Employee health and safety are top of mind when it comes to work in times of the pandemic – and when starting to take steps to return to a new normal where business continues even as outbreaks may flare up. When the lockdowns have ended, employers must be ready with health & safety protocols limiting contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. The German government now recommends a new occupational safety standard employers should follow to avoid liability.
Here are the key points:
Companies that want to get their operations up and running should start preparing for the new normal and be ready with health & safety protocols. Although the German government's protection standards are a non-binding recommendation, the legal nature of which is not entirely clear, companies should comply with these standards in order to avoid exposure.
In addition to the German government's protection protocol, companies need to carry out an individual company risk assessment to determine the measures that are necessary and legally compliant to achieve a high protection standard. Implementation of any protective measures may require prior engagement with works councils, which is why an early engagement is important
There are many legal aspects to be considered when implementing protective measures. For example, taking employees' temperature on the company's premises may involve privacy issues – the employer may be threatened with fines and claims for damages by employees in case of non-compliance.
Employers should note that they have a specific duty to protect risk groups, notably older employees and employees with known pre-existing conditions. For these specific groups, specific protocols and policies need to be in place.
Please feel free to reach out to our Employment Team in Germany or your usual contact at Orrick to find out more or if you need any help.