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COVID-19

Can my boss in Germany sack me if I’m not vaccinated against Covid?

There is some disagreement among legal experts over whether refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19 could in some circumstances be a justified reason for dismissal. Here’s what you need to know.

Can my boss in Germany sack me if I’m not vaccinated against Covid?
A vaccine is prepared at a pharmacist in Dortmund. Photo: dpa | David Inderlied

There are no vaccine mandates in Germany, even for people such as nurses and doctors who work in close contact with sick and vulnerable people. 

Ultimately, the German government strongly recommends getting vaccinated but has made clear that it has no intention of introducing mandatory vaccines.

That means that it should be impossible for an employer to sack you if you choose not to get jabbed.

But it’s not actually that simple. Some lawyers have expressed the opinion that employers in certain sectors could have grounds to sack an unvaccinated employee.

Esther Beckhove, a lawyer who specialises in labour law, writes that a dismissal could take place if a customer refuses to work with an unvaccinated employee.

But Beckhove states that the employer would first have to do everything in their power to find a compromise or to find a different role for the employee. “Only if these two alternatives are not possible is a dismissal for personal reasons possible.”

This legal opinion is contentious though. Trade unions argue that health workers and customers have the chance to protect themselves through vaccination and therefore cannot demand that other people be vaccinated in order to ensure their own safety.

Beckhove also points out that the laws protecting employees from dismissal only apply to companies with more than 10 full time employees. Smaller firms can terminate a contract without providing a justification.

Philipp Kranz, a lawyer from the Frankfurt region, has also said that he sees refusal to get vaccinated as a grounds for dismissal in some jobs.

“Dismissal would be conceivable in occupations that typically involve frequent and close contact with other people – who may even be particularly vulnerable due to illness or age – for example in medicine or nursing,” Kranz wrote on a legal blog back in April. 

He added though that this presupposes that employees have been made aware of the possible consequences under labour law beforehand.

Up until now, no cases of companies sacking employees because they refuse to be vaccinated have appeared in the German media.

Labour lawyers say though that they have had increasing numbers of calls from people whose bosses have threatened them with the sack if they don’t get jabbed.

“We are currently hearing more and more about such cases in our legal practice. Pressure is being exerted to convince those willing to be vaccinated,” labour lawyer Arndt Kempgens told broadcaster ARD.

Kempgens made clear that such threats are illegal and employees could consider taking out a court injunction should the boss persist with such threats.

SEE ALSO: Germany’s Covid vaccination rate higher than official stats, says RKI

In September, the government updated its disease protection law to allow employers in certain professions to ask employees whether they’ve been vaccinated.

The requirement was made for people working in nurseries, schools, prisons and other workplaces where close contact is unavoidable.

Health Minister Jens Spahn made clear at the time that the law did not give employers the right to sack staff who had not had a Covid jab. But it does allow for sacking employees who refuse to confirm whether they’ve been vaccinated or not.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

With Covid cases rising, many people in Germany are wondering if they should get a fourth Covid jab - or second booster. Here's what you should keep in mind.

What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

German states have started giving out new Covid vaccines that are specially adapted to the Omicron variant.

Though the Omicron variant is believed to cause milder courses of illness than earlier variants like Delta, it’s known for being highly transmissible and is often able to evade the body’s immune responses. 

In September, three Omicron vaccines received EU-wide approval: two vaccines from BioNTech and Moderna adapted to the BA.1 sub-variant, and another Omicron booster from BioNTech to protect against the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants. 

Who should get the fourth Covid shot (second booster)?

People who belong to ‘at risk’ groups should think about getting a booster shot this autumn.

The official recommendation from the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) stipulates that people over the age of 60 should get a further booster vaccination.

In addition, people over the age of 12 who have an underlying condition that can lead to severe illness with Covid-19 should also get a shot.

Experts also recommend that residents and staff in nursing homes or long-term care facilities receive a fourth jab.

READ ALSO: When – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

In STIKO’s latest guidance dated September 20th, experts also say that it may be appropriate for people at particular risk, for instance the very elderly or people with immunodeficiency, to get another shot (a fifth jab) after the fourth vaccination, although that would depend on several factors and a medical consultation. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany.

A Covid test centre in Rostock, northern Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Should people under the age of 60 get a fourth jab?

If people don’t fall into a risk group and are under the age of 60, they can still receive a fourth vaccination, although it’s not officially recommended. You should have a consultation with your GP – or a doctor carrying out Covid vaccinations – if you are interested in getting the fourth jab. 

How do vaccination centres handle people under 60 who want to get another Covid shot?

There have been occasional reports in Germany that younger people who don’t belong to a risk group have been turned away from vaccination centres because they don’t qualify for a booster jab. 

However, The Local has anecdotally heard that people have been able to get a jab from a vaccination station or centre, regardless of their health condition or age.

A spokesperson at the health department of the city Munich told broadcaster BR24 that carrying out a fourth vaccination is decided on a case-by-case basis and is a decision taken by the medical expert giving out the jab “in each case”.

Where is the fourth vaccination available? 

There are still lots of walk-in vaccination centres across the country, while many doctors and pharmacies also carry out jabs. You should search online or contact your GP for more information. 

Many towns and cities are reporting a significant increase in demand since the new vaccines adapted for Omicron variants became available.

READ ALSO: Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

How many people in Germany have been vaccinated?

According to official figures, 76.3 percent of the German population has received two Covid jabs. Just over 62 percent have also received a booster jab, and 9.9 percent have been given a second booster vaccination.

Around 18.4 million people (22.2 percent) in Germany are not vaccinated. For four million of these people aged 0 to four years (4.8 percent), no licensed vaccine is available.

Does getting the flu vaccination help against Covid?

Coronaviruses and the flu are different viruses, so the flu jab cannot protect against Covid-19. However, those who have a weaker immune system can strengthen their body in fighting a virus by getting a flu shot, according to experts. The immune system can then better use resources it saves against a possible Covid infection.

The fourth Covid jab and the flu shot can be administered to patients at the same time, according to the STIKO – although they don’t have to be.

If this is the case, the injections are given in different arms. However, it could be the case that patients have a stronger reaction if both jabs are carried out at the same time, so keep that in mind. 

READ ALSO: Can anyone in Germany get a second Covid booster jab?

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