What does it mean for me, when my employer switches to short-time work (Kurzarbeit)?

When the spread of Coronavirus results in limitation or a total halt of the production process, the employers can apply for short-term work or "Kurzarbeit" at the Employment Agency. For employees, "short-time work" either means that their working hours are reduced, or they will have to stop working for the time altogether. The employees, however, remain employed and receive a part of their wages which is known as “Kurzarbeitergeld” or “short-time work benefits”. According to this scheme, the emplyees are paid 60 or (they have children) 67 per cent of their net salary for a period of up to twelve months.

If your working time is reduced by at least 50 per cent, your short-time work benefits will increase by time: After four months of collecting short-time allowance, its amount will rise to equal 70% (or 77%, if you have children) of your net salary. From the 7th month, you will receive 80% (or 87%, if you have children) of your net salary as "Kürzarbeitgeld". Such regulation currently applies until December 31, 2020.

The funds are paid by the Employment Agency in order to avoid redundancies at workplaces. Employers need to directly apply for short-term work- you can also find more information concerning short-time work and other new guidelines on the website of the Federal Employment Agency.

Please note: Receiving short-time work benefits will not negatively affect your prospect of residence In Germany. Your residence permit assumes that you are not allowed to receive any money from the state, but you are now receiving short-time work benefits? You do not need to worry. Your residence permit remains valid.

Can I take a part-time job during short-time work?

Yes. You can work on the side while receiving short-time work benefits. From May 1, 2020, if your earnings from your side-job and your short-time work benefits amount up to your previous income, your benefits will not be cut short because of your side job. Up until now, the additional earnings from a side job would have resulted in the reduction of short-time work benefits if you started the part-time job after you begin to receive short-time work benefits. According to the new regulation which currently applies until December 31, 2020, that no longer applies- so You can earn up to the amount of your previous income without affecting the amount of your short-time benefits.

If you do not have a valid work permit, ask the appropriate Immigration Office whether you can work part-time. Currently, you can only do so per phone or email.

For more information about part-time jobs, check our chapter "Labour Rights". You can also find out more about mini-jobs in our chapter "Mini-job".

Can subcontracted workers ("Leiarbeiter") also receive short-time work benefits?

Since the Corona crisis, subcontracted workers can also benefit from short-time work allowance. You can find out more about short-time work in the section "What does it mean if my company switches to short-time work?"

Please note: Subcontracted workers are also entitled to unemployment benefits. You can find out more about this in the section "What can I do if I am fired or earn little?".

Does short-time work also apply to those who are doing "Ausbildung"?

In principle, short-time work does not apply to trainees. The company must first think of other options, e.g. change the curriculum or move you to another department. Only when other options fail can short-time work be arranged for trainees. In that case, you will continue to receive your full training salary for at least six weeks. Only after these six weeks will you receive short-time work benefits. If the short-time allowance is not enough to live on, you can also apply for unemployment benefit II. To learn more check the section "What can I do if I am fired or earn little?".

If you need more comprehensive information about vocational training in times of Coronavirus, check ausbildung.de.

I am a student and lost my part-time job. Is there any help for me?

So far, there was no specific financial provision for students who have lost their jobs due to the corona pandemic. In principle, students cannot receive short-time work benefit or unemployment benefit. But due to the extraordinary situation in hand, an exception has been made. As of now:

  • Part-time students, i.e. students who previously were employed in a job (subject to social security contributions) for more than 20 hours per week, can receive short-time work benefits or unemployment benefits. 
  • Students who cannot receive BAföG and have now lost their income can apply for unemployment benefit at the Jobcentre. In principle, you have to apply for a leave semester, but you do not need to do so at the time being. However, you have to pay back the money you receive from the Jobcentre later. Please note: You cannot receive benefits from the Jobcentre if you reside in Germany with a student visa.

If you urgently need money:

  • Ask your student union. Many student unions have set up so-called hardship funds or loan funds to help students in financial need.
  • Students can receive a loan of 650 euros per month from KfW. You will have to pay the money back later, but there is no interest. Students with a student visa can apply for the loan from July 2020. To find out more check kfw.de.
  • Many companies are currently looking for additional employees. Ask food delivery services, supermarkets, petrol stations, etc. in your area if they have vacancies. Many farms are also looking for harvest aids. You can search for jobs in agriculture directly at www.daslandhilft.deYou can learn more about job opportunities for students in our chapter “Student Jobs”.

NOTE: If you came to Germany on a student visa, in principle, you are only allowed to work 120 full or 240 half days per year. Currently, however, such regulation does not apply, i.e. you can work more than 120 full days which is regularly permitted. But keep in mind that you need a work permit from the Immigration Office to do so. Check the website of the Immigration Office responsible or call them. You can find the proper Immigration Office at bamf.de.

Please note: Students who receive BAföG do not have to worry about extending their funding beyond the maximum funding period due to cancelled exams. Call your BAföG office and explain your problem to the staff.

You can find more information on the subject of corona and student life at studentenwerke.de.

What happens if I lose my job while living here on a work visa?

When your right of residence dependent on the continuation of your employment and you lose your job, you may have to leave the country. If that is not possible, you will be issued a "Duldung" or tolerated stay permit. You can learn more about this type of stay permit in our chapter "Duldung". Contact the Immigration Office responsible for you to find out more. You can find the proper Immigration Office at webgis.bamf.de.

What can I do if I am dismissed or earning little to no income?

If you earn little or no money, you are entitled to unemployment benefits under certain conditions. There are two different types of unemployment benefit: Unemployment benefit I and unemployment benefit II. You will only receive unemployment benefit I if you have had a job including compulsorily social insurance contributions in Germany for at least 12 months in the past 24 months, i.e. you have paid into unemployment insurance. You can apply for unemployment benefit I directly at the Employment Agency responsible for you. Your staff in charge will provide you with the necessary information in the event of dismissal. You can find out more about dismissal in our chapter "Termination of the Employment Contract".

To benefit from unemployment benefit II, on the other hand, you do not need to have paid unemployment insurance for 12 months. Unemployment benefit II (also called "Hartz 4" or "ALG 2") is basic substance income provided by the Jobcentre for applicants' livelihood, i.e. for food, clothing, hygiene, etc. A single adult currently receives 432 euros per month as unemployment benefit II. Depending on their ages, you will receive between 250 and 354 euro per month for your children. In addition, the rental costs -i.e. the net rent, additional costs and heating costs- are also taken over by the Jobcentre.

To benefit from unemployment benefit II, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be at least 15 years old.
  • You must not be retired yet. You can find out more in our chapter "Pensioners in Germany".
  • Your primary place of residence must be in Germany.
  • You must be ready to work, i.e. you should be, in principle, capable of working.
  • You must have little to no income.
  • You must be either a person entitled to asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection or have German citizenship or have citizenship of an EU country and had been working in Germany.

Please note: Asylum seekers and people with a tolerated stay ("Duldung") are granted asylum seeker benefits- they are not entitled to unemployment benefit II.

First of all, call the Jobcentre and register as unemployed or to apply for an additional benefit ("Aufstockung"). Informing Jobcentre per phone is crucial since you will receive benefits retrospectively from the time you register by telephone. Then visit www.arbeitsagentur.de, and enter your postcode to find the Jobcentre responsible for you. The rest you need to do online: On the website of the Jobcentre responsible for you, find and click on "Zum erstmal Antrag Arbeitslosengeld II (2)". Then click on "Antrag auf Arbeitslosengeld II (2)" to register. There you will find the "Application for unemployment benefit II (2)", which is the MAIN APPLICATION FORM you need to fill out. 

To clarify your income, you also have to fill in the "Anlage zur Einkommensbescheinigung," i.e. the appendix to the certificate of income, which you can find under "Arbeitslosengeld 2 - Anlagen zum Einkommen und Vermögen". If you are unemployed and have no income, you can enter "zero euro" as income. When you are employed, your employer has to fill out the "Income Certificate Form" ("Formular zur Einkommensbescheinigung "). 

If you are self-employed, fill out the form "Anlage zum Einkommen Selbständiger". You do NOT have to fill the "Anlage zum Vermögen" as of now. You need to send the filled out (main) application form and the certificate of income, to the Jobcentre per email. You can find the email address on the website of the Jobcentre responsible for you.

The Jobcentre will then process your application and contact you. They will also let you know if you need to fill out any additional forms. After you have sent all the necessary documents to the Jobcentre, you will be informed whether you entitled to receive ALG II.

Forms you find on Jobcentres' website are often not easy to understand. At kub-berlin.org, you will find the necessary application forms translated into many languages- use these forms to understand the German forms better. Please note, however, that you have to fill out and send the original German version to the Jobcentre.

Please note: The Jobcentre will not inquire about the size of your apartment or whether your rent is too high. They do not ask about the applicants' assets either. Such extraordinary regulation applies for six months.

Can I apply for extra money at Jobcentre due to the Corona crisis?

There are currently rumours going around regarding Jobcentre paying extra money (upon request) due to the Coronavirus crisis. Many have already applied for such, giving the preparation for domestic quarantine and the need for more food or a healthier diet as justification.

These requests are rejected. So far, the Jobcentre is NOT making such payments due to the Coronavirus crisis. However, you can request an advance of up to 100 euros. Then you will receive 100 euros less in the next month. You can also apply for a loan or credit from the Jobcentre but you have to pay back.  In fact, the Jobcentre deducts 10% of your unemployment benefit every month until the loan is paid off.

I receive benefits from the Jobcentre, but the authorisation will expire soon. How can I submit a new application?

If your unemployment benefits' payment ends between March 31 and August 31, 2020, you do not have to apply again as your application for further authorisation will be renewed automatically. Problems may still occur regarding April's payment: If you have not received any payment for April, you should call your Jobcentre and let them know.

Please note: If your situation changes because you, for instance, have found a job or have moved, you need to notify the Jobcentre per phone.

I am self-employed and have lost (part of) my income. What can I do?

Apply for Emergency aid (“Soforthilfe”):

To help the survival of small businesses, the self-employed and freelancers, the federal government has decided to provide a so-called "Soforthilfe" or emergency aid. If you an employer with up to 5 employees, you can receive up to 9,000 euro for three months. If you have more than ten employees, you can benefit from a one-off payment of up to 15,000 euro for three months. Using these funds, you can cover the running costs, e.g. rent and insurance. The crucial prerequisite is that your business must be in an economic emergency caused by the Coronavirus crisis. You do not have to return the funds. You need to apply to your state authorities to benefit from "Sofothilfe"- at fuer-gruender.de, you will find further locally-specific information regarding the emergency aid. 

 

Deferral of Social security contributions ("Stundung")

Companies with employees can apply for deferral of social security contributions for their employees, i.e. make the due contributions later without interest. To do this, an employer must send an application to the relevant health insurance company. On handwerksblatt.de, you will find the addresses of the largest health insurance companies in Germany and a sample application form.

Please note: The self-employed can also apply for unemployment benefit II at the Job Center (if they have little or no income)without losing their self-employed status. You can find out more in the section "What do I do if I am dismissed or earn little?".

 

Apply for Credit

Since April 15, companies with more than ten employees can apply for a so-called KfW immediate loan ("KfW-Schnellkredit"). It is not a grant, but a loan by which you can pay running costs and make essential purchases. In contrast to other loans, applying for KfW immediate loan is pretty straightforward. Meeting the formal requirements (mentioned below) suffices for you to qualify for this loan. The credit is 100% secured by the government, which means the banks face no risk- and you can receive the money swiftly.

To apply for this loan, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Your company has existed since at least January 2019.
  • You have at least ten employees.
  • You made a profit by your business in 2019 or (in case your company has existed for longer) on average from 2017 to 2019.
  • Your company must not have been in financial difficulties on December 31, 2019.

The maximum amount of money you can receive in the framework of "KfW-Schnellkredit" is 25% of your annual turnover from 2019. Companies with up to 50 employees get a maximum of 500,000 euros. Companies with more than 50 employees receive a maximum of 800,000 euros. The companies which receive the loan will have ten years to repay.

You can apply for the "KfW-Schnellkredit" directly at your bank or savings bank. You can learn more (in German) at kfw.de.

 

Apply for Tax Relief

If you are experiencing financial difficulties because of the Corona pandemic, you can have your tax prepayments ("Vorauszahlung") adjusted. You can also ask for more time to pay your tax liabilities (a.k.a "stunden"). Talk to your tax advisor about your options.

Please note: The self-employed can also apply for unemployment benefit II at the Job Center (if they have little or no income) without losing their self-employed status. You can find out more in the section "What do I do if I am dismissed or earn little?"

What types of support are available for families?

Compensation (Entschädigung)

Parents who are unable to work due to childcare, are entitled to a compensation under certain circumstances. Read more in section “Can I stay home to look after my child/children?”.

 

“Kinderzuschlag”

Families with low incomes can obtain a monthly child benefit ("Kinderzuschlag" or KiZ) of up to 185 euros per child. Whether one receives the KiZ and its amount depends on several factors - above all, your income, housing costs, the size of the family and the age of the children. For example, a family with two children and monthly rent (including heating) of 1,000 euro will be entitled to the KiZ if the total gross income of the household is around 1,600 to 3,300 euro. Anyone who receives a child benefit is also exempt from daycare fees and can apply for additional benefits for education and participation purposes.

The basis for calculating the amount of due child benefit used to be the applicant's average income over the past six months. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, however, the federal government has designated an emergency child support scheme ("Notfall-Kinderzuschlag") so support the families sustaining themselves on short-term allowances ("Kurzarbeit"). From April 2020, families can apply for the KiZ based on their income in the previous month rather than the last six months- such regulation is to apply until September 30, 2020. 

You can check whether you are entitled to child benefit with the KiZ guide of the Family Fund Office ("Familienkasse"). You can also apply online on the website of Employment Agency

 

Apply for Credit

Since April 15, companies with more than ten employees can apply for a so-called KfW immediate loan ("KfW-Schnellkredit"). It is not a grant, but a loan by which you can pay running costs and make essential purchases. In contrast to other loans, applying for KfW immediate loan is pretty straightforward. Meeting the formal requirements (mentioned below) suffices for you to qualify for this loan. The credit is 100% secured by the government, which means the banks face no risk- and you can receive the money swiftly.

To apply for this loan, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Your company has existed since at least January 2019.
  • You have at least ten employees.
  • You made a profit by your business in 2019 or (in case your company has existed for longer) on average from 2017 to 2019.
  • Your company must not have been in financial difficulties on December 31, 2019.

The maximum amount of money you can receive in the framework of "KfW-Schnellkredit" is 25% of your annual turnover from 2019. Companies with up to 50 employees get a maximum of 500,000 euros. Companies with more than 50 employees receive a maximum of 800,000 euros. The companies which receive the loan will have ten years to repay.

You can apply for the "KfW-Schnellkredit" directly at your bank or savings bank. You can learn more (in German) at kfw.de.

 

Apply for Tax Relief

If you are experiencing financial difficulties because of the Corona pandemic, you can have your tax prepayments ("Vorauszahlung") adjusted. You can also ask for more time to pay your tax liabilities (a.k.a "stunden"). Talk to your tax advisor about your options.

I cannot pay my rent. What shall I do?

If you cannot pay your rent due to the financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, your landlord is currently not allowed to remove you from the flat. The restriction applies until June 30, 2020. Let your landlord know that you cannot currently pay. The rent that is not paid now must be paid (with interest) at the latest within the next 24 months, i.e. by June 30, 2022. If you do not pay the rent by then, your landlord can demand you to evacuate. 

PLEASE NOTE: The same applies to rental business venues.

Does receiving benefits from the state put me at risk of losing my residence permit?

Some residence permits are issued when individuals prove their livelihood in Germany is going to be secured without any state benefits. That includes residence permits issued for students, trainees and skilled workers.

However, you can benefit from the following supports without jeopardizing your right of residence:

  • Short-time work allowance ("Kurzarbeitgeld")
  • unemployment benefit I
  • Child benefits (" Kinderzuschlag")
  • parental allowance 
  • BaföG
  • Vocational training allowance / BAB
  • Advance on maintenance ("Unterhaltsvorschuss")
  • Emergency aid for the self-employed ("Soforthilfe für Selbständige")
  • Housing benefit, if even without it, you are not entitled to Hartz IV or subsistence income ("Grundsicherung ") in old age and the event of reduced earning capacity.

However, if you qualify for the following state benefits, your right of residence is at risk:

  • Unemployment benefit II / HartzIV / benefits for subsistence according to SGB II
  • Basic security in old age and in the case of reduced earning capacity according to SGB XII
  • Help for living expenses according to SGB XII
  • Benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act
  • Benefits to ensure livelihood according to SGB VIII for inpatient youth welfare
  • Housing benefit, if it is the only reason you are not entitled to Hartz IV or subsistence income ("Grundsicherung ") in old age and the event of reduced earning capacity.

Please note: It does not matter whether you actually apply for and obtain the benefit. Being only theoretically entitled to it is sufficient to put your right of residence at risk. The Immigration Office can extend your residence permit despite your livelihood not being secured if your financial difficulty has to do with the Corona pandemic. But that is a decision for the proper Immigration Office to make.

I can no longer pay my bills. What shall I do?

If you are currently unable to pay your bills (e.g. electricity bill, gas bill, or insurance monthly payment), you need not worry- and just let the relevant company know. It is currently not allowed to cut electricity or gas due to unpaid bills. There will also be no reminder fees or alike. Such prohibition applies presently until June, which means from July on, you have to settle the bills from the previous months.

Similar regulations apply to loans: If you cannot pay the instalments in the next three months, let your bank know. You can pay what is due later.