Unvaccinated workers in Germany could lose pay if ordered into quarantine
People in Germany who can't work because they've been ordered into quarantine are entitled to receive pay. But some states plan to remove this right for unvaccinated people - a proposal backed by the German Health Minister.
If an employee is ordered into quarantine and cannot work, they are still generally entitled to receive wage compensation under the Protection against Infection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz) regardless of whether being vaccinated or not.
But some German states are now opting to remove this right for unvaccinated people. And German Health Minister Jens Spahn says he can understand this move.
It comes as pressure mounts on people eligible for vaccination who choose not to get their jabs. Germany's Covid health pass - known as the 3G rule - which allows entry to lots of indoor spaces only for people who are vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen) or tested (getestet) against Covid, is in place - and unvaccinated people will have to pay for tests from October 11th.
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Meanwhile, some regions - including Hamburg - are allowing businesses to move to 2G rules - allowing access only for vaccinated and recovered people.
So far two German states have announced they will stop paying wage compensation for the unvaccinated who have to quarantine in future, German media including Bild reports.
In Baden-Württemberg, this rule change is coming into place from September 15th, while Rhineland-Palatinate is aiming for October 1st.
According to Bild, unvaccinated people in Hesse will also no longer be entitled to compensation in future, though no firm date has been given.
Berlin, however, will continue to allow compensation for all regardless of vaccination status.
Bavaria will continue to decide on compensation in each individual case. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein are pushing for a uniform regulation throughout Germany.
Other governments have not yet decided on any changes to the regulation.
Should unvaccinated people have wages deducted during quarantine?
Health Minister Spahn said Wednesday that states are free to decide their own rules on this rule, but said he understood why some are moving to freeze quarantine pay for those who choose not get their shots.
The current regulation provides that the claim for pay may be waived if the quarantine could have been avoided through vaccination.
Spahn said: "In the end, it's the taxpayers who finance the wage replacement payment - for someone who could have been vaccinated.
"I don't see why in the long run others should pay if someone doesn't opt for free vaccination when they could."
But SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach slammed Spahn's comment and the decision of some states.
"I think wage deductions because of quarantine are wrong," he said on Twitter. "Not all unvaccinated people are Querdenker (a movement against Covid restrictions and vaccinations). We simply have not yet reached many with our campaign." He went on to say that sick people should not be punished for not getting vaccinated.
According to Bild, wage replacement payments have cost the states about €458 million in the past year and a half, with North Rhine-Westphalia (€120 million) and Bavaria (€83 million) accounting for much of the total.
Vaccinations are 'most powerful tool' in pandemic
Spahn on Wednesday called for people in Germany who have so far held off getting vaccinated to go for their shots.
Germany is to launch a 'vaccination week' from Monday where local authorities will push to offer easy opportunities for people to get their jabs.
During a press conference Spahn said: "We have the means in our hands to vaccinate our way back to freedom and normality."
He added that vaccination is the personal decision of each individual, "but it is also a question that affects others".
"The pandemic is not over yet," stressed the head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler on Wednesday.
If the vaccination rate is not increased, "the current fourth wave can take a drastic course", he said. The occupancy of intensive care beds in hospitals has almost doubled in the past two weeks, he said, while more younger people are being affected.
"Vaccinations are the most powerful tool we have in the fight against the pandemic," Wieler stressed. The RKI estimates that vaccinations prevented 77,000 hospitalisations and 20,000 cases in intensive care units between January and July this year. In addition, 38,000 deaths have been prevented, he said.
"That's a really great success of the vaccinations."