The corona pandemic also has an impact on the world of work. Find out what employees and companies should consider and what assistance is offered.
If you have been diagnosed with an illness caused by infection with the novel coronavirus, your employer can request information about this in order to fulfil their employee welfare obligations and duty of care. However, please bear in mind that as a fundamental rule, employers may only ask questions about an employee’s health if there is a special justification for doing so. Here you can find further information. An official reporting obligation currently only applies to doctors. Doctors must notify the responsible health office if any of their patients is diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
The duty to work basically also covers business trips. Employees may not refuse to go on business trips only for fear of becoming infected. However, should your employer demand that you make a business trip to a place where the risk of infection has been officially rated as ‘elevated’, such as a quarantine area for which the Auswärtiges Amt (Federal Foreign Office) has issued an official travel warning (not to be confused with a mere travel advisory) owing to the infection risk, you may refuse to go on the business trip (section 275 (3) German Civil Code).
The current travel restrictions also have implications for business trips. Should business trips be conducted nonetheless, care should be taken to observe the recommendations on hygiene (keeping the required distance, coughing and sneezing etiquette, hand washing).
There is no generally applicable right to stay away from work during the coronavirus epidemic. Employees can speak with their employer about the possibility of working from home (home office). Further information can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and here.
Employers and employees should always try to talk to each other in this situation in order to find a solution. Information is also available from the website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
If an employer has justifiably introduced short-time work, the situation is somewhat different from that discussed for the question “Am I entitled to continue to be paid if my workplace experiences temporary disruption or is temporarily closed?”. If short-time work results in a loss of working time and pay – for example, because the coronavirus causes supply bottlenecks which mean the company is unable to operate at full capacity or at all, or because the business is ordered by the authorities to stop operating – the employees affected may be entitled to receive the short-time allowance (Kurzarbeitergeld).
The short-time allowance can be granted for up to twelve months. Short-time allowance is paid at the same level as unemployment benefit and compensates for 67 or 60 per cent of the net pay lost as a result of the short-time work. The local Employment Agency examines whether the conditions for granting the short-time allowance are met on a case-by-case basis. Information for employees and Information on short-time work pay for companies.
As marginally employed persons (‘450 euro’ or ‘minijob’ workers) are exempt from unemployment insurance, it is not possible to apply for short-time allowance on their behalf. The simplified conditions for claiming short-time allowance only apply where there is a basic entitlement to short-time allowance.
With regard to cross-border workers from Germany who work in a neighbouring country, the labour law of that country usually applies. The entitlement to benefits such as daily sickness benefits (Krankentagegeld) and the short-time allowance (Kurzarbeitergeld) is based on the law of the competent Member State, i.e. the country by whose social security system the workers are currently covered. Cross-border workers who work in Germany can receive the short-time allowance in the event of a cut in working hours at the German company where they work. Temporarily working from home because of the coronavirus epidemic does not change which country’s law applies to you in terms of social security. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) has compiled further information.
It is only possible to cross the borders to Austria, France, Luxembourg, Denmark and Switzerland at specific points. Seasonal workers as well as harvesters from third countries, Great Britain and EU States that have not yet fully implemented the Schengen acquis are subject to entry restrictions. Arrivals from Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia are still possible. Information on the exceptions to entry restrictions for seasonal workers can be found here: https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/pressemitteilungen/DE/2020/04/erntehelfer.html and on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior: https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/faqs/DE/themen/bevoelkerungsschutz/coronavirus/coronavirus-faqs.html.
Persons who are incapacitated by COVID-19 and who are thus unable to work are entitled to continued pay in the event of illness for a period of six weeks. After this period expires, people with statutory health insurance are generally entitled to sickness benefit. Here you can find further information here.
The basic rule is that every employee must notify his employer immediately (for example by telephone) of the incapacity to work and its probable duration. If the incapacity to work lasts longer than 3 calendar days, the employee must submit a medical certificate of incapacity to work to the employer no later than the following working day. The special regulation, according to which persons with a slight respiratory illness can have an medical certificate of incapacity to work issued for a maximum of 14 days after consulting a doctor by telephone, has been abolished with effect from 20.04.2020. A certificate of incapacity to work may again only be issued during a personal visit to a doctor's practice.
No. The special provision to acquire a doctor’s certificate of incapacity for work via telephone was rescinded in May. From June 2020, a doctor’s certificate of incapacity for work will once more solely be provided upon personally visiting the doctor’s practice.
If your quarantine was imposed by an authority (for instance the local health office), your employer will continue to pay your salary. Your employer will then be entitled to reimbursement, from the Federal Land, of the sums used for the continued payment of wages. Should, contrary to expectations, your employer does not pay, you are entitled to compensation from the competent authority (according to § 56 of the Protection against Infection Act IfSG). In the first six weeks, this compensation will correspond to your net salary - after that to the amount of sick pay. Please talk to your employer if you self-quarantine at home voluntarily out of an abundance of caution.
There is no statutory right to work from home. However, employees can do so if their employer agrees. The possibility of being able to work from home can also arise from the provisions of a works agreement or a collective wage agreement (see https://www.bmas.de/DE/Schwerpunkte/Informationen-Corona/corona-virus-arbeitsrechtliche-auswirkungen.html)
Since there is no statutory right to work from home, what counts is what you agree with your employer. The personnel department of your company has a major role to play in this decision and we would suggest that you get in touch with it. Workplace-level agreements or collective agreements are also likely to include detailed information.
Employers are requested to enable their employees to work from home where possible. This is meant to reduce social contact and slow down the expansion of the novel coronavirus. Please follow your employer’s instructions.
Small businesses and self-employed sole traders can apply for emergency assistance. Information on how to apply for emergency assistance is available here.
An overview of the assistance for businesses can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
According to the Safety and Health at Work Act (Arbeitsschutzgesetz), the employer is basically required to assess the risks to the safety and health of their staff at the workplace (known as risk assessment) and to define measures to address them. This also applies in the current situation caused by the novel coronavirus. Talk to your employer about concrete protective measures, such as comprehensive rules on hygiene.
Studies indicate that the novel coronavirus can also be transmitted through aerosols. Aerosols are droplet nuclei, smaller than five micrometres in size, which are expelled even when speaking normally, but more so when singing or laughing and speaking loudly. These droplet nuclei can remain suspended in the air over longer periods of time and may potentially transmit viruses. Rooms containing several people should therefore be ventilated regularly. A “community mask” can also offer added protection.
In a situation such as the coronavirus epidemic, employers may consider ordering workers to work overtime. Check the provisions of your employment contract to be sure of your position. A joint discussion often goes a long way to finding constructive arrangements. Further information can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
Please refer anyone with a suspected infection to their local public health office. If no doctor has been consulted, pharmacists are also required to report suspected cases.
Customers should be instructed to keep a distance of 1.5 metres from each other and from supermarket staff. Floor markings and signs are helpful for this purpose. Both customers and staff should observe the coughing and sneezing etiquette and practice good hand hygiene.
Supermarket staff can wear gloves, but they must still practice good hand hygiene. Many supermarkets ask customers to pay with direct debit or credit cards. By maintaining the minimum distance of 1.5 metres to others and by following the coughing and sneezing etiquette, customers and check-out staff can be protected.
Anyone showing signs of an infection should stay at home and contact the responsible authorities.
The Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) has put together information on the labour law implications arising from the coronavirus epidemic here.
As soon as a university offers online lectures, students must attend them in order to meet the requirements for student grants and loans. For more information, see here.
Yes, if schools and universities are closed due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Bafög recipients continue to receive their payments. The period in which universities remain closed is classed as lecture-free time. As soon as a university offers online lectures, students must participate and attend those lectures in order to meet the requirements for Bafög.
If exams are cancelled due to university closures and the standard period of study is exceeded as a result, Bafög payments will continue to be paid in the large majority of cases. It is not yet clear how long universities will need to restrict their operations on account of the novel coronavirus. Some universities have postponed the start of the semester. An overview of the current situation is provided by the National Union of Students in Germany (fzs). Further information is also available on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
If you receive Bafög, you are not entitled to receive unemployment benefit. If you are unemployed as a result of the current situation and do not receive Bafög, you can apply for unemployment benefit. Here you can find further information.