Back to the Future - Returning from the Corona Lockdown
What have the last weeks and months really been bringing about since the beginning of the corona pandemic?
For me personally, more home office, lunch breaks without canteen, hardly any court hearings, increased use of video conferences and webinars instead of a personal meeting and Laila. I will not miss corona and most of the changes/restrictions that came with it after corona.
Laila, my little, sweet and sometimes screaming daughter was born at the beginning of May 2020 - and I cannot imagine the future without her any more.
The corona pandemic is not yet over but restrictions in the world of work are being eased. After a lockdown lasting weeks, companies are now preparing for their employees to return to their offices, salesrooms, construction sites, factories and the football ground. What has to be kept in mind and reserved for the return from the corona lockdown and what will be left of the corona-dominated working conditions.
To make a return from the corona lockdown at all possible, the Federal Government, the federal states and, regionally, the cities and municipalities have issued various regulations. They specify whether the operation of a particular trade is permitted or prohibited, and if so, under what conditions. Irrespective of whether it is retail, workshops, hotel and catering, administration, healthcare, production or development, the focus is always on measures to prevent infection.
Return from the corona lockdown
Employers have an interest in the return of their employees to work, as this can generate turnover. Yet due to the duty of care, the employer is responsible for the health of its employees (section 241 and section 618 German Civil Code (BGB)). Should the statutory accident insurance with the statutory limitation of liability not apply in the event of an employee's illness, the employer is liable according to general principles. Employers therefore have a great interest in protecting their employees from infection at the workplace. The following aspects are to be taken into account in particular:
- Perform a risk assessment,
- Develop a cleaning and hygiene concept,
- Regulations for protective mouth-nose covers and gloves, the disinfection of hands and equipment,
- Regulations on working hours and breaks, e.g. corona shift models and staggered breaks,
- Guidelines for customer visits, events and business trips,
- Contingency plan in case of corona infection of an employee,
- Quarantine and employment bans,
- Information and instruction of employees, control of compliance with the measures, if necessary warning of the employees in case of violations,
- Documentation of regulations and measures as well as information, instruction and control of the employees
What remains of the corona lockdown?
The corona pandemic has already changed the world of work within a short time. For instance, decisions of the works council can be made by telephone or video conference. Due to the corona pandemic, many employees are also currently working in their home offices. As was announced at the end of April 2020, Minister of Labour Huberts Heil has announced that he intends to present a law for a right to a home office by autumn 2020. This law would particularly affect the period after the corona pandemic. According to this law, every employee should have the right to work in a home office if his/her job allows it. Of course this is all "still up in the air".
However, disputes can already arise if the employer wants to restrict or completely end temporary, corona-related regulations such as the home office. Employer and employee should therefore agree on whether and how to return to the original working conditions. This would, for example, be possible with the following instruments:
- automatically by means of a (temporally or materially) limited agreement,
- through a unilateral right of withdrawal,
- by mutual agreement, or
- by dismissal/dismissal with the option of altered conditions of employment.
Corona will keep the working world busy for a long time to come.
Best wishes from the Labour & Employment Law Practice Group, and stay well
Yours, Laila and Dr Erik Schmid