Corona: Labour law implications

This article is part of our continually updated corona resource center.

The spread of the corona virus also has considerable consequences under labour law for the employer and the employee.

Duty of care & home office

• Because of its duty of care towards employees, the employer must take measures - if necessary with the involvement of co-determination - to prevent infection at the workplace (e.g. disinfectants in the sanitary facilities; issuing instructions, such as washing hands regularly or not greeting employees with a handshake).
• If the employer fulfils his duty of care, the employee is generally obliged to attend work. Employer and employee can, however, of course agree to work in the home office by mutual consent.
• In the event of an infection, employees must report sick to their employer immediately and, due to the special situation, exceptionally also inform the employer of the nature of their illness. In the event of such an illness, employees are entitled to continued remuneration in accordance with the Continued Remuneration Act.
• In the event of corona virus illness in the company - or even if only a suspicion of this exists - the employer should contact the health authorities.
• Employees in officially ordered quarantine who are not ill are not entitled to continued remuneration in accordance with the Continued Remuneration Act. However, they receive a compensation payment from the state. The employer pays this, but is reimbursed by the health authorities. Under certain circumstances, they may also have a claim against the employer according to § 616 BGB.

Short-time work

The introduction of short-time working is also conceivable. In order to support employees and companies, the legal basis has been created in a fast-track procedure to simplify access to short-time work compensation. The Federal Cabinet has now also passed the corresponding ordinance. With retroactive effect from 1 March, simplified access rules apply: Under the new rules, the access threshold is already reached when only ten percent of employees are affected by loss of working hours. Previously, this had to be one third of the employees. It should be possible to completely or partially waive the accumulation of negative working time balances ("minus hours") prior to payment of the short-time working allowance. Current law requires that in companies where agreements on fluctuations in working hours are used, these are also used to avoid short-time work and run into minus hours. In addition, temporary workers can also receive short-time work compensation and the Federal Employment Agency will in future fully reimburse the social security contributions that employers normally have to pay for their employees. Further information that you should take into account when applying for short-time working benefits (KUG) can be found in our article on short-time working.

Closure of schools and kindergartens - Claims for compensation

Parents who cannot go to work and suffer financial losses due to school and kindergarten closures are to be compensated by the state with up to 2016 euros per month. The regulation is part of a comprehensive package of measures to cushion the consequences of the Corona crisis, which was launched by the Federal Cabinet on Monday. A corresponding compensation claim for loss of earnings in the event of official closures of schools and day-care centres is to be included in the Protection against Infection Act. According to the Federal Ministry of Labor, the compensation will be 67 percent of net income, with a maximum of 2016 euros per month. The prerequisite is that the affected persons are not able to find any other reasonable care. The receipt of short-time work benefits or other possibilities to stay away from work (e.g. reduction of time credits) shall exclude the claim for compensation. We will keep you informed about this.