Dealing with the Coronavirus: What do employers need to consider?

By Dr. Ralph S. Panzer, Thomas Hey, Dr. Artur-Konrad Wypych

03-2020

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading more and more. While high infection rates were only recorded in China and subsequently in South Korea and Italy until recently, the number of infected persons is now also increasing rapidly in all German states. The Robert Koch Institute currently estimates the risk to the health of the German population to be high. Recently, there have also been discussions of closing off cities if necessary. Holidays within Germany and abroad are almost impossible. Business trips should be avoided, business trips abroad are basically allowed, but are, for the most part, impossible due to closed borders or cancelled flight connections.

Effects of the Coronavirus on employments are currently unavoidable. As a secondary obligation under employment contracts, employers are obliged to ensure that the work can be performed without endangering the health of the employees. 
 
This is currently giving rise to a large number of questions and problems relating to corporate management under individual law and under works constitution law. Do employees need to go to work in case of a curfew? When does the employer's obligation to pay remuneration cease to apply? How do works councils currently assemble and decide during times of contact prohibitions and how do employers apply for short-time work compensation? 

Topics to be covered in this article will be:

  • Individual contract law
  • Co-determination
  • Short-time work (Kurzarbeit)
  • Restructuring
  • Miscellaneous

The Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) continues to spread. While high infection rates were only recorded in China and subsequently in South Korea and Italy, the number of infected persons is also rising in all German states. Also, all other European countries, respectively the whole world in general is affected and the number of infected persons is increasing rapidly. The Robert Koch Institute estimates the risk to the health of the German population still as high. 

In the meantime, the German Federal Government has adopted a comprehensive package of measures in the fight against the coronavirus, and the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Foreign Affairs and Social Affairs is also responding to the crisis with draft legislation and declarations. Unfortunately, these statements are partly misleading and cannot lead to changes in the law, such as the ministerial declaration on ensuring the ability of works councils to work. 
Effects of the Coronavirus on employment relationships are currently unavoidable. As a secondary obligation under employment contracts, employers are obliged to ensure that the work can be performed without endangering the health of the employees. 

This is currently giving rise to a large number of questions and problems relating to corporate management under individual law and under works constitution law. Do employees need to go to work in case of a curfew? When does the employer's obligation to pay remuneration cease to apply? How do works councils currently assemble and decide during times of contact prohibitions and how do employers apply for short-time work compensation? 

 

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