A person with a permanent occupational disability is permanently incapable of returning to work following an illness or injury
The German health insurance system draws a distinction between different types of unfitness for work, depending on the severity and likely duration of a person’s condition.
If, for example, a person breaks both arms in an accident or contracts a serious disease but is expected to make a full recovery in time, they are considered Arbeitsunfähig – temporarily unfit for work. If this happens, you can claim sick pay from your health insurance provider.
However, if a person suffers a more serious injury or contracts a more severe disease, such that they cannot reasonably be expected to resume at least 50% of their usual work duties within 6 months, they are considered Berufsunfähig – unfit for work for an extended or indefinite period. In some cases, this term also covers people who could theoretically perform a different job but would suffer significant financial losses in doing so.
In both cases, a doctor’s report will likely be required to confirm an individual’s unfitness for work.
Even if you suffer a permanent occupational disability, you will still have to cover standard costs such as rent and utility bills – and, if you have private health insurance, you will still have to pay your premiums. Taking out appropriate occupational disability insurance (Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung) is therefore vital.
It can sometimes take a while to determine whether a person has a permanent occupational disability. The process involves assessments by doctors and your insurance provider. If you choose private health insurance, your health insurance provider will usually pay out sick pay until you begin to receive benefits from your occupational disability insurance.