flexibility of parents/Photo: Screenshot/© BMFSFJ

Germany: New laws and regulations from September 2021

New laws and administrative regulations enter into effect in September. Among these are those affecting the national identity card, registration for unemployment, parental allowance, energy-saving lamps and a tool to help you make the right choice at the coming general election. The African Courier summarises what will be important for you to know.

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Identity card (Personalausweis) on the smartphone: Smart-eID

From September, the electronic identity card (e-ID) can be stored on the smartphone. You will then only need your mobile phone and the personal PIN for many official procedures; for example, to apply for parental allowance (Elterngeld) or Bafög.

The e-ID was introduced as far back as in 2010, but many people do not use it because it is quite cumbersome. With the smart eID, the online ID card is to become suitable for mass use.

However, an app and certain hardware are needed, which are not yet available on all devices, for the transfer of the e-ID to the mobile phone. In addition, the authorities in the individual federal states do not yet all offer the online functions. Moreover, the classic identity card in card form is still needed, among other things, for personal identity check by the police.

From 2022, the federal, state and local governments want to offer citizens all administrative services digitally.

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Registration for unemployment only in person

Due to the Corona pandemic, it was temporarily possible to register for unemployment by telephone or online. As from September, this will no longer be possible nationwide; those affected will have to go to the Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit) in person again. However, it is still possible to register as a jobseeker online, by telephone and in writing.

Moreover, on 10 September, the current version of the Corona Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (Corona-Arbeitsschutzverordnung), which requires employers to take certain measures to reduce contact in the workplace and to provide masks and corona tests, expires. However, it is still unclear whether the rules will be extended and/or amended for the autumn.

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Improvements in parental allowance (Elterngeld)

Good news for all parents of children born on or after 1 September 2021 as some changes in parental allowance regulations come into effect. The changes bring about numerous improvements in the administration of parental allowance. The aim of the improvements is to provide families with more freedom to organise their time and to further support the partnership-based division of working and family time between the two parents, the federal government says.

The changes are:

  • The working hours permitted during the period of parental allowance and parental leave will be increased from 30 to 32 hours per week.
  • The partnership bonus, which supports the parallel part-time work of both parents, can in future be drawn for 24 to 32 hours per week. Previously it was 25 to 30. This increases flexibility for parents and helps them to jointly secure the family income and, on the other hand, to better divide their time for the family through part-time work. For example, father and mother both want to work part-time in parallel and apply for the partnership bonus. They will each receive between 150 and 900 euros a month for up to four months – in addition to their salary and in addition to child benefit.
  • Parents of children born prematurely are to be given more support. Parents whose children are born at least six weeks before the expected date receive an additional month of parental allowance. In the case of a birth eight weeks before the due date, there are two additional months of parental allowance, at twelve weeks three months and at 16 weeks four months.
  • More simplifications and legal clarifications for beneficiaries of parental allowance.
  • The parental allowance for parents working part-time will no longer be reduced if they receive income replacement benefits such as short-time allowance or sick pay.

Detailed information on the changes in German on the website of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth HERE

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Ban on certain fluorescent tubes and energy-saving lamps

Due to an EU regulation on the tightening of energy efficiency requirements, certain high energy-consuming lamps may no longer be marketed as from September 2021. However, retailers may still sell what is still in stock.

The ban applies to compact fluorescent lamps (so-called energy-saving lamps) with built-in ballasts as well as to linear halogen lamps with R7s base > 2,700 lm (equivalent to about 140 watts) and low-voltage halogen lamps.

For the time being, neither private individuals nor companies need to remove and throw away all fluorescent lamps that have already been installed. However, as soon as they no longer function, they should be disposed of properly and replaced by more efficient products.

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New EU energy labels for lamps

To help consumers cut their energy bills and carbon footprint, a brand new version of the widely-recognised EU energy label will be applicable to lighting products from September.

Instead of confusing information such as “A++”, the new labels on lamps will then contain the classes A to G, without plus. Customers should then be able to tell at first glance whether they are buying an energy guzzler or an energy saver. From 1 September, the old and the new energy label will be visible in stores. The old label is to disappear entirely on 1 March 2023. 

A similar change to the energy efficiency labelling for electrical appliances, such as refrigerators, went into force in the EU on 1 March 2021.

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Wahl-O-Mat for the Bundestag elections is launched

On 2 September, the Wahl-O-Mat for the Bundestag elections will be published on the website of the Federal Agency for Civic Education. The interactive tool, Germany’s official voting advice application (it can also be downloaded as an app), is intended to help anyone who is still unsure who they should vote for on 26 September.

Using a series of questions, the Wahl-O-Mat works out the user’s political proximity to the political parties. Users can agree with 38 given theses, reject them or rate them as neutral. They can also indicate which of the issues are particularly important to them personally.

Since its inception 19 years ago, the Wahl-O-Mat’s main focus has been to mobilise younger voters with plenty of success.

To the Wahl-O-Mat at https://www.wahl-o-mat.de/ (note that the Wahl-O-Mat for the 2021 Bundestag elections will go online on 2 September).

Femi Awoniyi/African Courier Media

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