Could working from home and 3G in trains become compulsory in Germany?

A woman works from a dining table writing with a pen on a piece of paper next to a laptop.
Compulsory working from home only ended in June, but may be coming back soon. picture alliance/dpa | Finn Winkler
As Covid-19 infection rates continue to rise in Germany, there are increased calls for the country to implement tougher measures with several German ministers advocating for the reintroduction of compulsory home-working and 3G rules for train travel.

Infections and deaths have been climbing steeply since mid-October, in an outbreak blamed on Germany’s relatively low vaccination rate of just over 67 percent.

To curb the rising rates, German employment minister Hubertus Heil wants to re-introduce compulsory working from home, according to a draft law from the ministry that TV studio ARD-Hauptstadtstudio had sight of.

According to the draft, there are also plans for 3G rules – i.e. proof that someone is fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19, or has tested negative for Covid-19 – to be enforced in the workplace.

The draft law will now be discussed by the SPD, Green and FDP parliamentary groups, who are likely to make up the next coalition government.

“In the case of office work or comparable activities, the employer must make it possible for employees to carry out these activities in their home if there are no compelling operational reasons to the contrary,” the draft says. “Employees have to agree to work from home, as long as there are no reasons to the contrary.”

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According to popular German daily Bild, the three parties have been discussing the draft law since the weekend, however, the pro-free market FDP’s position is still unclear.

In terms of what the law says on introducing 3G in the workplace, employers would not have to provide tests. This means that unvaccinated employees would have to take care of getting a certified rapid Covid-19 test themselves each day.

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Joint head of Germany’s Green party Robert Habeck was also in favour of increased working from home: “”The situation in Germany is extremely dramatic,” he told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe, which includes the Berliner Morgenpost.

“If we don’t break the fourth wave quickly, the hospital system is at risk of collapse in December,” he warned.

The previous obligation to work from home – part of the so-called emergency brake law – expired at the end of June.

Since then, companies have still had to maintain Covid-19 measures in the workplace and offer two tests per week.

Habeck also called for the 3G rule to apply to train travel. If this were to be brought in, anyone travelling on a train would need to be vaccinated, recovered or test negative for Covid-19.

“Yes, train travel must be safer, too. From my perspective, 3G should apply here, we will have to talk about that,” he said.

SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach was also in favour: “3G should also apply in trains. In this Covid-19 situation, it’s irresponsible that unvaccinated and untested people are sitting close to other passengers for hours on full long-distance trains,” he told Bild am Sonntag.

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And Habeck didn’t rule out the introduction of restrictions for those who weren’t vaccinated, explaining that it may be necessary to limit contacts for unvaccinated people in some regions, Bild reported.

The below chart from the RKI Covid-19 dashboard shows the least and worst-affected parts of Germany, with purple representing the areas with the highest number of cases per 100,000 people over the last seven-day period, followed by pink, then the darkest red.

He urged the population to get vaccinated and also spoke in favour of partial compulsory vaccination:

Habeck also called on the population to vaccinate and spoke out in favour of partial compulsory vaccination: “With all due respect for individual decisions, I urgently appeal to everyone to review their decisions again and reconsider,” he said.

In addition, the Green head campaigned for mandatory vaccination in some areas. “I also think that compulsory vaccination is useful for certain professional groups.”


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