Last updated on 22.6.20

Due to the current situation and the closure of many stores and restaurants, many students are uncertain whether they can continue with their “mini-job”. Employers fire their student employees or offer termination agreements. Despite the exceptional situation, employers are bound by legal requirements. We have summarized the most important questions concerning the topic “Employment law in times of Corona” for you.

Due to the loss of income/jobs, many students currently experience financial difficulties and do not know how to pay their rent, health insurance or food. We have put together an overview and a collection of links with tips and help from the AStA and other agencies.

You can also contact the Social and Legal Counseling Service and the Social Policy Department of the AStA by e-mail or telephone at any time.

 

 

FAQ about employment law during Corona

 

Tips, support and advice in times of Corona

Can Corona be a reason for termination?

Many employers dismiss their employees because of operational reasons, for example because they have had to close their café. If you have been employed for more than six months in a company with more than 10 employees, you are subject to the Employment Protection Act (“Kündigungungsschutzgesetz” KSchG). According to this law, employers can only terminate the employment if there are objective reasons for termination. These can be operational or behavioral reasons. Termination for operational reasons is linked to the business, termination for conduct reasons to the conduct of the employee.

Can I be fired if my employer is forced to close down the company/business due to the current situation?

In this case, a dismissal for “operational reasons” could become relevant. For a dismissal for operational reasons, there must be urgent operational requirements that lead to a permanent loss of employment. Operational requirements can be a lack of orders or difficulties to make sales. This requirement will be met in most cases.

It is more difficult to determine whether there is permanent loss of employment. At present, the development of the crisis and its consequences is unpredictable, so that it cannot be clearly stated that the need for employment will disappear permanently. In most cases, the dismissal cannot be based on this reason.

Can I be fired if I stay at home and do not do my job because I’m afraid to catch the virus?

Due to the employment relationship, certain obligations arise for both parties. The employees commit themselves to perform a certain service. In individual cases, they can refuse to provide the service if it would be “unreasonable” to continue to provide the service. In individual cases, it must be examined whether it really is “unreasonable”.

Case 1: Your workplace poses a higher risk of infection

In this case, it is usually not reasonable to expect the employees to go to their workplace. However, the employer can enable you to work from home.

Case 2: I am afraid of getting infected on my way to work or at work. However, there is no actual evidence of an increased risk of infection.

In this case, it can be expected from the employees to go to work because this abstract fear falls into the category of the so-called “general life risk”. If you refuse to go to work, you might receive a warning. If you continue to refuse to go to work, this could be a so-called breach of duty. This might lead to a termination for conduct reasons.

Case 3: The public transport does not work anymore, so I cannot come to work.

As an employee, you are responsible for your way to work. Therefore, problems with public transportation do not mean that you can refuse to go to work. It is advisable to talk to your employers to find a solution together. 

How can I determine if my notice of termination meets the formal requirements?

A notice of termination must be in writing. In writing means that the notice of termination must be signed by the employer personally. Thus, notices of termination that have been given orally or sent by SMS or e-mail are invalid.

What are the deadlines for dismissals?

The dismissal is subject to certain deadlines, i.e. you cannot be fired from one day to the next.

The legal notice period is based on the duration of your employment. If the employment relationship has existed for less than two years, it can be terminated with a notice period of four weeks to the 15th or the end of a calendar month. If you have worked there for more than two years, the notice period is one month from the end of the calendar month. However, we recommend having a look at your employment contract to see if other notice periods are regulated there. The periods of notice apply regardless of the Employment Protection Act.

What can I do if I have received a notice of termination?

If you have received a notice of termination because of Corona, you can check whether the notice of termination is effective or not based on the previous questions. You can also contact the legal advice of the AStA with the notice of termination as soon as you receive it. If a notice of termination is invalid, you can file an action for protection against dismissal (“Kündigungsschutzklage”) with the labor court within three weeks of receiving the notice of termination.

There are employers who refrain from dismissing their employees and ask them to sign so-called termination agreements instead, according to which the employment relationship ends immediately by mutual consent. It is advisable to read these termination agreements at home in peace and quiet and, if necessary, obtain legal advice before signing them.

Many companies/businesses are currently converting their operations to short-time work. This means that the working hours and the wages linked to them are reduced or not paid at all. The Federal Employment Agency pays the so-called “short-time work compensation” as partial compensation for the wage lost due to a temporary loss of work. However, not all employees are entitled to the payment

Am I entitled to short-time work compensation as a mini-job/working student?

Mini-jobbers/working students are not entitled to short-time work compensation, as this is only intended for employees subject to social insurance contributions. As a rule, this applies to all students who regularly work no more than 20 hours per week.

Am I entitled to short-time work compensation if I work more than 20 hours per week in a job that is subject to social insurance contributions?

If you are subject to social insurance contributions, you are entitled to short-time work compensation just like any other employee.

Can employers suddenly ask me to take my vacation?

Basically, employers cannot send you on vacation against your will. Something else applies to company vacations (“Betriebsferien”). However, these must have a certain lead time and cannot be required by employers spontaneously. If there is an employee organization (“Betriebsrat”), the employers must agree on the company vacations together with the employee organization.

Because of Corona I cannot go on vacation as planned. Do I still have to take the approved vacation?

From a purely legal point of view, the approved vacation remains in force, as the employers have committed themselves to release you from work during this period with pay. If you still prefer to work, we recommend talking to your employer.

First of all, consider that many employers simply lose their nerves in the current situation and say and do things that would otherwise never occur to them. Therefore, it is never wrong to seek a personal conversation first (and thus to point out your rights).

If employers do not pay their wages they must first be asked to do so. For this purpose, a so-called “Einlieferungseinschreiben” (registered Mail) is recommended – so that you can later prove that they received it. In the letter itself, the employer must be given a deadline to transfer the outstanding wage to the usual account.

If this does not happen, the only option is to go to the labor court (or to a lawyer etc.).

Anyone who does not believe they can do this on their own must either seek legal help or contact a trade union (e.g. “ver.di”).

In labor court proceedings (in the first instance), one’s own legal costs must be paid for, even if one is successful – this is likely a problem for students, since very few have legal protection insurance and often have low income and assets. This is where legal aid (“Prozesskostenhilfe”) helps. If you seek advice from a lawyer before the actual proceedings, the legal aid can help you. If this concerns you, you can request a “leaflet” from the AStA social counseling for assistance.

Trade unions can only become active for their own members. They offer legal protection in the areas of employment law and social law. In many trade unions, the minimum fee for students is around 2.50 euros per month. Therefore, it would be worth considering becoming a member of a trade union to take advantage of this assistance. In any case, it should be clarified with them in advance whether the union would be willing to enter into an existing legal dispute. More information here.

What kind of government support is available? 

There are still governmental services that students with a student visa cannot use without endangering their residence status.

Therefore, caution is advised in this respect. (Since March 2020, for example, the job centers have been obliged to report applications for unemployment benefits (ALG II/Hartz IV) to the immigration offices). The same applies to information on assets and income, for example when applying for housing subsidy (“Wohngeld”). For this reason, I have written the recomme

ndations, which students with a student visa can use without hesitation in blue.

Everything that is written in red can only be claimed by students with permanent residence rights (this includes – for the duration of their stay – refugees according to § 25 of the Residence Act and EU citizens who have been living here for more than 4 years). In my search for a connecting word, I have chosen “locals”.

Unfortunately, the state has not provided special services for students in this situation.

Students who are citizens of the European Union and who have lost their jobs due to the Corona crisis can, just like “locals”, receive benefits according to § 27 SGB II (as a loan from the job center) in exceptional cases, e.g. when formally leaving university or interrupting your studies and a being placed in a job is not reasonable.

BAföG recipients can receive BAföG for a correspondingly longer period of time, they can submit proof of eligibility with a delay, or they can use the “assistance for the completion of studies” (BAföG as a full loan) up to 2 years after the end of the standard period of study. You can find information about this here.

In several cases, it is possible to receive housing subsidy (“Wohngeld”). In some cases, however, you cannot receive it: If you live in a typical student flat share (or on your own) and are still entitled to BAföG (with grant) or if you only do not receive it because of too much property/income. (When in doubt, simply ask the AStA social counselling service).

Students with a student visa can receive housing subsidy but the application can be troublesome because you need to disclose your earnings, assets and income.  You should definitely proceed with caution if your livelihood is not financed in any other way. Please seek advice before you apply.

(AStA- Social Counseling/Social Counseling of the Studierendenwerk, ESG or Campussegen)

Can I make extension agreements (“Stundungsvereinbarungen”)?

Extension agreement means that you can pay current payments in smaller amounts and/or later. You can always make use of them:

This is explained in detail here (website of the Federal Ministry of Justice)

In these cases, please always keep in mind that Corona is not a “hall pass” for stopping payments without comment. Otherwise this will only lead to “coercive measures” (termination/ warning/ collection/ execution/ power cut etc.) by the other side.

Please contact the respective institutions/persons early enough and inform them that and why you cannot pay at the moment. Upon request, give them all necessary evidence of your current financial situation – in other words; actively participate in finding a solution. This solution can be a reduced payment or a suspension of payment. But it is also always just a delay in payment, it is not waived. Therefore, you should always consider the next chapter and make sure  to restore your financial solvency as soon as possible.

Where can I get financial support?

– Furthermore, money (interest-free) can be borrowed from the Studierendenwerk Essen-Duisburg – up to 500 Euros without a security – this is called a hardship fund.

– The student body can reimburse the mobility contribution (i.e. approx. 208 euros) as part of the re-registration fee for the summer semester (the ticket itself remains valid, of course). This is called a hardship application.

– There is also the possibility of an (interest-free) loan from the DAKA – but for this you would need someone who stands security for you.

– Bildungskredit from the federal government (people who fulfill the conditions of § 8 BAföG are eligible – those who, in theory, could receive BAföG. Whether or not they actually do or do not (or no longer) receive anything for other reasons (personal or course-related) is not important here.)

– Student loan of the KfW

The following people are eligible:

– German citizens with a domestic registration address or

– Family members of a German citizen who are staying in Germany with him/her and are registered here (your citizenship is not important).

– EU-citizens who have been legally residing in Germany for at least three years and are registered here or

– Family members of such an EU-citizen, who are staying with him/her in Germany and are registered here (your citizenship and the length of your previous stay in Germany does not matter).

– “Bildungsinländer*innen” and registered in Germany.

What help is offered by the Protestant and Catholic university chaplaincy on site?

Where can I find offers for scholarships?
Unfortunately, scholarships are often not a quick fix because application and awarding take some time. Nevertheless, you can find an overview here: “SCIES” provides a list for international students.

If you are interested in a scholarship, send a short mail to the AStA-Social Counselling. You will then receive extensive information (as PDF), which will help you to choose the right scholarship.

You can find information about the financing of your studies, which explains all possible benefits in detail, here.

Where can I currently find a new job?
Last but not least: look for a job in those fields that need additional workers right now. In agriculture, but also in food and beverage delivery services, supermarkets, drugstores, grocery stores, farm stores, logistics companies, cleaning companies, DIY stores and gas stations.

Especially so-called

are in great demand at the moment. (If you use these search words, you will quickly find the corresponding positions).

The employment agency in Essen has set up a special hotline for this purpose, which is also for students:

0201 – 181 2222 (Mon. – Fri. from 8:00 to 16:00)