Employer and Employee Rights During Covid 19 Pandemic: Germany


The Covid-19 virus is spreading rapidly in Germany, impacting all parts of everyday life, including the workplace. Therefore, German employers are advised to take into consideration the following recommendations. Pursuant to German law, an employer is responsible for the physical and psychological health and safety of the employees in the workplace and in this respect give instructions and take safety measures as reasonably can be expected from the employer.

What current restrictions are in place by the government?

Cultural and sporting activities are prohibited; large gatherings are restricted; restaurants, various shops and bars are closed; grocery shops and pharmacies are likely to be open at limited hours; public transport is limited; health screenings are likely to take place on arrival. Travel from outside EU only in Emergency cases or for repatriation is allowed. Return from so-called high-risk regions are subject to 14-days quarantine.

Who pays salary under quarantine?

The Employer has to pay for 6 weeks as per German infection prevention law. The employer will get reimbursed afterwards by the government. From week 7, the healthcare provider pays sick pay.

What are the duties of the employer?

The Employer has to minimize risks for the employee and provide a ‘danger-free’ environment for their employees (i.e. by providing disinfection stations in offices, toilets etc.)

What are the general principles an employer should or could apply?

Below we have set out the general principles which German employers should and could apply. These principles will be aligned with the general principles of other countries and are permitted under local law.

  • Implement a (verbal) policy to have less face-to-face meetings and travel less, both professionally as privately
  • Assess the risks faced by employees & visitors and implement measures to mitigate those risks, paying particular attention to vulnerable staff (such as those who are pregnant; with impaired immunity; on secondment or working away from home)
  • Review the need for flexible working arrangements and whether existing contracts and working arrangements permit such flexibility, and if not, consider how this might be achieved
  • Review policies governing business travel, holidays, sickness, caring for dependents and home working to ensure a reasonable and consistent approach, taking account of their risk assessment and government guidance
  • Review relevant insurance policies and guidance issued by their insurers
  • Update contact details for staff and management
  • Devise arrangements for dealing with staff who have to travel abroad; who may be at particular risk of contracting CoVID-19; or who report symptoms and may have CoVID-19

Can an employee work from home or does he/she have to work from the office?

There is no general “right to work from home office” unless specified in the employment contract. It is advisable to negotiate needs and necessities between employee and employer.

Can an employer enforce working from home?

Generally, no. As the work location is outlined in the Assignment Notice, it is not confined within the law to enforce working from home (unless work location is the home address), and an informal written agreement should be made with the employee if requested by the employer.

Does an employer have to supply home office equipment?

Yes, sufficient equipment to perform their expected role at home needs to be supplied.

What about calling sick due to cold/flu (not Covid 19)?

During the current period, the government has decided that employees can call their doctors from home and be certified sick up to 7 days on full pay (paid initially by employer).

Can an employee refuse travel for work purpose?

If travel outlined in the contract and is a part of the role, refusal solely based on

‘Fear of Corona’ is not a sufficient reason. Guidance on the decision of the employer is provided by the Foreign Office. It is advisable that an employer and employee find a mutual agreement.

What happens during day-care/school closure?

It is the employee’s duty to seek alternative arrangements — the employee can take vacation/overtime. The employer cannot refuse this request. If the leave is exhausted, an agreement of unpaid leave should be signed by both parties.

Generally, it’s the employee’s responsibility to provide arrangements (this clause has not yet been tested during Covid-19 and rulings here may change).

What happens with the sickness of a child (or in quarantine)?

Statutory health insurance is entitled to child sickness, benefitted upon the provision of a medical certificate.

Can an employer force employee to cancel holidays on short notice?

The employer cannot cancel the employee’s holidays once granted. It is highly recommended not to travel, if the holiday would result in a quarantine that does not allow the employee to perform in his/her role thereafter.

Can an employer take the temperature of an employee?

Generally, only medically trained personnel can take the temperature and take subsequent measures.