Medical certificates may not be ordered online

A recent decision of the Hamburg Regional Court (LG Hamburg 3.9.2019 – 406 HK O 56/19) has ruled that issuing medical certificates of incapacity by remote diagnosis is a violation of medical diligence. This means that employees will not be able to apply online for a medical certificate confirming their inability to work (as previously discussed in our blog article, Facilitating HR Management: Electronic medical certificates on 23rd September 2019).

According to the Professional Code of Conduct for Physicians, doctors must proceed with the necessary care when issuing medical reports and certificates and express their medical evaluation to the best of their knowledge. The Court confirmed that the severity of an illness and its influence on a person’s ability to perform a certain task in their employment cannot be reliably assessed by consultation with the patient by telephone or video call, but only by direct personal or physical examination. It is therefore inadmissible to issue medical certificates of incapacity without an in person consultation, even in the case of minor illnesses such as colds.

Implementation for electronic medical certificates

Further to our previous blog article, the electronic procedure for the submission of medical certificates of incapacity by doctors to health insurance funds is due to take effect from 1st January 2022, pursuant to the Third Bureaucracy Relief Act published on 28th November 2019. This procedure replaces the employee’s duty to submit a medical certificate to their employer, as employers will now be able to receive this information directly from the employee’s health insurance database.  This change was in response to the fact that manual transmission and processing of certificates of incapacity in paper form is no longer regarded as up-to-date, and should be replaced by more efficient digital communication channels. As compared to the original bill (which proposed an implementation date of 1st January 2021), employers will have an additional  year to take appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure they are ready to implement the electronic procedure.

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