Coronavirus: Work

Update 18.10.2022

What do I need to know?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives, including our work conditions. In this chapter, you will learn which rules apply to workplaces and what your rights are.

You can learn about state aid for employees, students, the self-employed and families in our chapter Coronavirus: State Aids”.

What do I need to know?

Which regulations apply to workplaces?

Companies should work out some measures to reduce the spread of infection. They must therefore implement the current protective measures in the workplace. That means that for the most part, your employer independently determines which regulations are necessary for safeguarding employees' health and well-being.

For example, employers should decide whether you should be able to work from home, whether there is a safe distance between people in the workplace (also in break rooms) or whether wearing masks must be obligatory or whether 3-G rules apply.

Sometimes, protective measures are regulated in company or work agreements. In addition, employers can continue to enable their employees to work from home. However, there is no home office obligation.

If your employer ignores employees' safety and well-being, speak to the works council in your company or inform your local Health Office (“Gesunheitsamt”) . You can find your local Health Office via Behördenwegweiser.

Certain rules apply to employees in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes: They must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and continue to wear a medical mask at work. A test requirement can also be reintroduced for these jobs.

How can I protect myself at work?

You can protect yourself from a severe course of illness by getting fully vaccinated. You will find out more about the coronavirus vaccination in our “Corona vaccination” chapter.

Before you go to work, test yourself for coronavirus – by doing so, you reduce the risk of going to work sick and possibly infecting your colleagues. The federal government also recommends that you wear a mask if you work in a building or have a lot to do with other people. Wearing a mask can protect you and your colleagues.

Your employer does not have to provide you with free masks or coronavirus tests. But you can test yourself using rapid tests from supermarkets or drug stores. Or go to a test centre. Please note: since June 30, 2022, the citizen test is no longer free of charge. You can find out more about the coronavirus tests in our chapter "Cornavirus (COVID19)".

 

Is my employer allowed to ask about my vaccination status?

People working at daycare facilities, schools, hospitals and nursing homes have the obligation to inform employers about their vaccination status. 

The following applies to all other employees: If you have to go into quarantine, your employer can ask about your vaccination status because they have to determine whether you are entitled to continue to receive wages during your quarantine period or not. You can check out the section "Will I get paid if I'm quarantined?" for more information.

Is there a vaccination mandate for employees?

For employees of hospitals, nursing homes, medical practices and other facilities providing services to vulnerable people, vaccination against COVID-19 is mandatory. 

I got infected with Coronavirus at work. What should I do?

If you are infected with Corona at your workplace, the employer's liability insurance association or accident insurance company must be informed immediately. Your illness can only be recognised as an occupational accident or illness only if the employer's liability insurance association or the accident insurance company has been informed in due time. This is crucial because the medical treatment and financial support you receive for (recognised) accidents at work and occupational diseases is much better than what you will be provided by your statutory health insurance.

If you suspect that you got infected with Coronavirus at work, you should let your employer know. Your employer must then inform the trade association (“Berufsgenossenschaft ”) or (“Unfallkasse”) the accident insurance company. If your employer does not take this step, you can contact the company doctor or a “Durchgangsarzt”, i.e. doctors specialised in work accidents/illnesses. You can find the address of these doctors in your area from your professional association. Alternatively, you can report your illness yourself directly to the employer’s liability insurance association or accident insurance company. All you need to do is write an email or a letter with the following sentence to the responsible trade association or accident insurance company: „Ich beantrage die Anerkennung meiner während der Tätigkeit erworbenen Infektion mit Covid-19 als Berufskrankheit“  ("I apply for recognition of my infection with Covid-19 during work as an occupational disease".) You need to send this notification as soon as possible.

As soon as the report arrives at the employers' liability insurance association or the accident insurance company, they will check whether your illness can be recognised as an occupational accident or disease. In order to prove that you have become infected at work, you can, for example, prove that colleagues, customers or patients with whom you had been working are also infected with Coronavirus.

You can learn more (in German, Arabic, English, Turkish, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Polish and Romanian) on the website of verdi. If you need help with the notification letter/email, you can also contact your Works council or a counselling centre of "Faire Integration". To learn more, check out the section "Where can I find help and support?".

Can I stay home to look after my child/children?

Yes; you can stay home to look after your child. Currently (as of September 2022) there is a scheme through which you can receive money if you are looking after your child and cannot work.

Child sickness benefit (“Kinderkrankengeld”):

The child sickness benefit is usually for parents who are not able to work, as they have to take care of their child who has fallen ill at home. You can find out more about this in our chapter “Sick leave”.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, up until April 07, 2023, the following applies:

  • Parents can also receive child sickness benefits if the facility of their child (daycare, school etc.) is closed due to COVID-19, and they are thus forced to stay home to take care of their child.
  • You can get child sickness benefits if you or your child have statutory health insurance. Or if you are a civil servant.
  • Each parent is eligible for up to 30 days of child sickness benefits per child as of 2022. Single parents are eligible to receive up to 60 days of child sickness benefits. If there are several children, each parent can receive child sickness benefits for a maximum of 65 working days- and single parents for a maximum of 130 working days. These regulations apply throughout 2023.
  • Child sickness benefits amount to about 90% of your net income.
  • You may apply for child sickness benefits directly from your health insurance. To do so, you need a document from your child’s school or daycare in which the facility’s closure is confirmed. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs has put a sample online.

Please note: You will not receive Kinderkrankengeld  if you have a so-called “mini-job” or private health insurance. To find out more about health insurance in Germany, please read our chapter “Health Insurance”.

What happens if my employer sends me home, because I am ill?

An employer is obliged to send you home when you are sick. You will continue receiving wages while sick. You can learn more about missing work during illness in our chapter “Sick Leave”. If an employer decides to send fit and ready-to-work personnel home as a precautionary measure, he/she remains obliged to pay the wages. When that is the case, the employee does not have to make up for lost working hours.

Will I still receive wages during my self-isolation at home?

Self-isolation at home means that the responsible health authority orders you not to leave your home. This can happen when you are considered to put others at risk of infection- i.e. if you have had contact with an infected individual. The following rules apply if you are self-isolating at home and unable to work remotely:

  • If you are not vaccinated against Coronavirus (or have not received your booster shot in due time), you will not receive wages or sick leave compensation if you have to go into quarantine. People who cannot get vaccinated due to health conditions are exempt from this regulation. 
  • If you have been fully vaccinated against Coronavirus (and received your booster shot in time) and have to self-isolate, your employer will continue to pay your full wages for six weeks. Your employer shall receive compensation from relevant authorities. Starting the seventh week, you will receive sickness benefits ("Krankengeld") instead. You can find out more in our chapter “Sick Leave”.

If you contract COVID-19, you have to self-isolate at home (i.e. go into quarantine), but you will not automatically be issued a sick note (certificate of incapacity to work/” Arbeitsunfähigkeits-Bescheinigung”). You will only have a sick leave if you have symptoms such as fever, cough, exhaustion and alike. If you have no symptoms and can work from home, you have to work despite being infected with the coronavirus. However, if you have no symptoms but it is not possible for you to work from home, you must not go to work. You will continue to receive your wages, but won’t be on sick leave. For more information about continued payment of salary, ask your workplace. You can also get in touch with your health insurance company and inquire.

Please note: If you have knowingly travelled to a high-risk or virus-variant region, your employer does not have to pay you a wage for the time you must stay in quarantine - unless you can work from home. You can find out which areas are considered high-risk areas on the website of the Robert Koch institute. It is in your best interest to seek advice for your specific case, for instance, from Faire Integration.

Important: If you are quarantined abroad and cannot work from home, your employer does not have to pay you. When that is the case, you are not entitled to compensation from the German state either.

Will I receive wages if I contract the coronavirus and cannot work?

Yes. When an employee falls ill, he or she is entitled to receive wages despite being unable to work for six weeks. Starting the seventh week, you will start to receive sickness benefit ("Krankengeld"). Learn more in our chapter “Sick Leave”.

Please note: You will only have a sick leave if you have symptoms such as fever, cough, exhaustion and alike. If you have no symptoms and can work from home, you have to work despite being infected with the coronavirus. However, if you have no symptoms, but it is not possible for you to work from home, you must not go to work. You will continue to receive your wages, but won’t be on sick leave. For more information about continued payment of wages, ask your workplace. You can also get in touch with your health insurance company and inquire about sick pay.

Will I receive wages if my company is closed due to the pandemic?

If an employer has to temporarily close due to the Coronavirus pandemic, they remain obliged to pay wages if the employees are fit and ready to work. In principle, the missed working hours are not to be made up for later by the employee - unless your contract or collective agreement states otherwise.

However, if a company is closed for longer, "short-time work" or compulsory redundancies may be adopted. You can learn more about “Kurzarbeit” or “short-term work” in the section below. To learn more about dismissal/quitting in Germany, check our chapter “Termination of Employment Contract”.

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

When your right of residence is 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 bamf.navi.de.

Where can I find help and support?

If you have problems with your employer, you can turn to a counselling centre of the “Fair Integration” project. Their employees speak different languages ​​and support you free of charge. You can search for one of their counselling centres nearby at faire-integration.de. The staff there can also recommend a specialised lawyer if you want to take legal action against your employer.

If there is a Works Council in your company, you can also contact them. The Works' council represents the interests of the employees vis-à-vis the employer. For instance, the Works Council ensures that laws and collective agreements are complied with. You should be able to find information about the office hours of your Work's Council, e.g., in the break room or on the office "notice board". You can find out more about Works Councils in Germany in our chapter “Works councils & unions”.

If you are discriminated against because of your origins, nationality, sexual orientation, gender or age, you can contact the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. You can reach their employees on Mondays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. by telephone on 030-18555 1855. Alternatively, you can email them to beratung@ads.bund.de. Their staff speak German, English and Arabic.

Please note: You can seek anonymous advice from all the organisations mentioned above. Your supervisors or colleagues will not find out about your complaint if that is what you prefer.

What do I need to know about short-time work (“Kurzarbeit”)?

What does short-time work (“Kurzarbeit“) mean?

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”. 

How much wages can I receive when on short-time work?

According to this scheme, the employees are paid 60 or (if they have children) 67 per cent of their net salary for a period of up to 12 months.

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 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.

What can I do if my short-time allowance is insufficient?

If your short-time work allowance does not cover your life expenses  (rent, food, etc.), you can apply for Unemployment Benefit 2 (ALG 2/„Hartz 4“). Your short-time work allowance is partially offset against unemployment benefit- in principle, however, the combination of short-time work allowance and unemployment benefit provides you with some more funds compared to what you would have without unemployment benefit. You can find out more about unemployment benefits in our chapter "Jobcenter".

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

Yes. You can work on the side while on short-time work. However, the regulations differ for people who already had a part-time job before short-time work and those who started a part-time job after being put on short-time work.

I already had a part-time job before short-time work: You can continue to do your part-time job. The wages from your part-time job are not offset against the short-time work allowance.

I started a part-time job after being put on short-time work: You can take a part-time job, however, the wages of your part-time job will be offset against your short-time work allowance. 

Please note: You need to present your payslips (from your part-time job to your employer so that your short-time work allowance is calculated correctly.

If you do not have a generally applicable work permit, inquire at the immigration authorities responsible for you whether you can take the part-time job in question. You can find the Immigration Office responsible for you at bamf.de. Many Immigration Offices are currently only open to a limited extent, so make sure you call or write them an email in advance.

For more information about part-time jobs, check our chapter "Labour Rights". 

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

No, since July 1, 2022, subcontracted workers can no longer receive short-time work benefits.

Please note: subcontracted workers are also entitled to unemployment benefits. You can find out more about this in our “Jobcenter” chapter.

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

Trainees only receive short-time work benefits if the company doesn’t work for 6 weeks or 30 days. 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 2 (ALG 2 / „Hartz 4“). To learn more check the chapter „Jobcenter“.

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

Important

If you suspect that you are infected, contact your doctor or the local Health Department. They can tell you what to do next. Please do not go to the doctor's office before first calling them. Another option is to go to your doctors' office during the visiting hours specifically assigned to COVID patients, given they offer such visiting hours. You can find your local Health Department's contact details on the website of the Robert Koch Institute.

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