The federal government has agreed on uniform Corona regulations through the "emergency brake". The amendments to the Infection Protection Act contain tightened obligations: home office duty for employees and the duty of employers to offer corona tests to their employees.
What does this mean in detail?
- In the case of office work or comparable activities, the employer must offer employees home office regardless of Corona incidence if there are no compelling operational reasons to the contrary. This corresponds to the previous regulation in the Corona Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and is now strengthened by its inclusion in the Infection Protection Act.
- Employees must accept the offer of home office if there are no reasons to the contrary. Such reasons may be: confined space, interference by other persons or insufficient technical equipment. Should this be the case, it is recommended to document this at least in text form (e.g. e-mail) for traceability (also for proof to the authorities).
- If employees do not work exclusively in home office, i.e. if they also carry out their work from the office, employers are obliged to offer them corona tests on a regular basis (at least twice per week).
- However, there is no obligation for employees to accept these tests.
- The employer must bear the costs of the tests offered but it is possible to be reimbursed for masks provided and for tests offered from the financial support package until 30.06.2021.
- Self-tests, PoC rapid tests and PCR tests may be offered. Supervised self-testing is likely to be the most efficient and cost-effective in the office setting, as it does not require medically trained staff.
- Employers must document the offer of the Corona test and retain it for 4 weeks.
- A positive test result must be reported to the employer and the employee must go into quarantine. Even though the obligation to report to the health authority only applies for the rapid test, it is recommended to also report positive results of the self-test to the health authority.
- A certificate of the test result must be issued on request. The Federal States provide various templates for this purpose. Here you can find overview of the Federal States regulations as well as an example of the downloads for Berlin.
- In the event of violations of official orders to enforce the measure (offer of the Corona tests by employers), a fine of up to € 30,000 can be imposed.
In the Corona pandemic, every employee should consider infection control and act in solidarity with their colleagues when deciding whether to comply with the employer's request for testing and whether there are really reasons not to work in home office. Employers and workers should act responsibly and in solidarity and develop solutions together.
It is recommended to set up a central office in the company to take care of the logistical issues and implementation of the testing as well as to maintain employee data protection, e.g. in case of positive results, to administer them and to inform the supervisor that the employee concerned will not be working. As few colleagues as possible should become aware of a positive test, the data should be stored separately and not in the personnel file and deleted after four months at the latest.
Contact your company doctor and data protection officer - they will certainly provide support.