Free Covid tests for staff: These are Germany’s new rules for employers

From Tuesday, employers in Germany must offer free Covid self-testing kits to any employees who aren't working from home.

Free Covid tests for staff: These are Germany's new rules for employers
CDU politician Armin Laschet visits a rapid test manufacturer in North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Businesses will be forced to supply self-testing kits to all employees who have to attend their workplace at least once a week. Here’s the latest on the new rules.  

What’s happening? 

Germany’s ruling coalition government has mandated that all employees should be offered free-of-charge self-testing kits at least once a week – with companies footing the bill.

The rules will only apply for companies whose employees are still working on-site during the pandemic, and are intended to reduce the risk of asymptomatic employees infecting their colleagues. 

While companies could be fined up to €30,000 for not offering the tests, it will be up to employees to decide whether they want to use them.

Why now? 

A few weeks ago, a study from a Munich-based researcher revealed that the vast majority of German employees were still coming into their place of work, even though experts have estimated that around 56 percent could potentially work from home during the pandemic.

In addition, there have been a number of recent reports suggesting that some companies aren’t putting basic hygiene measures in place for employees, even though Covid-19 infection rates are at a critical point. 

READ ALSO: ‘Blindly continuing’: Are too many workers going into the office amid pandemic?

Speaking on the Anne Will talk show last month, Angela Merkel warned that, if firms continued to rule out ‘home office’ working and not offer regular tests, the government would set new regulations to force them to do so. This week, this is exactly what’s happening.

Aren’t companies already offering tests?

A survey conducted by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) of 2000 employers found that around 30 percent of businesses had already made plans to introduce in-work testing over the next four weeks.

According to the survey, the majority of large companies (60 percent) planned or started introducing self-tests under their own steam.

Online retailer Amazon, which employs around 1,800 workers in Germany, plans to offer both rapid tests and PCR tests to employees in the near future. “The health and safety of our employees is our first priority,” stated Amazon spokesperson Michael Schneider.

What are people saying about it? 

Much of the public has been calling for free in-work tests for a while now, but the move is not without its critics. Speaking to Bavarian radio station BR24, Thomas Schörg of the Schwabian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that the new rules would make businesses feel that their efforts to fight the pandemic were “little appreciated”.

READ ALSO: Germany pushes for firms to pay for mandatory testing of employees

Unsurprisingly, many businesses are particularly concerned about the costs involved with offering the weekly tests. The government estimates that the move would cost each firm around €130 per employee by the end of June, meaning that a company with 1,000 employees would be forced to shell out €130,000 on tests over the next 10 weeks or so. 

Some also doubt that a once-a-week rapid tests – whose results are only valid for around 24 hours – will be sufficient to combat infections in the workplace. 

Nevertheless it will likely result in fewer people attending the workplace, if it’s possible for them to do so, and minimising unnecessary social contact is ultimately what the government wants. 

Member comments

    1. Very true @ Ali

      Sad that such an economic powerhouse, such as Germany, is lagging in vaccinating its people.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now