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German government set to introduce permanent ‘right to work from home’

Germany's Labour Minister Hubertus Heil wants to bring in a ‘right to work from home’ law, which will apply long after the country’s coronavirus lockdown has ended.

German government set to introduce permanent 'right to work from home'
Archive photo shows a woman working from home in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Around 25 percent of Germans have been working from home during the lockdown, an increase from 12 percent before the strict measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 were put into place.

Now Heil wants to introduce a permanent right that would allow German employees to decide whether they'd like to work from home for part of the week, or full-time, if their job allows them to do so.

“I am working on a new law for a right to work from home, which I will present by autumn,” he said.  

“Anyone who wants to, and whose workplace allows it, should be able to work from home – even when the corona pandemic is over.

“You can either switch to working from home entirely, or you can decide to do so once or twice per week.”

Under the plan, workers who would prefer to continue to work from the office would be allowed to do so.

“We want to enable more working from home – but not to force them to do so,” he said.

In an interview with German daily Bild Am Sonntag, Heil said that the right to work from home has come about as a response to seeing how successfully it had operated during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Germany’s Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said the current times were likely to be a turning point for many.

“The past few weeks have shown how much is possible when working from home – this is a real achievement that we should not forget about,” he said.

Heil said the law would however include protections to ensure that working from home “doesn’t eat into the private sphere”. ‘Home office’ must have a closing time, Heil said, “and not at 10pm”.

READ ALSO: How freelancers and small businesses can apply for coronavirus payments in Germany

More support for parents

Heil also announced that he would extend continued payment of wages to parents who are unable to work during the coronavirus crisis due to a lack of childcare.

The government is paying 67 percent of wages, up to a maximum of €2,016 for an initial period of six weeks, if parents have to stay home to look after their children under the age of 12 due to school and nursery closures.

However, Heil said this would be extended beyond six weeks.

“Parents must have security – that is why we are creating a follow-up regulation,” Heil said. The current scheme expires in mid-May.

Unlike schools, there is as yet no concrete plan for a gradual opening of Kitas and care for younger children.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus in Germany: Who will receive financial help and how much?

Vocabulary

Right to work from home – (das) Recht auf Arbeiten von zu Hause

In Germany 'working from home' is also known as (das) Homeoffice

Law – (das) Gesetz

Closing time/end of the working day – (der) Feierabend

Continued payment of wages – (die) Lohnfortzahlung

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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