Recruitment freeze and home office: How coronavirus is affecting workplaces in Germany

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 4 Mar, 2020 Updated Wed 4 Mar 2020 11:57 CEST
Recruitment freeze and home office: How coronavirus is affecting workplaces in Germany

As the number of people with coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to grow in Germany, we look at how employers are reacting.


As of Wednesday morning, around 240 people were reported to have contracted coronavirus in Germany.

Since the outbreak gathered pace in February, employees in Germany have been working from home, events have been cancelled and colleagues have stopped shaking hands.

As well as urging employees to practice safe hygiene and wash hands regularly, here are some other precautionary measures that firms have been putting in place in a bid to halt the spread of the virus, Spiegel reported.

Has your workplace in Germany taken any precautions? Let us know.

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

Home office

The automotive supplier Webasto in Bavaria, which was the first German company to report employees with coronavirus, temporarily closed down its headquarters. This was possible because working remotely had already been widely introduced in the company.

Many companies have been offering their employees the option of taking their laptops home every evening – in case the situation changes and they have to work from home with immediate effect.

At reinsurer firm Munich Re, staff who have taken holidays in Italy, China or South Korea are encouraged to work from home for 14 days after their return before coming back to the office. 

After an employee with ProSiebenSat.1 in Düsseldorf tested positive for the coronavirus, 200 workers at the company's headquarters in Unterföhring near Munich were told to work from home just as a precautionary measure, said a company spokeswoman.

The affected employee is doing well. About half of the 200 employees affected tested negative for the virus – all further results were expected this week.

In Munich, a BMW employee tested positive for coronavirus. He had not been travelling and had worked at the Research and Development Centre (FIZ), a BMW spokeswoman said.

A sign in the Thuringia state parliament urging people not to shake hands. Photo: DPA

About 150 FIZ employees who had come into contact with him are now in quarantine at home for two weeks, and the open-plan offices are being disinfected. The man is doing well under the circumstances, the spokeswoman said.

Twitter has called on its employees across the world to work from home because of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We strongly encourage all employees worldwide to do so if they are able to," said Twitter personnel manager Jennifer Christie.

READ ALSO: MAP: The parts of Germany most affected by the coronavirus outbreak

The aim is to contain the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading. This is mandatory for Twitter employees in countries which are currently badly affected, including South Korea and Japan as well as in Hong Kong.

Last week, Twitter had already announced that as a precautionary measure, all business trips and events that are not absolutely necessary should be cancelled.

Involuntary holidays

At Geobra Brandstätter, the Playmobil and plant trough manufacturer in central Franconia, Bavaria, employees who have just returned from holidays in Italy have been told to stay at home for the next 14 days – on full pay – and consult their doctor if symptoms of illness occur.

Around 1600 employees at the mechanical engineering group DMG Mori in Pfronten, Bavaria, were told to stay at home at least until Tuesday this week because a colleague tested positive for the virus.

The health department in the Ostallgäu district wants to find out which colleagues had close contact with the 36-year-old. He had likely been infected during a trip. DMG Mori is one of the largest manufacturers of cutting machine tools.  

Travel rules

Companies cannot determine where you go on holiday. But if you have been in a risk area such as Italy or within Asia, you must keep in mind that your employer may not want you to come into the office for the time being.

Software firm SAP has asked all employees to cancel all trips in March that are not urgently needed for business. Internal meetings should also be cancelled, and employees should only be sent on trips for maintenance work on data centres, the firm says.

Deutsche Bank has cancelled business trips to China, Hong Kong, and the affected parts of Italy and asked employees to postpone all non-essential trips for the time being.  

Photo: DPA

As a precautionary measure, the Swiss food company Nestlé has cancelled all business trips worldwide until March 15th. Instead of travelling employees should choose "alternative communication methods".

Jan Jenisch, head of the Swiss cement company LafargeHolcim said, "as a model for the 72,000 employees", he had cancelled all trips in March, including a trip to investors in New York and London. Now there will be a conference call instead.  

The cosmetics giant L'Oréal is suspending its international and intra-European business trips until the end of March in order to protect its employees.

Controls at workplaces

The Swiss Swatch Group is carrying out fever checks on employees in Ticino at the entrance, reported the news portal 

As one person with coronavirus from North Rhine-Westphalia had visited the "Tropical Islands" leisure resort in Krausnick in Brandenburg, 104 employees were tested for the virus there. 

According to the Robert Koch Institute's definition, the employees were considered second-degree contact persons - i.e. they did not have to be isolated and the test was voluntary. The all-clear followed on Monday as all tests were negative, the Ministry of Health announced.  

READ ALSO: The German vocab you need to understand coronavirus

Canteen remains closed

The chemical company Oleon is keeping the canteen at its Emmerich site in the Rhineland closed to guests. This is seen as a necessary measure to prevent the further spread of the virus.  

Unpaid leave

The airline Emirates is asking its approximately 100,000 employees to take unpaid leave of up to one month in view of the spread of the coronavirus. Emirates has cancelled flights in Iran, to Bahrain and to most destinations in China.

Demand for other flights is also declining – which is why the airline has more staff available than needed.

Hiring freeze

German airline operator Lufthansa is not currently hiring new employees – and encourages those who are already there to take unpaid leave. Many flights to Asia are currently being cancelled.  

Photo: DPA

Frankfurt Airport is also switching to austerity measures because of the crisis. New hires are only possible in exceptional cases.

Staff are being "made aware of unpaid leave and reduced working hours", according to airport operator Fraport.

The duration and extent of flight cancellations due to coronavirus cannot be predicted at the moment, added Fraport.

Daily management report

At the forklift truck manufacturer Kion, which has its headquarters in Frankfurt, there is now a "corona call" every morning in which current developments are discussed.

The MDax group has production facilities in China, among other places, and production there is currently still at 90 percent, according to management. 


At the car parts manufacturer Schaeffler in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria, all employees must fill out a questionnaire before entering the factory premises if they have been in a risk country in the past 14 days.

If the employees have been travelling, working from home may be required, management say.


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