These corona rules apply to German companies from October

With a mask in the office

From October 1st, stricter corona rules will apply in the workplace.

(Photo: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash)

Dusseldorf Many companies in Germany do not want to expand their home office offer this winter in order to contain Corona. However, many companies continue to offer their employees voluntary corona self-tests. These are the results of a Handelsblatt survey of the 40 Dax companies and ten large family businesses.

A new Corona Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance will come into force on October 1st because the government expects the number of infections to increase in autumn and winter. In fact, the number of cases has recently increased significantly: the incidence was 410 on Thursday, compared to 240 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week a month ago.

The new ordinance, which applies until the beginning of April 2023, stipulates that companies must “create operational hygiene concepts” and carry out a risk assessment. Companies should check again whether employees should wear masks, have to take tests or if fewer places are occupied. The companies are not obliged to take any action.

This summer, companies didn’t even have to check security measures. Last winter, employees who were neither vaccinated nor tested were not allowed to enter the company, and companies also had to offer their employees two tests at the company’s expense.

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There was also a home office requirement. The Ministry of Labor had initially planned this for the coming months. However, she dropped the project again, to which the economy reacted with relief.

Allianz is particularly careful

It is now up to the individual companies to decide how they want to contain the incidence of infection in the workplace. The alliance is particularly strict. The insurer has an “express recommendation” to only enter the office if you have been tested, vaccinated or recovered (3G). Large events with more than 100 people must be approved.

Alliance logo

The insurer is particularly careful this Corona winter.

(Photo: dpa)

The measures are different everywhere: At Telekom, employees must again keep a minimum distance of 1.5 meters, at the chemical dealer Brenntag offices can only be occupied individually. The healthcare groups Fresenius and Fresenius Medical Care strongly recommend that their employees “wear masks in high-traffic areas”. The pharmaceutical company Merck also relies on a mask requirement if distances cannot be maintained.

In many large companies there are still or again corona test options. The car manufacturer BMW wants to offer its employees two self-tests a week. The chemical company Covestro, the chip manufacturer Infineon and the organic food retailer Alnatura also do the same.

Deutsche Bank even offers free tests every day, and at the biotech company Qiagen, employees can even take the more precise PCR test every day. Companies are not legally obliged to do so. The automotive supplier Continental is evaluating whether it wants to offer free tests. The industrial group Siemens wants to test “on a case-by-case basis”, and the household appliance manufacturer Miele is planning something similar.

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In order to curb the incidence of infection, company doctors vaccinate employees with the new Covid vaccines, for example at car manufacturer Volkswagen or at energy giant RWE.

Often no increased home office to protect against infection

Most companies do not want to expand the existing home office offer for their employees this winter. Bayer, for example, replies: “We are currently not seeing any increased use of mobile working.” At the pharmaceutical and chemical company, employees in production are to be protected with distance and mask regulations when the number of cases increases.

telecom flags

The Dax group does not plan to expand home offices due to increasing incidences.

(Photo: IMAGO/Panama Pictures)

Telekom is also not currently planning to issue an explicit home office regulation. Infineon does not want to increase home office either, but only every second seat in the offices may be occupied. And Nivea manufacturer Beiersdorf, which enables its employees to work from home two days a week, says that this regulation offers enough flexibility to protect employees “even if the number of infections increases”. The media company Bertelsmann argues similarly.

Some corporations are more skeptical: Daimler Truck reports that they rely on a “careful approach to presence in the office”. Mobile work is an important tool in infection control. The reinsurer Munich Re also recommends that its employees work from home. The building materials group Heidelberg Materials (formerly Heidelberg Cement) reserves the right to change its home office regulations “depending on the development of the Covid numbers”.

Save energy by working from home

Many companies have allowed their employees to work from home more since the outbreak of the pandemic. Many companies want to avoid even more home office because they have experienced that personal exchange at work can hardly be replaced virtually, especially with creative tasks.

This winter, however, some companies see an opportunity to save energy by working more from home. For example, Persil manufacturer Henkel had considered letting more employees work from home in order to save on heating costs in the office.

The intralogistics specialist Jungheinrich wants to enable its office employees to work 100 percent from home between the end of October and the end of March. The group, which is listed on the M-Dax, is even planning to close one of its two office buildings this winter in order to reduce gas and electricity costs.

Collaboration: Florian Kolf

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