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What You Now Need to Know About COVID-19 – Part II: An Overview of the Most Important Legislative Changes to Labour Law

The Corona crisis has us all firmly in its grip, both personally and professionally. And community and solidarity are the best way forward, the German Federal Government has also recognised this. New laws and regulations are passed almost daily in order to mitigate the economic downturn as much as possible.

Businesses must keep up-to-date regularly with new obligations and new relief options. We have collected answers to the most important questions on changes to labour law.

 

Applying for Short-time Work Allowance (STWA)

In order to support businesses during the Corona crisis, the German Federal Government has approved an extensive bail-out package, which includes simplified application requirements for STWA. These requirements were already part of the " Work of Tomorrow Act" proposed by Labour Minister Hubertus Heil at the beginning of February before the crisis.

According to these revised regulations, those businesses are entitled to STWA where at least 10% of the employees have to accept a loss of earnings of more than 10%. This STWA can then be accessed for 12 months. It should be noted that temporary workers are also entitled to STWA.

 

Dealing with Employees in Quarantine

A possible quarantine raises far-reaching questions about leave of absence, paid leave and continuation of wage payments. Employers have different obligations depending on the situation:

  • If an employee or a member of his household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is therefore in domestic quarantine, this is considered an illness and an incapacity to work. In this case, therefore, the usual continued payment of wages in case of illness applies.
  • If the quarantine was ordered because the employee is suspected to have had contact with a person who tested positive or the employee has been to a high-risk area, there is no incapacity to work under the Infection Protection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz IfSG). The employee is required to continue working from home if possible, based on the duty of good faith towards the employer. If this is not possible, the employee will receive compensation amounting to 100% of the salary for a maximum of 6 weeks, which will be paid by the state authority ordering the quarantine. However, the employer should pay in advance for this.

 

Setting up Home Office

In principle, employees have no right to a home office; however, this principle is irrelevant during the Corona crisis. If employees are quarantined on suspicion or the business is temporarily closed down by the legislator, it is recommended to switch to working from home.

There are some basic rules to be observed when setting up home office workstations:

  • Employees should have a secure connection to the business via internet and/or telephone.
  • Optimally, the office extensions of individual employees should be forwarded to their mobile devices, but never to private lines. Even though data protection concerns currently seem to take a back seat, necessary measures must first be taken before private lines can be used.
  • The employee should be provided with a company computer to carry out their work. If required to perform the tasks, the computer must be equipped with remote access via VPN. Furthermore, sufficient security software (virus scanner, firewall, etc.) is obligatory.

In addition to these technical rules, employers should also coordinate on the new conditions in terms of content and, not least, human factors. Even if you work from home due to a mere contact restriction, the circumstances are new and unfamiliar. If children have to be cared for at home or there is even a suspicion of infection, the situation changes even more. So, employers should proactively identify expectations. It is furthermore important to stay in contact with colleagues and to establish a structured (working) routine. Employers can also help here.

Finally, it is also necessary to create framework conditions in terms of labour and data protection law – we are happy to assist you with this.

 

Conclusion

All these legislative changes are becoming more and more detailed. Legislators are showing themselves to be flexible and eager to act – which is a good thing in light of the unpredictable situation. But this is why the regulations are still subject to frequent changes and are not uniform in all German states.

Contact us to find out how you and your business can best master this challenge and how you should manage your employees now. We are happy to assist you in preparing the necessary documents (e.g. home office guidelines) or advise you, for example, on any issues relating to labour law.

Just send us an email to clarius@clarius.legal or call us at +49 40 257 660 900.