Main reforms of the Social Protection Package II

According to the recently adopted law to further mitigate the social and economic consequences of the corona pandemic (Social Protection Package II), the impact of the corona pandemic on employers and employees is to be further mitigated in the coming months. The Social Protection Package II mainly includes the following measures:

1.Further improvements in short-time working compensation

1.1     Increase in short-time working allowance

As already reported, the short-time working allowance will be increased in stages until 31 December, 2020 for the months in which the loss of earnings is at least 50%. This is intended to cushion the loss of income suffered by employees as a result of a substantial loss of work and the associated loss of pay.

Accordingly, the short-time working allowance amounts to 70% or 77% of the net remuneration difference as of the fourth reference month and 80% or 87% as of the seventh reference month.

1.2     Earning limit

Furthermore, by the end of the year, the existing additional income possibilities with an additional income limit up to the full amount of the previous monthly income will be opened for all professions. So far, only employees in systemically relevant areas have been privileged: employees who take up employment in a systemically relevant area during short-time work must not offset the remuneration earned up to the net income limit against the short-time allowance…

This means that employers no longer have to check whether the secondary employment taken up during short-time work is an activity in a system-relevant area or not.

1.3     Extension of the period of entitlement to short-time working allowance

The regulation on the period of entitlement to short-time working allowance (Verordnung über die Bezugsdauer von Kurzarbeitergeld – KugBeV) was extended. Accordingly, all employees entitled to short-time work compensation up until December 31, 2019 will receive short-time work compensation for up to 21 months – but no longer than until December 31, 2020. The aim is to provide employers with planning security in order to bridge the period until the current economic situation eases and to be able to prevent redundancies.

2. Extension of the period of entitlement to unemployment benefit

In addition, due to the exceptional situation on the labour market, eligibility for unemployment benefit under the Third Book of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch – SGB III) was extended. Unemployment benefit is therefore granted up to three months longer to those, whose entitlement would end between 01 May, 2020 and 31 December, 2020.

3. Expansion of the use of video and telephone conferences

In addition, the possibility of using video conferencing technology in the oral proceedings shall be encouraged for the labour and social courts. In fact, there is already a regulation according to which the parties and other parties to the proceedings are to be allowed to participate by video conference upon request or ex officio, cf. sec 128a of the Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung – ZPO).

However, the application of sec. 128a ZPO has been adapted to enable the court to allow this form during an epidemic situation. Furthermore, not only parties, agents, experts, witnesses, but also honorary judges are given the opportunity to participate in the hearing by means of simultaneous video and audio transmission…

Moreover, the Rules of Procedure already provide for the possibility of a written procedure in certain cases, subject to the agreement of the parties. For the Federal Labour Court and the Federal Social Court, the possibility is temporarily created to order the written procedure even without the consent of the parties, if the appeal has been rejected.

In addition, the collective bargaining, minimum wage and homeworker laws were amended to expand the use of video conferencing technology.

In justified cases, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs can now provide for participation in the negotiations on the declaration of general applicability of a collective agreement by means of video or telephone conference.

In addition, participation in the meetings of the Minimum Wages Commission and the adoption of resolutions may, in justified exceptional cases, be carried out by means of a video conference on the proposal of the chairman or chairwoman, provided that no member objects to this procedure without delay and it is ensured that third parties cannot take note of the content of the meeting. The same applies to the meetings of the Home Workers’ Committee.

We will of course keep you informed about current legal developments.

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