How do I live with corona at work?


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In this article we have put together the answers to the most important questions about the corona at work for you and update it regularly to keep you up to date.

Work from home? Refuse the business trip? Even in times of Corona, employees are not allowed to simply make such decisions themselves.

But what if someone in your work environment falls ill with Corona? And what about quarantine, rapid tests and mandatory vaccination? There are always new resolutions and laws during the pandemic that are supposed to make working life safer.

Which occupational safety standards apply to you?

For you as an employee, the Occupational Safety and Health Act generally applies – even during a pandemic. The law was amended on January 1, 2021: the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs can now issue special, limited-term statutory ordinances in a pandemic without the Federal Council having to agree (Section 18 (3) ArbSchG).

The ministry made use of this with the SARS-CoV-2 occupational health and safety ordinance. Due to the current low number of infections, the regulation has been extended in a milder form.

The new ordinance has been in effect since July 1, 2021. This means that there is no longer any obligation to work from home. More on this below. The occupational health and safety standards from April 2020 still apply.

The SARS-CoV-2 occupational health and safety rule in the version dated February 22, 2021 is also still of importance. These regulations in working life are important from July 1, 2021.


Corona at work: Rapid tests in companies

Employers are obliged to offer a Corona quick test twice a week to all employees who do not work in the home office (Section 4 Corona-ArbSchV). PCR tests are suitable, but also rapid antigen tests or self-tests. Employers who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid 19 disease may be excluded from the test offer by the employer.

It is up to the company how they organize the tests – quick tests at home or in the company. You can also have the tests carried out by a service provider or a pharmacy or send your employees to the test center. The mandatory test is expected to apply until September 10, 2021.

If the measures at your workplace do not seem sufficient to you, you should talk to your boss or your manager about it. Point out the regulation and the standards that must be complied with. If none of this helps, you can contact the supervisory authority responsible for occupational safety in your state.

No obligation to work in the home office

Since July 1, 2021, employers are no longer obliged to offer their employees home office. The special regulation in the Infection Protection Act has not been extended due to the low number of infections (Section 28b (7) IfSG).

Anyone who has been in the home office because of the pandemic should be prepared for the fact that they have to slowly come back to the office. Many employers will consider how they can integrate the positive experiences with the home office into everyday work; maybe your employer is free to decide where you want to work.

There is also an increased duty of care for employees who are particularly worthy of protection, for example for people with previous illnesses or pregnant women. In individual cases, they should have the opportunity to stay in the home office.

Home office and taxes – If you had to take care of your office equipment yourself and buy something new, then these are the work equipment that you can state in your tax return. The tax office accepts half of the costs as business expenses for a laptop that is used both professionally and privately.

You may also be able to deduct the cost of your home office from tax. To do this, you have to use the space for at least 90 percent work.

Even if your home office is not recognized, you can save taxes with the new home office flat rate in 2020 and 2021. You can deduct 5 euros for every working day that you work exclusively in the home office – but only for a maximum of 120 days a year, i.e., 600 euros.

The flat rate will be offset against the flat rate for advertising expenses. So, you only benefit if your advertising costs are higher than 1,000 euros. You can find the tax requirements in the work room guide and further information in our home office guide.

What to do if you feel sick as an employee?

If you have a cough, shortness of breath or a slight fever, you must report sick leave to your employer immediately. This is the only way to reduce the risk of infecting other people.

Important: You no longer have to go to the doctor personally to get sick leave if you have any signs of a cold – a phone call is enough. After the interview, your doctor can write you sick for up to seven days, and if necessary, extend it for another seven days. The regulation applies until September 30, 2021. This was decided by the Federal Joint Committee.

If you are on sick leave, you will continue to receive your salary from your employer for up to six weeks (Section 3 EntgFG). After that you can get sick pay.

What happens in your company in the event of a corona case?

A close colleague is suspected of being corona? Then your employer will likely send you home immediately to fulfill their duty of care. He will temporarily release you. You will continue to receive your salary (§ 615 BGB).

If your rapid test in the company is positive, you usually have to have a PCR test carried out immediately by the health department or a doctor. You have to go into quarantine until the test result.

If the suspicion is confirmed, the health department should contact you. You can find the contact details of the authority responsible for you in the database of the Robert Koch Institute. Your health will be monitored in quarantine at home for a maximum of 14 days.

Meanwhile, you have to stay at home and severely limit your contacts so that the virus cannot spread further. Due to the new virus variants, there is currently no way to shorten the quarantine with a negative test result.

For people who live in a household with people suffering from Covid-19, it is recommended that contacts be restricted up to the 20th day.

Are you still getting your salary under quarantine?

Whether, how much and from whom you get money while you are in quarantine depends, among other things, on whether you can work from home. But also, about why you are in quarantine.

In principle, as an employee under quarantine, you do not have to fear any major losses. Your company will continue to pay your salary because you are not allowed to work. However, your supervisor may request that you work from home if you can.

If that doesn’t work, you as an employee will be treated legally as if you were sick. So, there is continued payment of wages. In the first six weeks, this roughly corresponds to the net wage (Section 56 (2) IfSG), then the amount of sick pay.

Your employer can have these payments reimbursed (Section 56 (5) IfSG). If your boss does not pay despite the quarantine, you can claim compensation from the state.

The authority to apply for these grants is regulated somewhat differently in each federal state: In Hesse, the health authorities are responsible, in North Rhine-Westphalia the regional associations, in Bavaria the district governments, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania it is the state office for health and social affairs. The best thing to do is to ask your citizenship office or the health department.

Attention: If you have to be quarantined at home because you spent your vacation in a risk area, then you are responsible for it yourself. You can find out which countries and regions are currently included on the RKI website.

In any case, you have to be quarantined for five days after your return. Because you can have a corona test done on the fifth day of quarantine at the earliest. If the test turns out negative, you can end the quarantine early, otherwise you have to isolate yourself for a total of ten days.

If you cannot at least work in the home office during this time, you will not receive any money from your employer (§ 616 BGB).

You will also not receive any compensation under the Infection Protection Act for the loss of wages if you have to be in quarantine because of an avoidable trip to a risk area (Section 56 (1) sentence 3 IfSG). This is clearly regulated by the Third Civil Protection Act.

Can your boss arrange shorter working hours or vacation?

Your boss must not simply ask you to come to work every other day or only work four hours a day – not even during the Corona crisis.

However, you can agree on certain measures with him, for example, that you celebrate your overtime. It is important that you find good solutions together and thus avoid dismissals. There may be short-time work benefits. More on this in the short-time work guide.

This applies to arranged vacation

Your employer is not allowed to simply send you on vacation. But he can order company holidays or company holidays – if there is a works council, but only with its consent.

By ordering company holidays, an employer sets the vacation leave for the entire workforce for a uniform period of time. You have to accept that. You don’t have to work during the time, but you will continue to receive your salary.

The employer may not send individual employees on vacation without their consent – not even if they currently do not have enough work for them. But you can agree with him that you take part of your vacation. Maybe this will even suit you because you have to look after your children right now.

This applies to your vacation planning

Many vacation plans have fallen into the water. It is understandable that you want to save the vacation days for the times after Corona when you can travel again. But now the restrictions persist, so you should take a vacation even if you cannot travel.

How does short-time work?

Your employer cannot simply order short-time work without your consent. There are special clauses in this regard in many employment contracts. By signing the employment contract, employees agree to short-time working in the event of a crisis.

However, there can also be a company agreement or your boss will inform you about the reduction in working hours due to Corona.

As a rule, however, you are financially secure without becoming unemployed. You have to work less and therefore don’t get your full salary – but in any case, significantly more than what you would actually get for your now much shorter working hours.

Anyone who has to reduce their working hours by half receives short-time allowance in addition to half of their salary. This is 67 percent of the net difference to the regular salary for employees with children and 60 percent for everyone else.

From the fourth month, parents receive 77 percent of the lost wage (childless: 70 percent), from the seventh month even 87 percent (childless: 80 percent). The higher rate is only available for those who work at least 50 percent less during short-time work.

As an employee, you basically don’t have to worry about anything; your employer applies for the benefit and then pays it, including the increased benefits. According to the Employment Protection Act, the increase in short-time allowance applies until December 31, 2021 for all employees whose entitlement arose by June 31, 2021.

Anyone who is on short-time work can earn additional money. Since January 2021, however, only a mini-job has been worthwhile, as this is not counted towards short-time work benefits

What if your company closes temporarily?

You may also receive short-time work benefits in this case. Easier access to this should avoid dismissals: A company can apply for short-time work allowance from the Employment Agency if at least 10 percent of employees cannot come to work.

This threshold was previously at 30 percent of the workforce. Another new feature is that the agency pays social security contributions. These regulations on short-time work apply retrospectively from March 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021.

When is there a corona bonus for employees?

During the corona pandemic, there are not only workers who are on short-time work, but also those who work more or are exposed to greater risks. No one outside of the nursing profession is entitled to a bonus.

However, your employer can send you a special payment as a thank you. In doing so, he must observe the general principle of equality; so, he may not only allow individual employees or only full-time employees to receive the special payment.

For employers and employees, the benefit is tax-free up to 1,500 euros. Payments also remain free of charge in social security. This applies to all employees who receive a corona bonus between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022.

If your employer did not pay a bonus in 2020, he can still do so. You could point this out to him in your employee interview. Because the deadline for paying the tax-free Corona support has been extended to March 31, 2022 (Section 3 No. 11a EStG).

Corona care bonus

The care bonus was given to everyone who worked for at least three months in an approved care facility between March 1 and October 31, 2020 (Section 150a SGB XI). How high your Corona premium is depending on how many hours you have worked in nursing and in which position – as a trainee, in the voluntary social year, full-time or part-time.

The federal government pays up to 1,000 euros, the federal states can top up the premium. If you have worked full-time, you can receive up to 1,500 euros in total.

By July 15, 2020, the grant should be paid out to everyone who met the requirements by June 1, 2020. Those who only met the requirements by October 31, 2020 should have the Corona premium in their account by December 15, 2020 at the latest. If you have not received any money to which you are entitled, you should definitely claim the tax-free benefit from your employer.

What applies to parents who have to look after their children?

If parents cannot work because of looking after their children, there is either child sickness benefit from the statutory health insurance company or state compensation in accordance with the Infection Protection Act – but the child being cared for must be under twelve years of age.

Additional childhood sick days

The legislature increased the number of childhood illness days in 2021. Each parent is entitled to 30 days of childhood illness, single parents are granted 60 days a year (Section 45 (2a) SGB V).

The health insurance company will then reimburse 90 percent of your net salary up to the assessment ceiling. You can apply for it from your statutory health insurance company – with a certificate from the kindergarten or school.

Actually, the statutory health insurance only pays if your child has to stay at home sick and you therefore cannot work. The entitlement now also applies to the care of healthy children – if the school or kindergarten or the class or group of your child is closed due to a pandemic, the compulsory attendance in class has been suspended or access to childcare has been restricted. The entitlement also exists if you work in the home office.

Those with private health insurance are not entitled to additional child sickness benefit, but may be entitled to other state benefits.

Affected parents can receive 67 percent of the monthly net income in such cases, but not more than 2,016 euros (Section 56 (2) sentence 4 IfSG). For single parents, the payment is available for up to 20 weeks, for couples it is ten weeks per partner.

The prerequisite is that you cannot organize any other care, for example from another parent or emergency care. You can also apply for compensation on a daily basis. The law came into force retrospectively as of March 30, 2020.

You have to apply for the childcare allowance from your employer, who will then take over the payment for the first six weeks. He in turn can submit an application for reimbursement under the Infection Protection Act. If you need compensation for more than six weeks, you must submit your application directly to the locally responsible authority for the remainder of the claim period.

If you receive short-time work allowance, the care allowance will not be considered for you. They don’t exist for those times when the school or daycare would have closed anyway due to the school and company holidays.


Michelle Halterman
Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.


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