Lockdown extension in Germany

Written on 25 Jan 2021

The federal and state governments agreed Tuesday evening to extend the lockdown and take tougher action. Employers in particular may have to act immediately. The main changes at a glance:

  • Lockdown extended until Feb. 14, 2021:
    In general, the lockdown will be extended beyond Jan. 31 for now until Feb. 14, 2021. Daycare centers and schools will also remain closed; only emergency care will be maintained. HR departments should be prepared for employees to increasingly use their entitlement to special leave (known as "children sick leave"). Note: The number of days for special leave has been increased to 20 days per child to a maximum of 45 days per parent for 2021 (For more details please see our guideline attached)!
  • Details re. home office obligation still missing:
    By temporary decree of the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Social Affairs, employers are to be obligated to enable working from the home office if the activity is suitable there are no urgent operational reasons against this. This obligation is to apply (for the time being) until March 15, 2021. Effective monitoring of compliance with this obligation by the competent authorities is not to be expected. Nor does the regulation provide for a genuine "home office entitlement" for employees that they can enforce themselves. However, the occupational health and safety authorities may ask employers (e.g. after receiving information from employees) to explain the reasons for refusing a home office activity in more detail and, under certain circumstances, issue further orders for the company. Employers should therefore be prepared for this eventuality and be able to justify the rejection of a home office activity for each individual workplace.
  • Mandatory masks at work?
    Masks are compulsory not only on public transport and when shopping, but also in companies where presence is compulsory without the option of keeping a distance. Attention: "medical masks" (FFP2-/KN95 or ER masks) must be worn, self-made ones are therefore no longer sufficient. The associated costs are borne by the employers!
  • Insolvency application obligation remains suspended:
    In the case of claims for the granting of state financial assistance ("Corona assistance") and timely, promising application, the obligation to file for insolvency will remain suspended beyond January until the end of April 2021.

Our advice: “Implement rules for the home office”:

At the latest now, employers should create rules for working from the home office via individual contracts or - if available - with the works council. This is the only way to avoid misunderstandings, delays and legal disputes.

Please do not hesitate to let us know in case of any questions or need for further guidance.