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German airline giant Lufthansa puts 87,000 workers on reduced hours

Lufthansa said Thursday it has placed 87,000 workers – more than 60 percent of its workforce – on government-backed shorter hours schemes, as air travel idles amid the coronavirus crisis.

German airline giant Lufthansa puts 87,000 workers on reduced hours
Archive photo shows Lufthansa aircrafts in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

Among the group's 135,000 employees, cabin crew, ground crew and, for the first time ever, pilots are all affected by the measure, a spokesman told AFP.

Some 62,000 of the employees affected are in Germany, which doubled the number given on Friday of those would work shorter hours until September.

In addition to the flagship German brand Lufthansa and low-cost arm Eurowings, the group includes smaller carriers such as Austrian, Brussels Airlines and Swiss.

Around 700 of Lufthansa's 763 aircraft are parked following huge reductions in its flight operations, and its seat capacity is just five percent of its usual schedule until at least April 19th.

Chief executive Carsten Spohr last month warned that “the longer this crisis lasts, the more likely it is that the future of aviation cannot be guaranteed without state aid.”

READ ALSO: Lufthansa puts 31,000 workers on shorter hours until September

The group's flight plan has been slashed to levels not seen since the 1950s, Spohr said.

Around the world, the International Air Transport Association has said up to $200 billion might be needed to rescue airlines.

Kurzarbeit

Known in German as “Kurzarbeit”, the government's support for people placed on shorter hours tops up workers' pay from government coffers.

The scheme is widely credited with preserving thousands of jobs during the financial crisis in the late 2000s, and other countries like Britain and France have adopted the measure in the coronavirus fight.

Berlin extended access to the scheme as the virus hit Europe's top economy, allowing companies to apply for support when a threshold of 10 percent of workers is affected, rather than 33 percent previously.

READ ALSO: Kurzarbeit – Germany bets on tried-and-tested tool for coronavirus jobs crisis

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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