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Information for Freie Universität Employees

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, employees of Freie Universität Berlin have ensured that research, teaching, and administrative processes can successfully continue thanks to their dedication and willingness to work from home.

On these pages you will find all the information you need on topics such as working from home, taking leave to care for your children, and the various types of support on offer if you feel yourself struggling.

Working During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The “3G rule” that took effect on November 24, 2021, is no longer in place as of March 20, 2022.

The university management and the Staff Council: Entire Freie Universität have agreed upon a temporary remote work policy ("home office") for the 2022 summer semester, following very productive negotiations. The standing agreement regarding alternating telework/remote work, which has officially lapsed, will be amended with the following additions, effective from March 20. 2022 and until September 30, 2022. Under the interim policy, university employees may work remotely, upon approval by their supervisors/line managers, according to these guidelines:

  • From March 20 to April 18, 2022, employees may work remotely for up to 80% of the workdays in a given month.
  • As of April 19, 2022, they may work remotely for up to 40% of the workdays in a given month.  

Remote work days should be taken as whole days; however, as of April 19, 2022, they can also be taken as half days. The bottom line is that employees should be given the option to work remotely. If you are working from home, you should establish availability times with your supervisor that fall within the core working hours of your office/unit. The new policy goes into effect on March 20, 2022 and was published in the staff circular "Personalblatt 01/2022" from March 15, 2022.

Depending on how the pandemic continues to progress, government decisions on various levels might impact how we deal with remote work or working from home. If necessary, Freie Universität Berlin will have to reassess the situation and implement new appropriate measures.

Generally speaking, being afraid of getting sick is not a viable reason to refrain from coming into work. You are only excused from work if you are actually unfit to perform your tasks. A fear of contracting the virus at work or on the way to work is not a sufficient reason.

Please observe the instructions on reporting confirmed and suspected cases of Covid-19 at Freie Universität Berlin (https://www.fu-berlin.de/en/sites/coronavirus/meldeverfahren/index.html).

Here is where it is important to differentiate between two different scenarios:

1. You are in quarantine because you are ill: You receive a doctor’s sick note and the usual regulations on sick pay apply. You submit your sick note to your office as you normally would.

2. You are not ill, but have been instructed to go into quarantine by the local public health department as a precaution; or you have contracted the virus, but are symptom free, and the health department has instructed you to self-isolate: It will be possible to work from home in these cases. Quarantine or isolation-related measures can only be imposed by the responsible public health department. You will not be considered ill in this case and will not receive a doctor’s sick note. Whether or not you will continue to receive your salary depends on the regulations stipulated by Section 56 of the of the Protection against Infection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz – IfSG). Please note that if you could have prevented quarantine restrictions by getting vaccinated, your salary will, as a rule, be suspended.

The Covid-19 pandemic has limited the research and work that employees have been able to do in their capacity as research assistants or as artists. In response to this unfortunate development, limited contracts can be extended up to 6 months beyond the regular fixed term as stipulated by Section 2.1 of the Law on Fixed-Term Employment Contracts in the Science and Research Sector (WissZeitVG) for employment agreements valid between March 1 and September 30, 2020. In September 2020, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research initiated legislative steps to further extend the time limits set by the Law on Fixed-Term Employment Contracts. As a result, an additional extension of 6 months was approved, which not only applies to employment agreements valid between March 1 and September 30, 2020, but also for those that were started between October 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.

The parties involved in the agreement may decide to extend the employment contract based on the circumstances of individual cases. These changes give higher education institutions and research centers, as well as the researchers themselves, the flexibility to respond appropriately based on the specific challenges and circumstances of specific cases. This extension can only be granted once the maximum period of fixed-term employment has come to an end and as long as the employee is still pursuing the same academic qualification.

Please send an email to krisenberatung@fu-berlin.de. This is how you can learn more about support options such as psychological counseling from the Center for Academic Advising and Psychological Counseling, social counseling, and the Dual Career and Family Service. You can find further details – such as availability and office hours – here.

SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Self-Test Kits for Employees at Freie Universität Berlin

Based on the SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, and as a further measure to contain the spread of the ongoing pandemic, Freie Universität Berlin has resolved to offer a SARS-CoV-2 antigen self-test kit twice per week to employees who are working onsite.

This measure will further safeguard necessary activities on campus as an addition to the existing regulations (social distancing, handwashing and hygiene measures, wearing a mask, airing out rooms, coronavirus tracking app, basic hygiene plan of Freie Universität Berlin) and make it possible to detect potential infections at an early stage.

Certificate on the results (positive or negative) of a SARS-CoV-2 virus antigen test taken by a Freie Universität employee

SARS-CoV-2 antigen self-tests can be used to test for the presence of an acute infection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Tests that are so easy to use that they can even be used independently by people who are not medical professionals (self-test kits) have recently become available on the market. Generally speaking, self-test kits deliver a reliability of over 90% – in fact, the HotGen tests used at Freie Universität have proven to be over 95% reliable. However, they can also produce false-positive or false-negative results. This is why people who test negative should continue to comply with the hygiene and social distancing measures in place.

If you test positive for Covid-19, you will need get retested at a certified testing site; see: https://www.berlin.de/corona/testzentren.

You can find further information on self-test kits on the German Federal Center for Health Education website: https://www.infektionsschutz.de/coronavirus/tests-auf-sars-cov-2/antigen-selbsttest.html

  1. The units at Freie Universität Berlin will provide their employees who work onsite with up to two tests per week where necessary.
  2. Employees can choose to voluntarily take the test.
  3. The tests will be performed by the employees themselves in accordance with the state ordinance currently applicable in Berlin.
  4. The respective departments are responsible for administering the tests and enforcing the applicable hygiene concept.
  5. Employees who have been tested can request a certificate that indicates their test result, but only if the tests have been done under supervision. You can find a sample certificate form here.
  6. Used test materials should be disposed of via the household waste in the sealed plastic specimen bag provided with the testing kit.
  7. Employees who test negative must continue to comply with all applicable precautionary and hygiene measures.
  8. Employees who test positive must inform their unit and immediately leave campus to procure a confirmatory antigen test at a certified testing site. The units will then report any positive test results from certified test sites as confirmed cases of infection to the Occupational Safety Service office by means of the established reporting procedure. Positive self-test results will be reported as suspected cases.
  9. The personal data of the employee who has tested positive will not be shared with the public health departments or other third parties.

As of April 13, 2021, self-testing kits are available for order via UniKAT. To order, click on "Warenliste" (list of goods and wares) in the navigation menu.

Yes, there is! A testing site is located at Habelschwerdter Allee 45 in front of the Rostlaube. Testing is open to all university employees, students, and the general public. The testing center is run by Medicare GmbH.

Please book an appointment at https://www.covid-testzentrum.de/berlin-fu.

Taking Leave for Childcare Purposes

Regardless of whether or not there is an official declaration of an epidemic situation of national significance, there are two options when it comes to taking leave for childcare purposes in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic during this transitional period from now until September 23, 2022. Leave can be taken either on the basis of the Protection against Infection Act or in the context of a claim for child sickness benefit. If you are requesting leave for childcare purposes, please note that you must indicate on which legal basis you are claiming leave, as the two options represent two separate sets of legal provisions.

Provided that you meet the relevant requirements, you as a guardian can generally apply for leave based on either Section 56 of the Protection against Infection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz – IfSG) or Section 45 of the German Social Code – Book V (Sozialgesetzbuch – SGB). Sections 2 and 9 of the German Care Leave Act (Pflegezeitgesetz – PflegeZG) set out additional regulations that apply to the care and supervision of family members requiring assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Form: Taking leave for childcare purposes pursuant to Section 56 of the Protection against Infection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz – IfSG).

In light of childcare facilities having to close, Berlin’s Senate Department of Finance – most recently by means of Bulletin IV No.66/2021 of November 26, 2021 – has issued regulations that aim to ensure that employees can take leave from employment for childcare purposes under the provisions of Sections 56.1a and 56.2 of the Protection against Infection Act.

Employees are entitled to take leave from work in order to take care of children under the age of 12 and children of all ages who have disabilities and thus require additional assistance or care, if the responsible government office, in order to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, has

  • closed the community facility – in other words, the nursery school, daycare center, parent-child cooperative (or similar), facility for people with disabilities, facility offering care and support for children with special needs, or school,
  • prohibited anyone from entering such facilities to ensure they remain isolated from the virus,
  • ordered or extended vacation breaks or planned closures to meet legal obligations under the IfSG, or
  • suspended the obligation to attend school in person.

You are not entitled to take leave for childcare purposes if the above facilities are simply closed as part of their regular schedule, for example, during vacation breaks or planned closures.

Section 56.1.a of the Protection against Infection Act does not apply directly to civil servants. However, they may be able to take leave from work while continuing to receive remuneration pursuant to Section 59 of the Berlin’s Law Governing the Employment of Civil Servants (Landesbeamtengesetz – LBG).

In accordance with Section 10.4 of the German Social Code - Book IV - General Rules for Social Security (SGB IV), step-children (including those of a spouse or partner) and grandchildren for whom the employee or civil servant is a primary caregiver as well as foster children are considered children in terms of this regulation, alongside biological and adopted children.

The employee’s entitlement to take leave and compensation payments pursuant to the Protection against Infection Act have been outlined in both the bulletin of Berlin’s Senate Department of Finance and the German Act on the Protection of the Population in the Event of an Epidemic Situation of National Significance (Gesetzes zum Schutz der Bevölkerung bei einer epidemischen Lage von nationaler Tragweite, document 19/18111 of March 24, 2020). The following is stated in document 19/18111:

“An entitlement to compensation payments shall only be considered valid if the closure or the prohibition of access to schools or care facilities in itself results in a loss of earnings. This is not the case, for example, if and insofar as the employed person is already entitled to be absent from work based on other statutory, collective, or operational requirements or on another legal basis specific to the individual in question while continuing to receive remuneration or financial benefits that are equivalent to their actual salary. If such legal options exist, then these should be applied first. This is the case, for example, if an employed person who is a guardian still has overtime hours owed to them by the employer that can be taken. In this case, the employee should take this time off before making use of other legal possibilities. ”

Taking into account this information, the following requirements must be met in order to take leave:

  1. The employee is responsible for supervising, looking after, or caring for the child during this time because there are no other acceptable childcare options available.
  2. It is not possible to work from home, i.e., the employee cannot care for the child while also fulfilling their work duties from home.
  3. The employee does not have any compensatory hours, e.g., overtime or flexitime.
  4. The employee does not have any vacation days left over from 2020 that could be used in 2021 for childcare purposes (see also: document of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of March 2020 entitled “Information on Planned Compensation Payments for Parents in the Event of Child Daycare or School Closures under the Protection Against Infection Act: Prioritizing Vacation Leave among Employees”).
  5. Compensatory time-off may be granted to civil servants under Section 59 of Berlin’s Law Governing the Employment of Civil Servants, provided that urgent professional duties do not prevent them from taking said leave.

Each employed person has the right to a certain amount of time off (or compensation) for a given period based on the regulations stipulated by the German Bundestag in Section 5.1.1 of the Protection against Infection Act, which describes measures related to an epidemic situation of national significance. March 30, 2021, marked the beginning of a new period (the second one) in which you can request time off (or compensation), meaning the full allotted time/compensation for this period started from that point on. However, the transitional regulations in place until September 23, 2022, do not foresee an additional period starting once this one lapses.

However, you cannot transfer unused days off from the last period to this one in order to accumulate more that maximum allotted time for a given period.

Employees who work a five-day week can take leave for childcare purposes for up to 34 full days or 68 half-days. Single parents can apply for up to 67 full days or 134 half-days off. A half-day is defined as 50 percent of the employee’s regular daily working hours.

Leave and/or compensation payments that have already been granted under Section 56.1.1 of the Protection against Infection Act or Section 59 of Berlin’s Law Governing the Employment of Civil Servants since September 1, 2020 are to be factored into this.

During this period, Freie Universität Berlin is responsible for making compensation payments on behalf of the responsible authority pursuant to Sections 56.1.a and 56.2.4 of the Protection against Infection Act. The defined period of leave entitlement of up to 34 workdays (in the case of a five-day week) to which the employee is entitled while continuing to be entitled to unreduced salary payments and/or benefits under Section 21 of the TV-L collective agreement equates to a right of compensation based on 67 percent of the employee’s lost income for 50 workdays.

If an employee does not work a five-day week, their entitlement to time off for childcare purposes is adjusted corresponding to the number of days per week that they work as follows:

Table for alternative working hours:

6 workdays per week: 41 days off

5 workdays per week: 34 days off

4 workdays per week: 27 days off

3 workdays per week: 21 days off

2 workdays per week: 14 days off

1 workday per week: 7 days off

For single parents/guardians, the following applies:

Table for single parents/guardians:

6 workdays per week: 81 days off

5 workdays per week: 67 days off

4 workdays per week: 54 days off

3 workdays per week: 41 days off

2 workdays per week: 27 days off

1 workday per week: 14 days off

If an employee to whom the collective agreement applies needs more time off than this for childcare-related reasons, they can request additional days of unpaid leave based on their regular working days per week as follows:

Table for unpaid leave:

6 workdays per week: 19 days off

5 workdays per week: 16 days off

4 workdays per week: 13 days off

3 workdays per week: 9 days off

2 workdays per week: 6 days off

1 workday per week: 3 days off

If all these options have been used up and more time off is needed for childcare-related reasons, for example, on the basis that otherwise undue hardship would arise (Härtefallregelgung), then the employee can request additional days of unpaid leave for a temporary period under Section 29.3.2 TV-L or special leave under Section 28 TV-L.

Civil servants may be granted more time off than the maximum of 34 working days (in the case of a five-day week) as an exception to the rule pursuant to Section 59 of Berlin’s Law Governing the Employment of Civil Servants. After taking paid leave amounting to 34 or 67 working days (based on a five-day week) pursuant to Section 59 of Berlin’s Law Governing the Employment of Civil Servants, civil servants also have the option of part-time working for family-related reasons pursuant to Section 54.a of LBG or unpaid leave of absence pursuant to Section 55.1 of LBG.

As stated above, pursuant to Sections 56.1.a and 56.2.4 of the Protection against Infection Act Freie Universität Berlin is responsible for making compensation payments on behalf of the responsible government authority for the duration of the leave and may retroactively apply to Berlin’s Senate Department of Finance for a reimbursement of such payments.

The application for reimbursement under Section 56.1.a of the Protection against Infection Act requires the university to submit comprehensive information and documentation as evidence of the leave taken. In some cases, we must therefore ask you to furnish us with the relevant documentation as we cannot access it directly.

First, you need to furnish us with documentation from your child’s school or childcare facility indicating that you are entitled to childcare and the period for which the facility expects to be closed. Please use the form “Confirmation of childcare hours, closing periods, and emergency childcare from the school/childcare facility” (in German) to do so.

You must also declare in writing that:

  • You are unable to find any other acceptable childcare options and that you must take care of your child or children as a result.
  • It was not possible to work from home in the relevant period as you were unable to provide childcare along with fulfilling your work duties while working from home or using any other operational measures.
  • You did not have any compensatory hours (e.g., overtime, flexitime) and/or any remaining vacation days left over from 2020 at the beginning of the applicable period. If time permits, please have your supervisor and/or the head of administration of your department verify this information. Otherwise, your personnel office can request the confirmation for you.

In addition to the childcare leave afforded by the Protection against Infection Act, legislation was enacted to temporarily grant employees entitlement to child sickness benefits in cases where the employee had to provide childcare as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic without having to provide proof of a child’s sickness. This special legislation is only in effect until September 23, 2022.

Employees under the collective agreement are eligible who are insurance policy holders (statutory insurance or voluntary insurance) and therefore entitled to sickness benefits, and whose children are insured under a statutory insurance scheme (e.g., under the family insurance plan according to Section 10 of SGB V).

Accordingly, insurance policy holders are entitled to child sickness benefits

  1. if it is necessary for them to take off from work in order to supervise, look after, or care for their sick child, as long as the child is also insured,
  2. there is not another person residing in the house who can supervise, look after, or care for the child, or
  3. the child is 12 years of age or younger, or is disabled and thus requires additional assistance or care.

This entitlement is valid until September 23, 2022, based upon the provision in Section 56.1a of the Protection against Infection Act, and also applies to cases in which childcare facilities, schools, or facilities for people with disabilities are affected by government decisions intended to prevent the spread of infections or contagious diseases on the basis of the Protection against Infection Act, where the responsible government authority

  • has temporarily closed the facilities
  • has prohibited anyone from entering such premises in order to ensure they remain isolated from the virus,
  • has ordered or extended vacation breaks or planned closures for reasons related to the Protection against Infection Act,
  • has suspended the obligation to attend school in person, or restricted access to the childcare service
  • has officially recommended that the child does not visit the facility

According to Section 45.2.a.1 of the German Social Code – Book V (SGB V), from January 5, 2021 to September 23, 2022, a parent is entitled to 20 workdays (a maximum of 45 workdays in total) of child sickness benefits for each child. Single parents are entitled to 40 workdays (a maximum of 90 workdays in total) of child sickness benefits for this same period.

As this type of leave is not paid, you will not be entitled to remuneration during this period. The child sickness benefit will be paid out by your health insurance company upon request. Insurance companies provide the necessary application forms on their websites.

The child sickness benefit generally amounts to 90 percent of the net pay you have lost. If you have received one-off payments in the past 12 months, for example, vacation pay or an end-of-year payment, then your child sickness benefit will amount to 100 percent of the net pay you have lost. The maximum payment for the child sickness benefit is 112.88 euros per day (2022).

Proof of the closure of the school, childcare facility, or facility for people with disabilities, prohibition of access to said facilities, extension of vacation breaks or planned closures, suspension of the obligation to attend school in person, restriction of access to the childcare service, or the existence of an official recommendation to refrain from visiting the facility must be submitted to your health insurance company in a suitable manner. The insurance provider will request an appropriate certificate from the childcare facility or school.

Debeka BKK and the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth have made a declaration form for your application available online (in German) as well as a template certificate for schools and daycare centers.

Foreign Travel and Returning to Germany from Abroad

Field trips with students are now permitted if the following regulations are observed:

  • You must prepare a hygiene plan for each field trip. The measures outlined in the hygiene plan must be in accordance with the current regulations for in-person teaching at Freie Universität as well as the rules and regulations in place at the destination of your field trip (e.g., any necessary testing, attendance lists, etc.).
  • The official recommendation for field trips to countries outside the European Union is that all participants should be fully vaccinated.
  • Departments decide whether to approve or reject field trip requests. The department might need to coordinate with the business travel office in making its decision.
  • Field trips to countries or regions that are currently categorized by the Robert Koch Institute as high risk or as “virus variant areas” are not permitted as per the quarantine regulations stipulated by the Ordinance on Coronavirus Entry Regulations.

Anyone returning to Germany from abroad, or who has had contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, is urgently requested to determine if they need to quarantine themselves based on the regulations found in the Ordinance on Coronavirus Entry Regulations. This applies even if you are not showing symptoms of respiratory illness.

If this applies to you, please contact your work office and the personnel office by phone. You should also contact the local health department in your area. The Berlin Senate Office has set up a 24-hour hotline where you can get advice. The number is +49 (0)30 90 28 28 28.

Employees or students who are currently abroad and have questions about returning to Germany, please contact cv-info@fu-berlin.de.

Visiting lecturers and researchers from outside Germany can still take up their positions at Freie Universität Berlin provided that their stay complies with the current regulations issued by the Federal Foreign Office, the State of Berlin, and Freie Universität. Please note that visitors coming from outside the EU should apply for their visas at the German embassy or consulate in their home country, as the Berlin Immigration Office is currently exceptionally busy and is not able to accept applications via Freie Universität’s passport service. You can stay updated with the latest information on the relevant websites or by viewing the website of Freie Universität’s passport service pass-service@fu-berlin.de.

Visitors who have been in a designated risk area at any time during the 14 days prior to their entry into Germany must comply with the relevant registration and quarantine requirements. Risk areas are defined as countries or regions outside the Federal Republic of Germany where there was an increased risk of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (Covid-19) at the time of your entry into Germany. You can find a continually updated list of risk zones here.

If you have any questions in relation to your specific situation, please contact academic-relations@international.fu-berlin.de.