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Living and Working Conditions

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in the development of better social, employment and
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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

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

Factsheet for case DE-2021-1/865 – measures in Germany

Stricter regulations for the meat industry

Schärfere Auflagen für die Fleischindustrie

Country Germany , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 01 January 2021
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
Case created 21 May 2020 (updated 22 May 2020)

Background information

Workers in slaughterhouses in Germany, which often employ migrant workers and workers from temporary work agencies, have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 infections. Many factories had to close for several weeks. Working conditions in industrial meat factories have been subject of political debate before, but shortcomings in occupational health and safety, infection prevention and health protection standards, and the resulting high number of infections, now have led to the implementation of new regulations in the meat industry. This followed a debate in the German parliament and a meeting of the responsible minister with industry representatives. New regulations are to be be put in law and the competent authorities will enforce them more vigorously.

Content of measure

The German government lists the following measures (see source dated 20 May 2020):

  • Customs and occupational safety authorities as well as district regulatory authorities and health offices are to take additional steps to ensure compliance with occupational health and safety, infection prevention and health protection standards;
  • As of 1 January 2021 butchering and processing of meat may only be performed by employees of the company itself. Contract workers and the leasing of temporary workers will no longer be permitted. Artisanal businesses will be exempted from this regulation;
  • The level of fines imposed for contravention of the Working Time Act is to be doubled to €30,000;
  • The government will also examine ways of obliging companies to ensure compliance with minimum standards in workers' accommodation;
  • The financial and legal basis of the 'Fair Mobility' project is to be ensured on a permanent basis so that foreign workers are informed in their own language about their rights and about pertinent regulations in Germany

Use of measure

No information available yet.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Workers in non-standard forms of employment
Sector specific set of companies
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Company / Companies
No special funding required

Social partners

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

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Informed Informed
Form Not applicable Not applicable

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

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Sectoral or branch level



Views and reactions

On the side of trade unions, the measures were welcomed. The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) and Nahrung-Genuss-Gaststätten (NGG), a trade union in the food industry, welcomed the regulations as a basis to put an end to organising the entire production process through chains of subcontractors.

On the side of employer organisations, the measures were critizised. The Central Association of the German Poultry Industry described the decision 'wrong and disproportionate' and as a risk to keeping factories open and preserving jobs.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      C - Manufacturing C10 Manufacture of food products
    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Food processing, wood working, garment and other craft and related trades workers


  • 20 May 2020: Federal government: Stricter regulations for the meat industry (Bundesregierung: Schärfere Auflagen für die Fleischindustrie (
  • 21 May 2020: DGB welcomes ban on work contracts in the meat industry (DGB begrüßt Verbot von Werkverträgen in der Fleischindustrie) (


Eurofound (2020), Stricter regulations for the meat industry, case DE-2021-1/865 (measures in Germany), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,

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