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-2020-10/541 – Updated – measures in Germany
|Country||Germany , applies nationwide|
|Time period||Temporary, 01 March 2020 – 30 June 2023|
|Context||COVID-19, War in Ukraine|
|Type||Legislations or other statutory regulations|
Employment protection and retention
– Income support for people in employment (e.g., short-time work)
|Author||Sandra Vogel (IW)|
|Measure added||13 April 2020 (updated 08 November 2023)|
The Federal Government eased up rules on short time work, in order to support workers and companies alike during the COVID-19 crisis. Employees on short-time work will receive public money to support their livelihood when not working. Companies on the other hand will not have to pay wages for hours not worked and still be able to keep their workers on board and not lay them off. Changed rules on short time work were implemented by a government ordinance based on the act to enhance the regulations governing short-time work allowance for a limited period as a result of the crisis (Gesetz zur befristeten krisenbedingten Verbesserung der Regelungen für das Kurzarbeitergeld). The improved short-time working scheme is part of a broader rescue package adopted by the Federal Government at the end of March 2020, in order to cushion the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the closure of many businesses. The rescue package also includes other measures, such as easier access to loans for companies, eased up tax and insolvency rules, financial assistance for solo- or micro-entrepreneurs, support for hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
The new rules took effect in retrospect on 1 March 2020. Companies that are faced with a decline in orders due to the negative impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and shut-down of businesses, can apply for short-time work, if at least 10% of its workforce could be affected by the lack of work. This limit was lowered from 30%. Before short-time work can be granted, any remaining hours on workers' working time accounts have to be depleted. If short-time work is granted, employees will receive 60% of their net income (67% if having children) for all hours not worked. The short-time working allowance is paid by the local employment agency for a maximum of 12 months. To lower the remaining costs, the federal government also decided that social insurance contributions usually paid by employers for their employees, will be fully reimbursed by the Federal Employment Agency. The new rules apply to dependent employees and will also be made available to temporary agency workers.
First projections regarding the usage of the measure are available. The Federal Employment Agency estimates that in March 2020 over 322,000 establishments ran short-time work affecting nearly 2.5 million workers. Estimated figures rise to over 565,000 establishments affecting nearly seven million workers in April 2020. These figures are first estimates.
Information from 6 October 2020:
The Federal Statistical Office estimates that in March 2020 344,020 establishments ran short-time work affecting 2.6 million workers. In April figures rose to 613,149 establishment with 5,979,148 affected workers. In May numbers started to decrease with 532,428 establishments in short-time work, affecting 5,818,432 workers. In June, 411,793 establishments and 5,355,874 workers were affected by short-time work.
Information from 5 January 2021:
In its annual report for 2020, the Federal Employment Agency estimates that around 2.9 million workers were on short-time work in 2020 (or 8.7% of all employees in a job liable to social security contributions). This compares to only 145,000 workers in 2019 (or 0.4% of all employees in a job liable to social security contributions). Given these first estimates for annual averages in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a much harsher effect on the German labour then the global economic and financial crisis in 2008/2009. In 2009, some 1.14 million workers had been on short-time work on average (or 4.1% of employees in a job liable to social security contributions).
Information from 31 March 2021:
The Federal Statistical Office has made all numbers on short-time working for 2020 available. With the start of the pandemic in 2020, the number of workers affected by short-time working rose to an all-time high of 5.99 million in April with 7ers affected by short-time work rose to 3.29 million in January with 421,052 establishments affected. Those numbers have decreased significantly between February and April to 2.34 million people and 338,688 establishments affected by short-time work.
Information from 30 September 2021:
Since February 2021, the number of workers affected by short-time work has constantly decreased. While in February 3.36 million workers and 431,241 establishments were affected by this measure, this number decreased to 1.54 million workers and 228,888 establishments in June 2021.
Information from 4 January 2022:
At the beginning of January 2022, the Federal Employment Agency estimated that the average number of short-time workers was with around 1.85 million persons affected much lower in comparison to the previous year. In 2020, around 2.94 million persons had been affected by short-time work.
Information from 31 May 2023:
While the number of workers affected by short-time work decreased constantly until August 2022, there has been a slight increase in numbers since: In August 2022 the number of affected workers stood at over 75,000 persons affected. This compares to nearly 134,000 short-time workers in March 2023. Nevertheless, the numbers are significantly lower than in the previous years with approximately 800,000 affected workers in 2022 and 3.36 million in 2021.
Information from 2 November 2023.
The Federal Employment Agency announced at the beginning of 2023 that the number of people affected by short-time work was significantly lower in 2022 compared to the previous two years. However, due to the energy crisis the average number of short-time workers in 2022 is still higher compared to 2019. The Federal Employment Agency estimates the average number of shot-time workers for 2022 at about 430,000 compared to 1.85 million in 2021.
Employees in standard employment
Workers in non-standard forms of employment
|Applies to all businesses||Does not apply to citizens|
Company / Companies
Public employment service
Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:
|Trade unions||Employers' organisations|
|Form||Direct consultation outside a formal body||Direct consultation outside a formal body|
Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:
Social partners are on board of the Federal Employment Agency and consulted on such issues as prolonging the short-time working duration or other changes to the scheme.
German social partners are usually consulted by the Federal Government on broader measures, though no formal tripartite social dialogue structure exists in Germany at the federal level.
Eurofound (2020), Easier access to short-time work, measure DE-2020-10/541 (measures in Germany), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/DE-2020-10_541.html
30 January 2023
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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.