German court ruling: Minijob workers not entitled to wages during shutdown due to coronavirus

Can minijob workers in Germany claim wages even if their work is not part of so-called systemically important occupations? The Federal Labour Court ruled on the issue on Wednesday.

Ruling by the Federal Labour Court in Germany disadvantages minijob workers

According to the Federal Labor Court’s ruling, shutting down a business due to a coronavirus in order to contain a pandemic is not part of the overall business risk for entrepreneurs. As such, the latter also do not bear the risk of losing the jobs of their less-than-full-time employees (Minijob) and are not required to pay them during that time. This is the first such dispute related to the coronavirus pandemic to be heard in a Federal Labor Court.

The woman was no longer needed by her employer

Specifically, the case involved a woman from Lower Saxony. She had previously worked as an employee in a sewing machine and accessory store as a saleswoman. By order of the authorities, during the first blockade last year, the store had to remain closed for the entire month of April. The woman was no longer needed as a saleswoman. However, she claimed the net 432 euros she had agreed with her employer as remuneration for her work.

Two instances had previously ruled in favor of the saleswoman

It is the state that must compensate for the financial losses caused by state intervention in the fight against the pandemic, judges at Germany’s highest labor court have ruled. This was done in part by facilitating access to benefits for part-time work. However, this did not apply to the claimant from Lower Saxony as a Minijob worker – there were “gaps in the system of regulations subject to social insurance” in this respect. In the first two instances, the judges ruled in favor of the claimant.

Kurzarbeit is not due to minijob workers

Minijob workers are employees with a monthly salary of no more than €450 or employed for no more than 70 days in a calendar year. They do not pay social security contributions. According to the German Retail Association (HDE), there were around 808,000 minijob workers in the retail sector alone at the beginning of the year. Unlike full-time or part-time workers, they cannot be employed under Kurzarbeit.


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