Germany plans return to ‘working from home’ rule in autumn

Employers in Germany should allow people to work from home this autumn amid a possible Covid resurgence, according to plans from Labour Minister Hubertus Heil.

A man works from home in Germany.
A man works from home in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

According to reports, Heil is proposing that firms once again let their staff do ‘home office’ from October instead of going into the workplace, in order to protect people from Covid. 

The draft bill for the SARS-CoV-2 occupational health and safety regulation from the Labour Ministry would run alongside Germany’s Covid protection laws that come into force from October and run until April 7th next year. 

The culture around remote working changed dramatically when the Covid pandemic hit in 2020. Since then Germany has brought in mandatory ‘home office’ working rules at different stages of the pandemic. 

During these periods, companies are meant to offer people the opportunity to work from home unless there are operational reasons that don’t allow it. 

READ ALSO: German Labour Minister wants to allow more remote working after pandemic

The most recent working from home obligation ended in March this year. 

But with rising Covid infections expected in the coming months, authorities in Germany are pushing for more protection for workers.

What do the proposals say?

The draft plans states that employers will have to draw up hygiene and safety concepts to protect people who do have to go into their place of work, while also allowing remote working.

These include a “reduction in operational personal contacts, and by offering employees the opportunity to work in a home office”.

Employers should offer staff the opportunity to “carry out suitable activities in their homes if there are no compelling operational reasons to the contrary”.

Furthermore, they should enable their employees to be vaccinated against Covid – if necessary – during working hours.

Employees who continue to go to their workplace will have to be offered a Covid test at least twice a week. And if minimum distances are not observed, face masks will have to be provided and worn by staff, under the draft proposals. 

The plans are still in the draft stage, but the Labour Ministry aims to push them through so they can come into force from October 1st.


Home office obligation – (die) Homeoffice-Pflicht 

Employers – (die) Arbeitgeber

Employees/staff – (die) Beschäftigte

Draft/plan – (der) Entwurf

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6.6 million people ‘set to benefit from €12 minimum wage’ in Germany

According to a new study, Germany's new €12 minimum wage will benefit more than 6.6 million people when it comes into force on October 1st.

6.6 million people 'set to benefit from €12 minimum wage' in Germany

Currently, around 6.64 million workers in Germany earn less than €12 gross per hour, according to new statistics published by the Hans Böckler Foundation’ Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI), a trade union-linked research foundation. 

Among those now benefiting from the increase, 2.55 million are in full-time employment, according to the WSI. Nationwide, just under one in ten full-time workers and around 20 percent of part-time workers earn less than €12 per hour. Among mini-jobbers, the figure is as high as 80 percent.

Under a flagship policy of the Social Democrats (SPD), Germany’s national minimum wage is set to increase from €10.45 to €12 per hour on October 1st. The last increase was on July 1st this year. 

READ ALSO: ‘Biggest pay rise of their lives’: Germany hikes minimum wage to €12

The move is “a ray of hope in these difficult times” that will help low-paid workers handle the rising cost of living, Stefan Körzell, an executive board member of the German Trade Unions Federation (DGB), said on Tuesday. 

However, the DGB said more controls were needed to ensure that workers actually receive the statutory minimum wage. According the trade unions, employees across numerous sectors are currently earning less than the legal minimum. 

“The federal government must significantly increase the staffing of the responsible authority, Finanzkontrolle Schwarzarbeit,” Körzell said.

In addition to the wage hike, unions are also calling for more relief from the government to help cushion the impact of the rising cost of living. 

In particular, they are advocating for energy price flat rate and an energy price cap that could be paid for by skimming off the “excess profits of the large energy and mineral oil companies”, Körzell explained. 

From Wednesday, the DGB will run information campaigns on the minimum wage increase at more than 230 railway stations and market places throughout Germany.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Will Germany set a gas price cap and how would it work?