Heil tilts the obligation to offer after employer criticism

Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) at the cabinet meeting in Meseberg

The Corona protective measures are intended to prevent infections in the company and thus work and production losses.

(Photo: IMAGO/Frank Ossenbrink)

Berlin Minister of Labour Hubertus Heil (SPD) no longer wants to oblige employers to offer employees a home office offer to protect them from corona infection in autumn and winter. Instead, they should only check whether they can enable employees to work from home. This is what the new version of the Corona Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance for the period from October 1, 2022 to April 7, 2023 provides for, which the Federal Cabinet sealed on Wednesday.

Heil had caused irritation with his original push for a return to the home office offer that expired in March of this year. Because the new corona protection measures, which the federal government also wants to anchor in the Infection Protection Act for the period from October 1st to April 7th, are significantly less strict than in the past peak phase of the pandemic.

Employer President Rainer Dulger had therefore criticized Heil’s initiative as a “roll backwards into the past”. “It’s time to leave the panic corner and get back to normal with Corona,” said Dulger. Many countries in Europe are already further along and have found a way with caution and flexibility and not against the economy.

But Heil continues to urge vigilance. The high contagiousness of the omicron variant led to a high rate of infection even in the past summer months, his ministry said. When it gets cooler again and people spend more time indoors, a further increase in the number of infections can be expected – also in companies and administrations. There is therefore a high risk of infecting yourself and others at work and, in the worst case, of being affected by long-term consequences.

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Companies are therefore obliged to implement hygiene concepts and adapt them to the specific infection process. Operational contacts should be reduced if possible.

The offering of corona tests also remains voluntary

Where other protective measures at the workplace are not possible, the mask requirement applies. Employers can offer corona tests voluntarily. The obligation originally planned by Heil was canceled, as was the home office rule.

Heil’s original proposal was also viewed critically because the Minister of Labor wanted to enforce a legal right to work from home in the previous legislative period, but was unable to do so with the then coalition partner Union.

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