Corona Termination: A New Threat

Corona Termination: A New Threat to Expat Employment in Germany

As a result of the current and ongoing situation regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we have received numerous inquiries as to whether a German employer can terminate an expat’s employment due to issues resulting from the Coronavirus outbreak.  

As is almost always the case in answering such legal questions, the correct response will depend almost exclusively on the specific circumstances surrounding the situation: As long as the expat fulfills their contractual obligations (i.e. if they continue to offer and perform their services, where appropriate from home office) they are generally entitled to retain their contractual remuneration.  


Short term absence 

In the event of a short-term leave of absence from the workplace of around one working week, the expat should retain his or her right to remuneration, even without offering or performing their own duties - unless § 616 BGB (an article of German law which states a person, for a short period, should not be deprived of remuneration due to circumstances beyond their control) is not contractually excluded. Additionally, the termination of an employee would have almost no chance of succeeding, should it occur due to the expat’s contracting of the Coronavirus.  

On the other hand, an unexcused absence from work (either because of the fear of infection or, in certain cases, due to taking care of loved ones) can very well lead to the termination of the employment relationship. In such cases, a mutually agreed arrangement with the employer should be sought before not appearing in work.    


Employer drop in sales

Should the employer suffer a significant drop in sales due to the COVID-19 developments, lawful layoffs may be conceivable – provided restructuring of the company is required, leading to job losses. In such cases, however, it is important to check within 3 weeks of receipt of the termination notice as to whether the strict legal requirements for termination of employment due to operational causes have truly been met. If there is any doubt about this, filing an Unfair Dismissal Complaint before the relevant German Employment Court should be considered.  

These are unsettling times for employees here in Germany, with the job market and wider economy in flux due to the massive impact of the Coronavirus outbreak. It is therefore important that everyone knows their rights, especially expats. As a group that may not be familiar with the intricacies of German Labor Law, seeking assistance from professionals with multiple years of experience in this field is advisable. Should you find yourself with questions in this regard or require legal assistance, please contact Atty. Dr. Christian Zeller via email ( or telephone (+49 (0) 30-40 36 785-80) for a free initial “Corona consultancy”.  


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