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COVID-19 and updates in German employment law

Germany Update March 2020

The rapid spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) within Europe and the beginning of the pandemic have led many of our clients to consider how employees and, if necessary, customers can be protected against any further spread of the infection and which employment law-related measures they should be taking.

We have summarised and answered the main questions in a table below. This table is intended as a guide for questions arising at short notice and represents the current legal opinion of our colleagues working in the field of German employment law. Please note, however, that the current legal assessments, in particular with regard to the reasonableness of measures such as home working or with regard to the rights to ask questions, may change as a result of further current developments and that the contents of the specific employment contract may also have to be taken into account, so that legal advice cannot be replaced by this guide. This also applies to other current topical issues, for example, in connection with childcare or the receipt of short-time work benefits.

Symbols: (+) = admissible; (-) = not permissible; (!) = must be observed; (-) need not to be observed


A COVID -19 infection has already occurred within the company or the company is located in a risk area

Company is not directly affected and is not located in a risk area

Co-determination rights of an existing works council to be observed

Does the employee have a right to refuse to work or is the employee entitled to work from home for fear of infection?

(-)

Exception:

Unreasonableness; especially for business trips to risk areas

(-)

Exception:

Unreasonableness; especially for business trips to risk areas

Co-determination: (-)

Home-Office: (!)
Can the employer unilaterally require the employee to work from home, even in the absence of a contractual agreement?
(+)
(-)
Co-determination(!)

Can the employer order temperature tests for employees?

(+) (-)
Co-determination(!)

Does the employer have the right to ask questions regarding an identified COVID-19 infection?

(-)
(-)
Co-determination(-)

Can the employer ask the employee to self-report if the employee has visited a risk area or shows symptoms such as fever, cough etc.?

(+)
(+)
Co-determination(!)

Can an employee be sent home (i.e. released from work) on suspicion of corona infection while continuing to pay his salary?

(+)
(+)
Co-determination(-)
Is the employer entitled to order hygiene measures?
(+)
(+)
Co-determination(!)

In the case of mere suspicion of COVID-19, is the employer entitled to disclose to employees or customers the name of the employee concerned in order to identify individuals who have come into contact with the employee?

(-)
(-)
Co-determination(-)

If COVID-19 infection has been detected, is the employer entitled to disclose the name of the affected employee to other employees or customers in order to identify individuals who have come into contact with the employee?

(+)
(+)
Co-determination(-)

Does the Infection Protection Act permit the authorities to order a closure of the plant?

(+)
(-)
Co-determination(-)


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