From May 1st, the corona quarantine rules are to be partially relaxed.

However, there are still numerous open questions.

There is uncertainty, for example, about what will apply in the companies in the future if contact persons are no longer sent to quarantine by the health authorities, but only an “urgent recommendation” for isolation applies.

"Legally, nothing is set in stone yet," said Stefan Greiner, professor of civil law, labor law and social law at the University of Bonn, to the FAZ. Specialist lawyer for labor law in the law firm Brüggehagen labor law in Hanover.

Katja Gelinsky

Business correspondent in Berlin

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At the beginning of the month, after consultations with the health ministers of the federal states, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) initially announced that anyone who contracted the corona virus would no longer have to go into isolation from May 1st.

The same relaxation should apply to people who have had contact with an infected person and have had to be quarantined so far.

After fierce protests, Lauterbach partially revised the announcement on a talk show the following evening.

There should still be an obligation to isolate infected people.

For contact persons, on the other hand, the quarantine obligation is planned to be abolished.

On May 1st, an “urgent recommendation” is to replace the legally binding quarantine order of the health authorities, which is subject to a fine.

What does that mean in terms of labor law?

Law professor Greiner points out that the political risk assessment of the pandemic has shifted a bit.

Dealing with contact persons is therefore more relaxed.

No legal basis for the obligation to notify

Lawyer Kiene points out that quarantine is no longer ordered for every contact person anyway.

"The easing promised by Minister Lauterbach essentially affects the relatively small group of unvaccinated people who have not recovered in the last three months," explains the lawyer.

If people from this group no longer have to be quarantined in the future, Kiene and Greiner believe that there is some evidence that from May 1st they will no longer be obliged to inform the employer about their contact status.

The urgent but non-justiciable recommendation to go into quarantine does not provide a legal basis for a reporting obligation.

The downside of the coin is that contact persons cannot simply stay at home by referring to the recommendation.

"The employee's right to refuse performance does not result from this," Greiner clarifies.

The situation is different when exemption agreements are made.

In general, Greiner sees a challenge for the company parties: "If the statutory corona restrictions are relaxed, basic rules can still be agreed in the company,

Obligation to pay wages would be remarkable

If there are no operational or employment contract regulations and the employer finds out about the corona contact status of an employee, he must find a health-friendly solution.

"The legal obligation to work from home has been abolished," says lawyer Kiene.

But the employer can, due to his duty of protection and care, order that the contact person have to work from home.

If the activity cannot be done from home, precautions would have to be taken in the company, for example in the form of compulsory tests, masks and distance.

Since contact persons are not required to be disclosed, Greiner believes that these measures can also be taken for the entire company – with certain legal risks.

"Because you never know how the courts will decide in the end."

Of course, in some activities, such as on the assembly line or at the checkout, the risk of infection is difficult to contain.

If the employee with contact status still insists on working, the employer could hardly refuse him or he would have to continue to pay the wages, says Greiner.

This would also apply to unvaccinated employees.

The obligation to pay wages would be remarkable because, under the current legal situation, unvaccinated contact persons who could have been vaccinated will get nothing.

Kiene emphasizes: “Unvaccinated contact persons in quarantine do not receive state compensation, which the Infection Protection Act provides for in principle as a result of an official isolation order.”

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