Whether at work or in your free time, many things in life can't be predicted. You can, however, protect yourself from the consequences of a variety of mishaps, accidents, property damage, and theft by obtaining statutory or private insurance.
The German social insurance system
Germany's system of social insurance is rooted in its laws as a nation. It is designed to protect German citizens from the financial effects of unemployment, advancing age, illness, and other potential risks to their livelihood. The five types of insurance described below constitute part of the German social insurance system, which means that everyone who lives here must have them.
Statutory health insurance covers the cost of doctor's visits and many types of medication and therapy.
Long-term care insurance
Statutory long-term care insurance provides basic protection should you become ill and require care for an extended period of time. In most cases, this applies to people of advanced age.
Statutory accident insurance covers the costs of medical treatment and occupational reintegration following a work-related accident or illness.
Germany's statutory retirement insurance fund provides pensions to people who have retired from professional life. The pension each person receives is based roughly on his or her previous income and the number of years he or she worked in the country.
Statutory unemployment insurance provides an income for a set period of time to those who are currently out of work, but have had unemployment insurance for at least one consecutive year over the past two years (in most cases) and are actively seeking employment. Meanwhile, Germany's Federal Employment Agency also provides advice and placement services to those looking for a new job.
All employees in Germany are required to have these forms of statutory social insurance. Employers pay one half of the corresponding contributions, while the other half is covered by employees themselves. Since the appropriate amounts will be automatically deducted from your salary, no action is necessary on your part. While the social insurance contributions you pay are generally based on your income, those required for health and retirement insurance are capped at a certain income threshold.
There are two exceptions: In the case of health insurance, employees pay a slightly greater share than their employers. On the other hand, employers cover the full cost of accident insurance.
Your contributions entitle you to benefits in the various areas covered by statutory social insurance.
It is important to note that employees who are sent to Germany from another EU nation by their employers are required to document the aspects of their employment in Germany that are relevant to the country's social insurance laws using form A 1 (also known as an EU posting certificate). With these certificates, which are issued by the foreign social insurance institutions responsible, employees dispatched to other countries can prove that they are subject to the social insurance laws of their home country and not those observed in Germany.
Social insurance number
Your employer will take care of your registration with the social insurance authorities. You will then receive a letter from the statutory retirement insurance fund containing your social insurance number. Be sure to keep it in a safe place, as you will be required to present it for a variety of purposes.
Along with the statutory insurance institutions, there are also many private insurance providers in Germany. The following presents a list of the most common forms of supplementary insurance. If you are uncertain as to what kind of insurance you might need, remember that you can always consult independent experts, including those at Baden-Württemberg's consumer information center.
Every insurance policy costs money, of course, so be sure that you know what you really need before obtaining one.
The most common forms of insurance include:
Liability insurance covers cases in which a person or his or her property suffers damages in which you, your home, or your landed property are involved. The manner in which such policies protect their holders against related risks differ from company to company; private liability insurance (for single-family homes) and special liability insurance for building and property owners (such as for apartment buildings) are often part of the coverage provided. Along with property damages, these policies also cover harm caused to people's health and livelihood.
Situations in which a person is injured by a falling roof tile or a decayed tree falls on and damages a neighboring property are some examples to which liability insurance would apply. It also covers you if you fail to clear off the sidewalk in front of your home during the winter and someone suffers an injury as a result, or if your underage child accidentally causes some form of damage to another person.
Household insurance provides compensation for damage to household objects that is caused by fire, severe weather, faulty water pipes, or explosions, as well as by break-ins, burglary, or vandalism. It covers all household items, such as furniture, carpeting, clothing, and appliances. Household insurance also includes cash, securities, stocks, and bonds up to a certain maximum value.
Please note that household insurance does not cover the property of subtenants. Many insurance contracts also include clauses that require you to exercise due diligence. If you turn on your stove and then leave your apartment, for example, your insurance provider may be under no obligation to compensate you for any resulting damages.
Occupational disability insurance
This is the most well-known form of disability insurance. You can also obtain occupational disability insurance as a supplement to a life insurance policy.
Generally speaking, occupational disability insurance involves a form of risk insurance you can acquire from a private insurance company. A policy of this kind pays out an agreed-upon monthly sum to the insured should he or she become unable to work in the profession in which he or she was employed upon taking out the policy.
Corresponding contracts can define the extent to which the insurance company in question is entitled to recommend that the insured pursue an occupation that puts less strain on his or her health.
Contracts can also specify the date on which a policy will expire (in most cases, this should coincide with the date on which the insured is scheduled to begin receiving retirement pay) and for how long the company is obligated to render occupational disability payments.
Life insurance policies pay out a particular sum to the beneficiary should the insured individual pass away or reach a certain age.
Life insurance can be divided into four main categories:
- Term life insurance
- Endowment insurance
- Unit-linked insurance
- Private retirement insurance
Term life insurance policies contain no savings component and come due only upon the death of the insured. As such, it is only suitable for securing the livelihood of the insured's survivors.
For more detailed information on life insurance, please visit the Service BW portal.
Vehicle (liability) insurance
As the owner of a motor vehicle, you are required by law to take out a vehicle liability insurance policy (regardless of who drives the vehicle). These policies cover both vehicle damage and injuries sustained by others. In Germany, using a motor vehicle on public roads without vehicle liability insurance is a criminal offense.
Whether you own a car or a motorcycle, you are obligated to take out motor vehicle insurance.
You can also obtain collision insurance for the event that your own vehicle sustains damage. Here, the industry differentiates between partial and comprehensive collision insurance. Partial collision insurance typically covers the following types of damage:
- Fire and explosions
- Storm, hail, lightning, and flood damage
- Collisions with certain animals (deer, for example)
- Glass breakage
- Wire damage following a short circuit
Comprehensive collision insurance, meanwhile, also covers all accidental damage -- including for accidents you cause -- and vandalism. A comprehensive policy is a particularly good idea if you purchase a new vehicle, as any losses you sustain would be especially severe.
At a glance
- Germany has an established system of social insurance that is based on a series of laws.
- Every registered citizen of Germany is required to have five forms of insurance: health, long-term care, accident, retirement, and unemployment insurance.
- There are also many different types of private insurance.