Law changes in the coming week Hubertus Heil: Continued payment of wages is secured in the crisis

Berlin · Following top-level meetings with employers and unions, the federal government is holding out the prospect of a law as early as next week. Continued payment of wages during the crisis is to be secured.

 Announced assistance for the continued payment of wages: Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (left) and Federal Minister of Labor Peter Altmaier.

Announced assistance for the continued payment of wages: Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (left) and Federal Minister of Labor Peter Altmaier.

Foto: dpa/Kay Nietfeld

It takes time. And more time. The crisis is big. The need for talks is great. But with some delay, the Federal Ministers Hubertus Heil (Labour) and Peter Altmaier (Economics) together with the President of the Employers' Association Ingo Kramer and the Chairman of the German Trade Union Federation, Reiner Hoffmann, have some good news in this corona crisis after all. Within a short time the black-red federal government wants to "make laws" (Heil), so that especially for parents who currently have no care for their children and therefore have to stay at home, the continued payment of wages is secured. It is expected that a bill will be passed as early as next Monday, and that it will immediately be submitted to the Bundestag.

During this first week of school and daycare closures, many employers have been accommodating and will continue to pay wages even if parents do not work because of childcare. But this will not be able to continue. For this reason, the government wants to make a "regulation" "on how to avoid disproportionate wage losses with public support". Employers would get a large part of their sick pay back from the state.

Consequences will be far-reaching

Heil expressly clarified that such an aid programme did not apply to those occupational groups for whose children emergency care was already organised, such as doctors, nurses, firefighters and paramedics. He also said that the support programme now being considered, for parents who have to look after their children themselves due to closed schools and day-care centres, would not apply to recipients of short-time work benefits. Heil stressed that this current corona crisis is a much greater challenge than the financial market crisis of 2008/2009.

Economics Minister Altmaier pointed out that the economic consequences of the Corona crisis could leave "brake marks and results" that could still be seen "in years or decades" "if we do not act wisely and prudently". He said that the government and the social partners of employers and trade unions are concerned with "keeping as many companies and as many jobs as possible".

Altmaier, too, referred to the new, more flexible granting of short-time work compensation, as well as to promised federal liquidity aid for companies in need, and to the possibility of temporarily deferring taxes for companies. DGB head Hoffmann explained that in some industries there were already provisions in the collective bargaining agreement to narrow the gap between short-time work compensation and regular wages. Altmaier's conclusion after the top-level meeting: "Politics and the economy stand together." The social partnership has to prove itself again now.

"We will walk get through this valley"

Employers' President Kramer sees liquidity aid, especially for small and medium-sized companies that were financially strapped in the Corona crisis, as a key instrument to protect these companies from possible insolvency. Kramer tried to encourage both entrepreneurs and employees in Germany: "We will go through this valley just as we used to go through other valleys. You wouldn't believe how often I, as an entrepreneur, have looked into the abyss." Kramer praised the short-time work allowance as a means of keeping employees in the company who would otherwise have to be laid off.

Heil, also Altmaier emphasized, the government would also provide instruments and support for "self-employed and freelance persons" so that they could get through the Corona crisis in their self-employment. Altmaier called this direct subsidies and hardship funds.

Original text: dpa

Translation: Mareike Graepel

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