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Federal cabinet adopts ordinance: Companies must offer employees corona tests

Federal cabinet adopts ordinance : Companies must offer employees corona tests

It was a long struggle - but German industry will be obliged to offer corona tests. Business officials are sharply critical. But there are also concerns from other sides.

Companies will have to offer corona tests to their employees in the future. On Tuesday, the German Cabinet approved an occupational health and safety regulation to that effect.

"This rule applies to all employees who cannot work permanently in a home office," said Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) in Berlin. That part of the economy, which should remain open, must now make a mandatory contribution to infection control, he added. "I think this is an imperative of responsibility," Heil said. The regulation will come into force next week, he added. Also extended until the end of June is the requirement to work from home office for suitable work.

Corona tests in enterprises - employees have to use offers too

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert called on employees to also take advantage of the test offers. Possible are the use of rapid tests, PCR tests and also self-tests, said Heil. Companies could also work with service providers - such as the pharmacy around the corner. The plan is for companies to offer their employees a test once a week. Two tests per week are to be made available to employees who are particularly at risk. This applies to areas with a lot of customer contact or body-related services. Employees placed in shared housing by the employer must also be offered testing twice a week. There is no mandatory testing for employees.

"We are strengthening companies that already test," Heil said. It's not acceptable if others don't, he said. For many companies, such a mandatory offer does not change much in the view of the Economics Ministry. According to the ministry, around 70 percent of companies now offer their employees weekly testing opportunities, and further offers are being added. This was also confirmed by last week's survey by the federal government. In mid-March, the figure was still around 35 percent.

Criticism of the decision comes primarily from the business community. The commitment is a further declaration of mistrust in companies and their employees in this country, said employers' president Rainer Dulger. The president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), Hildegard Müller, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur: "Instead of bureaucratic requirements, what is urgently needed now is help in obtaining sufficient tests, which is particularly difficult for small and medium-sized companies." From the point of view of the Deutscher Mittelstands-Bund, insufficient availability of certified tests is a problem. Criticism also came from the chemical industry and machinery and plant manufacturers. Heil stressed that tests were available in sufficient numbers.

Employers bear the cost of the tests. In principle, however, companies can claim the costs of rapid tests under Bridging Assistance III if they meet the requirements. According to the Ministry of Economics, in addition to disinfectants and protective masks, rapid tests and employee training on hygiene measures are also eligible for funding. The federal government expects costs per employee of 130 Euro by the end of June. Occupational health and safety is an entrepreneurial task, said Heil.

The German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) called for more tests. With a five-day week, more than one offer is necessary, said DGB head Reiner Hoffmann. "For employees who are particularly at risk, a rapid test must be made available every working day." The chairman of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, "There needs to be a daily self-testing obligation for all employees who are not in home offices. Particularly in geriatric and nursing care, this is overdue."

(Original text: ga/dpa/ Translation: Mareike Graepel)