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EXPLAINED: What Germany’s draft bill on vaccine status means for workers

EXPLAINED: What Germany's draft bill on vaccine status means for workers
A vaccine passport. Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa
On Thursday evening the German government agreed upon a draft law that will allow employers in certain sectors to ask staff about their vaccine status. Here’s what the rule change means.

Who does the rule change affect?

The requirement to inform one’s employer about vaccine status already exists for people who work in hospitals and doctor’s practices.

A text of the bill seen by DPA states that a requirement to inform one’s employer about vaccine status will now be extended to facilities where “particularly vulnerable groups of people are cared for or accommodated, or numerous people are exposed to a risk of infection due to spatial proximity.”

In practice this means schools, kindergartens and care homes. While the draft bill has not yet been published, Health Minister Jens Spahn already confirmed to der Spiegel that the rule change would affect teachers and carers.

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Who doesn’t it affect?

Industry leaders had hoped that he government would issue a general requirement for workers to declare vaccine status, but this isn’t due to happen any time soon.

A debate over declaring vaccine status in the workplace was kicked off when the head of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, Rainer Dugler, called for a general requirement to declare vaccine status in the workplace. 

He said it was necessary “in order to ensure the measures can be taken to protect the health of all employees.”

But the Social Democrats resisted pressure from the centre-right CDU to broaden the requirement to all professions.

Jens Spahn admitted that he would have liked a general requirement to declare vaccine status but said that “there is no majority on parliament.”

Nonetheless, according to Handelsblatt, the draft law does foresee a general form of 3G requirement when entering the workplace. The 3G system requires people to prove that they are vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen) or have been tested (getestet) before entering a venue.

SEE ALSO: Germany’s school, kindergarten and care home staff to be required to show vaccine status

Does it mean unvaccinated workers can be fired?

Spahn stated categorically that the law did not allow care homes or schools to sack people who hadn’t been vaccinated.

He said though that “the employee could not be deployed in certain areas or would have to be given special protection.”

Unclear is whether a lack of a vaccine would justify an organization’s decision not to hire someone.

Why has the government made the change?

Spahn justified the move as an attempt to protect the most vulnerable members of society. 

“How are you going to explain to a relative that their mother died of Covid because the caregiver was not vaccinated?” Spahn said in an interview with Spiegel.

Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU), who wanted a broad requirement to show vaccine status, said that “after all, it’s about protecting the health of many thousands of people at work.”

What has the reaction been?

Trade unions in the education sector have roundly rejected the plan.

“Personal data in Germany has special protection for good reason. We have to guarantee this protection,” head of the Education and Science Union (GEW), Maike Finnern told DPA. 

She pointed out that the willingness to be vaccinated among employees in schools and daycare centers was “way up there” at 80 to 95 percent.

Chairman of the Association for Education and Training (VBE), Udo Beckmann, also claimed there was a vaccination rate of around 90 percent among teachers, citing data from education ministries. 

“In the view of the VBE, these figures in no way justify the intrusion into personal rights associated with the inquiry into vaccination status,” he said.

The German Teachers’ Association similarly condemned the plan. 

“Health data is very sensitive – employers and authorities should not actually have access in principle,” association president Heinz-Peter Meidinger told DPA. He expressed concern that “this is just the precursor to a general vaccination requirement.”

When will the law come into force?

The bill is set to be debated by the Bundestag next Thursday as part of an update to the Disease Protection Law. If passed, the law would come into effect the following week.

READ MORE: German industry seeks powers to know worker vaccine status


Member comments

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  1. I imagine there are very few vaccinated people who would mind telling their employers. It’s a badge of honor being vaccinated. It lets the world know that you are an intelligent, caring, and considerate individual.

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