Home office obligation: Job centers should advise personally

Job centre

In the first peak of the pandemic, personal advice in the job centers was severely restricted. This is to change now.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The 3G rule in the workplace has been in effect since Wednesday – and if at all possible, employers should offer employees with office jobs to work from home. But employees in the job centers are concerned that they will be measured by double standards.

Because the Federal Employment Agency (BA) attaches great importance to the fact that discussions with the unemployed and benefit recipients are also held personally in the job center – and not just by telephone or video consultation.

The chairman of the job center staff council, Moritz Duncker, has therefore now written to the executive minister of labor, Hubertus Heil (SPD).

Many job centers are currently facing the gradual and in some places even complete return to uncontrolled customer access, while at the same time the number of infections shot up, according to the letter that is available to the Handelsblatt. “This alone leads to friction, as some management boards find it difficult to expand home offices and let employees work from home.”

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In addition, the question also arises as to what personal interviews are actually required in the current situation. In many places, pressure is exerted to allegedly achieve goals and to provide customer care in the presence of people, which results in additional psychological stress for the employees.

Due to the pandemic last winter, the BA had almost 65,000 of its 100,000 employees working on the move. Many services such as the extension of unemployment benefit II can also be done online.

2G in employment agencies and job centers operated by BA

In a letter to all job center employees, however, the three-person BA board of directors pointed out how important the personal conversation “is for the success of our advisory and placement work with certain groups of people”. In doing so, he is likely to have long-term unemployed in mind, many of whom are barely able to reintegrate into the labor market without close and regular care.

From this Thursday, the 2G rule will apply in the employment agencies and the job centers operated by the BA. This means that vaccinated and recovered customers are advised as personally as possible, while others have the option of online advice or brief advice at an emergency counter. In the job centers operated jointly with the municipalities, the local management decides on home office and access rules.

The staff councils fear, however, that the decision will often be made at the expense of the employees – also in order to meet the request of the Nuremberg headquarters for a personal approach.

The home office regulation is an important instrument for reducing contact and thus protecting against infection, according to the letter to Minister of Labor Heil. The formulation that work from home is to be made possible if there are no compelling operational reasons to the contrary, “opens up a certain scope for interpretation and in case of doubt is not always interpreted in terms of infection protection”.

In some cases, for example, there are stipulations that initial discussions or the conclusion of integration agreements must take place in the form of personal advice. “Taking into account the extreme pandemic conditions, this in no way corresponds to our ideas of a necessary occupational health and safety protection”, criticize the staff representatives.

Contact reduction as the first means of choice

The 2G rule for customers is not sufficient on its own because vaccinated and convalescent people could also transmit the coronavirus. Therefore, contact reduction must be the first method of choice. The colleagues in the job centers would do everything possible to serve and advise those seeking advice and benefit recipients and to make them suitable offers, the letter to Heil said.

This is a responsible and particularly stressful task in pandemic times, which they are happy to take on. “You don’t need any additional pressure for personal advice at your desk, if there is another way (for example by telephone or video advice).”

The Minister of Labor should therefore please act on the providers and the management of the job centers, “that they deal responsibly with the current pandemic situation and take the pressure off the operative business”.

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