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EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level policy measures

Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure DE-2020-10/1143 Updated – measures in Germany

Trade unions support members to exercise right to withhold performance in case of OSH violations

Leistungsverweigerungsrecht bei verletzter Fürsorgepflicht

Country Germany , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 01 March 2020 – 07 April 2023
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Occupational health and safety
Author Birgit Kraemer (Hans Boeckler Foundation) and Eurofound
Measure added 15 September 2020 (updated 08 November 2023)

Background information

All workers have the right to withhold performance in case the employer violates the obligation to take care for the occupational health and safety (OSH) of the worker.

In industrial cleaning, workers are particularly individualised, precarious and vulnerable. They are therefore prone to face violations of OSH regulation. This situation became more pressing with the COVID-19 situation, as cleaners were simultaneously of essential importance for the protection of other (office) workers from the virus, and more exposed to the pandemic risk.

Content of measure

Members complain about violations of OSH regulation by employers, according to IG BAU, the Trade Union for Building, Forestry, Agriculture and the Environment, which also organizes industrial cleaners.

The trade union IG BAU released legal information for industrial cleaners on their right to withhold their work in case the employer does not provide COVID-19 protective clothing. Since March 2020, the union provides draft complaint letters for members to use, in order to better support them in protecting themselves against violations of OSH regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We do not have data on how many members have used the provided legal advice and draft complaint letters.


The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

07 April 2023

On 7 April 2023, the official Corona protection measures in Germany expired.

Use of measure

No data.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Applies to all workers Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Trade unions
No special funding required

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative No involvement
Form Any other form of consultation, institutionalised (as stable working groups or committees) or informal Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Only trade unions
  • Main level of involvement: Sectoral or branch level


The initiative lay outside the sectoral collective bargaining structures. In collaboration with workers, the trade union IG BAU started an information campaign about workers' health and safety rights during the pandemic. Employers or employer organisations were not involved. This is a low-cost measure for worker protection, exclusively funded by the union.

Views and reactions

No data.

Sectors and occupations

This case is not sector-specific.

    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Cleaners and helpers



Eurofound (2020), Trade unions support members to exercise right to withhold performance in case of OSH violations, measure DE-2020-10/1143 (measures in Germany), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.