Home working rule to end in Germany with transitional period until May 25
Although the federal states are hesitating with the lifting of 2G and 3G rules in Germany, one thing is certainly going to change on March 20: the requirement for employees to work from home wherever possible. Here’s an overview of what’s changing this week in the world of work.
Transitional period to also apply in German workplaces
The German government will finally relax workplace COVID restrictions on March 20, over four months after the obligation to work from home was reintroduced in November 2021 in response to rising infection rates - however, the relaxation won’t be a full one, as some guidelines will remain in place during a transitional period.
Over the winter, companies were obliged to allow their employees to work from home, unless there were operational reasons preventing this. Other measures were also put in place to fight the spread of coronavirus among those who continued to work from the office, including 3G rules in workplaces, and guidelines on hygiene protocols and social distancing.
Like many other COVID-related measures in Germany, these rules are due to expire on March 20. But with coronavirus infection rates currently reaching record highs, the government has decided to implement an adjusted Corona Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance until May 25, 2022. While companies will no longer be obliged to offer home working arrangements, they will have to continue to take basic protective measures to prevent infections at work.
Announcing the change, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil explained, “We all have to act prudently and responsibly.” He added that companies still have a duty to protect their employees from health hazards. However, exactly how they provide this protection will be left up to individual employers to decide.
Employers in Germany to implement basic COVID measures
From March 20, therefore, employers will be asked to create a risk assessment, according to which they will decide which safeguards against infections they should implement. This could include measures like:
- Implementing the AHA+L rule (distance, hygiene, masks and ventilation)
- Reducing operational personal contacts (for instance by asking employees to work from home)
- Offering COVID tests in the workplace
The new law states that employers should take the local regional infection rate into account when creating their risk assessment.
The end of home working?
The decision to lift the home office requirement has been met with a broadly positive response from employers. Rainer Dulger, president of the German Employers’ Association, said that the “flexible measures now planned for companies are necessary and sensible”, adding that businesses could be trusted to “continue to maintain effective protective measures.”
He also took the opportunity to criticise Heil’s plan to enshrine the right to work from home in law wherever possible, describing the move as “pointless.”
The German Trade Union Conference (DGB), on the other hand, was less confident. “Occupational health and safety must not become a private matter for employees by the end of March,” board member Anja Piel said to the Funke Media Group. “The pandemic is simply not over yet and that is why home working - where possible - remains a useful instrument to limit contacts and therefore the risk of infection.”