German nursing home staff to recieve ‘Covid bonus’ of up to €550

As a reward for working in elderly care throughout several tough months of the pandemic, the German Health Ministry is planning to offer employees in the sector a Covid bonus of up to €550 this year.

Nursing home in Baden-Württemberg
Elderly patients play a fitness-focussed ball game at a nursing home in Burladingen, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

The Covid bonus of €550 will go to full-time workers in elderly care in the second half of the year, a Health Ministry key points paper has revealed.

It suggests that the bonus is set to paid to nursing staff “who performed outstandingly during the pandemic” when working with elderly patients in nursing and care homes. 

This includes nursing staff who were particularly burdened by the treatment of Covid patients through, for example, increased hygiene measures or an increased risk of infection.

“The nursing bonus is coming, we have developed a corresponding draft,” confirmed Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) in an interview on the joint morning programme of ARD and ZDF on Tuesday.

The draft will now be passed on to health committees for review with the aiming of paying out the bonus from June 30th.

Employees who worked in geriatric care for at least three months between November 1st 2020 and June 30th 2022 and are still employed on June 30th 2022 are to benefit.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid reopening plan

According to the draft, which is available to the newspapers of the Funke Media Group, the highest amount of €550 will be paid to full-time employees in direct care and support.

Up to €370 will be paid to staff who work at least 25 percent of the time in direct care and support, such as administrators, building services, kitchen, cleaning, reception and security services, gardening and grounds maintenance, laundry or logistics.

Trainees in elderly care are to receive up to €330, other employees up to €190 and volunteers and participants in the ‘voluntary social year’ (FSJ) scheme will receive up to €60.

Employers will receive the bonus through their care insurance, the paper suggests. 

€1 billion earmarked for nurses

The traffic light government has put aside €1 billion for the ‘Covid care bonus’, which is set to be split equally between nurses in care homes and nurses in hospitals.

According to the ministry draft, the bonus will be directed at bedside nurses at hospitals where at least ten people were treated with ventilators during the Covid crisis.

Hospital owners will decide how to distribute the bonus payments between their staff, though intensive care nurses are likely to receive more. 

Discussing the move, Lauterbach said the care bonus was just the start of a wider scheme to make nursing a more attractive profession. 

“We must also improve the situation for carers in general through new staffing systems and better working conditions,” he said.

READ ALSO: German court refuses to delay vaccine mandate for health workers

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Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?