Social Security Contributions

Information about social security contributions and entitlements in Germany...

Employees

As an employee, contributions are compulsory for all employment other than temporary work (for example less than two months or fewer than 50 days of work). Workers must choose their health insurance fund (Krankenkasse) from a list of accredited organisations and are then registered with the chosen fund by their employers. Some of the major health insurance funds are:

  • AOK (Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse)
  • BKK (Betriebskrankenkasse):
  • TKK (Techniker Krankenkasse)
  • DAK (Deutsche Angestellten-Krankenkasse)

The funds also deal with registration in the healthcare, pension, unemployment and care schemes and provide employees with a social security number and a social security insurance document (Angestelltenversicherungnachweisheft). There may be a minimum 18 month enrolment period in an insurance fund before being able to switch to another fund.

In addition, employers are responsible for registering their workers with the relevant occupational health agency (Berufsgenossenschaft) for accident insurance.

The employer deducts the relevant contributions from the gross monthly salary and pays them into the worker's health insurance fund. Employers pay an equivalent amount into the fund. Earnings limits and contribution rates for social insurance (including health insurance) are set each year by the German parliament (Bundestag).

Workers are exempt from pension contributions if they work less than 15 hours a week or are working on short-term contracts.

Self-employed

Not all self-employed people are able to join the state social security system. Self-employed artists, journalists and members of the publishing profession whose income exceeds a certain level need to deal with the Artists' Social Fund (Künstlersozialkasse). Other self-employed workers may opt in to the state schemes voluntarily.

A self-employed worker who works primarily on a long-term basis for one major client or employer must also pay pension fund contributions.

New business start-ups may be exempt from contributions for up to three years.

International citizens

EU and EEA citizens: Agreements are in place between the EU and the European Economic Area member states to ensure that social security entitlements are retained and transferable between countries. On leaving their countries, EU workers should obtain the relevant forms from their own social security authorities to ensure they obtain social benefits swiftly when they get to Germany.

USA, Canada, Australia: These countries have social security agreements with Germany allowing their citizens to make claims for benefits during the time they worked in both nations. Workers from these countries may be exempt from paying pension contributions. Their employer should file an application with the chosen Krankenkasse. This application has to be accompanied by a certification that the worker is covered by the social security system of their country.