Accident insurance: reform urgently needed

Statutory accident insurance has long been in need of reform. Benefits must be returned to the original purpose of accident insurance, which is to relieve employers of liability to their employees. Employers pay billions for non-work-related damage.

Little noticed by the public, but also an important part of the social insurance system, is the statutory accident insurance scheme, which is financed solely by employers. With an average contribution rate of 1.14% and a levy of around €12.2 billion (2020) for the social accident insurance institutions, it also contributes to the overall contribution burden and the additional wage costs. Unlike the pension and health insurance systems, the statutory accident insurance system has never undergone any expenditure-reducing structural reforms since its introduction. Instead, over the decades, accident insurance has increasingly moved away from its initial objective: originally, statutory accident insurance was introduced to relieve employers of their civil liability towards their employees in the event of occupational accidents.
Today, however, accident insurance also provides many expensive benefits for which employers would not even be liable under civil law, e.g. for commuting accidents or widespread diseases such as back pain, which are compensated as occupational diseases.
In 2020, commuting accidents accounted for around a quarter of the costs for medical treatment and financial compensation borne by occupational accident insurance institutions.
Benefit legislation is in urgent need of reform
With the last major reform, the Accident Insurance Modernisation Act (UVMG) of 2008, the grand coalition reorganised the organisation and financing of statutory accident insurance. The much more important reform of benefit law, on the other hand, has failed. In view of the fact that the number of occupational accidents has been falling for some time now, it is only by reforming the law on benefits that the more than overdue reduction in the burden on companies' contributions can be achieved.
concentrate power law
Accident insurance benefits must be concentrated on covering company-specific risks. A necessary step in this direction would be to no longer insure accidents on the way to and from work via accident insurance. This is because the employer cannot influence the risk of a commuting accident. This general risk of life is covered by other branches of social insurance or private insurance (such as health insurance). And the employer could never be held liable for damages for such an accident.
The overprovision that exists in some cases as a result of the double payment of accident pensions and wages, and of accident pensions and old-age pensions, must also be corrected. Today's accident pension should be replaced by an earnings-related injury pension that precisely compensates for the specific reduction in income until retirement. In addition, the possibilities for settling accident pensions should be expanded.
The distinction between general health risks and occupational diseases must be made more clearly. The conditions for certain diseases to qualify as "occupational diseases" must be defined more precisely with regard to the distinction from common diseases (e.g. back problems) and also in connection with risks arising from personal behaviour.

Facts and figures

The liability shift is a basic idea of the statutory accident insurance. It means that employers do not have to fear claims for damages if their employees suffer an accident at work or on the way to work or fall ill with an occupational disease.

16. November 2020

Accident insurance