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WORKING IN GERMANY

EXPLAINED: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for workers

Germany has updated its Covid-19 rules for workers, including continued tests and social distancing - but no obligation to work from home. Here's how the new rules affect you.

EXPLAINED: Germany's new Covid-19 rules for workers
A sign in an office tells workers to be quiet. PhotoÖ picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

What’s happened?

Germany’s current Covid health and safety measures for workers – including the obligation for employees to work from home where possible – expired on June 30th 2021.

In light of the country’s falling infection rates, the government opted to introduce a revised version of its Covid regulation for workers, which came into force on July 1st and will stay in place until at least September 10th. 

The headline news is that employers can no longer be forced to let employees work from home – and workers no longer have to agree to do so if asked by their boss.

Instead, it is up to company bosses to decide whether they want to call their employees back to the office or continue to allow a more flexible working environment. 

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So, I have to go back to the office now?

Not necessarily, but a lot depends on your employer and the capacity of your office. 

While there is no longer be a legal requirement for people to work from home, the Federal Ministry for Work and Social Issues (BMAS) said the home office would continue to make “an important contribution to workplace safety” even after the revised law comes into force.

This is because social contact and crowded workspaces should still be kept to a “necessary minimum” for the time being, so allowing some employees to work from home some of the time makes logistical sense. 

But although BMAS is urging people to limit social contact, once again, some of the regulations enforcing that are being dropped. In particular, the rule dictating that the capacity of an office should be limited to 10m2 per person – meaning only three people would be allowed in a 30m2 room – has now been dispensed with. 

Isn’t this all a bit risky?

Some people seem to think so. Though the current 7-day incidence of Covid-19 infections is still low in Germany, critics of the relaxed rules point to the seemingly unstoppable rise of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Delta has now become the dominant Covid strain in Germany. It is expected to push the number of cases up further. 

READ ALSO: Delta variant of Covid-19 becomes dominant in Germany – what does it mean?

However, with increasing numbers of people now vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from it – and the incidence remaining consistently low – BMAS clearly believes that now is the right time to regain a sense of normality in the workplace. 

Will I have to take Covid-19 tests?

That’s one anti-Covid measure that remains in place: employers are still legally required to offer each of their employees at least two coronavirus tests a week, which can be either self-tests, or rapid antigen tests. 

There are exceptions for vaccinated and recovered people, however, and employees are not required to accept the tests when offered them.

Equally, employees can refuse to disclose information about their recovery status, vaccination status or the results of the test. 

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What other protections will there be for workers?

In addition to regular testing, companies will have to make medical masks available to all their employees, and ensure “sufficient protection against infection” in areas where employees take their breaks.

Further, the so-called ‘AHA’ rules (distance, hygiene, masks) will remain in place, so expect to see the doorway hand-sanitiser still in its place when – or if – you return to the office this summer. 

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WORKING IN GERMANY

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck! 

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