New Corona rules for office work

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Mon 14th Mar, 2022

The end of the blanket home office requirement and mandatory masking only if the employer deems it necessary: With the start of spring on March 20, most state Corona requirements will also be dropped in companies. That's according to the draft of the amended Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance, which the federal cabinet will decide on Wednesday.

In the planned regulations of the Federal Ministry of Labor, it is envisaged that in future employers themselves should assess the risk posed by the virus and define appropriate measures in a company hygiene concept. These include the provision of weekly corona tests or masks, according to the draft, which is available to the F.A.Z.. In the future, companies are also to decide for themselves on protective measures such as distance and hygiene rules. According to the draft, companies will still be able to oblige their employees to wear masks, a ministry spokesman clarified.

The Corona tests, however, are different: companies can decide to make them available free of charge once a week. However, they cannot require their employees to use them. Previously, employers had to offer tests at least twice a week. This also eliminates the company's 3-G rule, which requires employees to carry either vaccination, convalescent or testing records.

This regulation was only introduced last fall after long resistance from the unions. It is seen as one of the reasons why the willingness to vaccinate in Germany has risen again after a lull in the summer. Meanwhile, the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) warns against neglecting protection against Corona infections in the workplace. "Occupational health and safety must not become a private matter for employees under any circumstances from the end of March," DGB Executive Board member Anja Piel told the newspapers of the Funke Media Group. "The pandemic is just not over yet, and that's why home office - where possible - remains a useful tool to limit contacts and thus infection risks."

While the ordinance can be passed by the cabinet, the amendment to the Infection Protection Act, which is also planned, is a matter for parliament. It is also due for initial discussion in the Bundestag on Wednesday. At issue is how to proceed after the planned elimination of most Corona measures on March 20. The amendments provide a transition period for the states until April 2. During this period, they can continue to enforce some restrictions, such as the 3-G rule in restaurants, as before.

After that, their scope of action will be further restricted. Additional measures such as 3 G or even a more extensive mask requirement will then only be possible in "hotspots" with a "dynamically spreading infection situation" where a new virus variant is emerging or high incidences threaten hospital care.

The new Infection Protection Act also takes precautions for the fall: as of October 1, people will generally only be considered fully vaccinated if they have received three vaccinations.

Image by Junjira Konsang

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