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Evolution of work – COVID-19 status “3G” rule in workplaces in Germany

  • United Kingdom
  • Employment law


New legislation in the form of amendments to the Infection Protection Act (IfSG) has been passed by the parliament in Germany, imposing a number of restrictions, including to access workplaces and certain venues, depending on vaccination and testing status. 2G, 2G-Plus, 3G and 3G-Plus restrictions can apply, the “G” referring to “geimpft, genesen, getestet” (vaccinated, recovered, tested).

The specific restrictions are determined depending on hospital intensive care occupation levels, monitored by a traffic light system. If more than three per 100,000 inhabitants in a region are hospitalized with COVID-19, “2G” restrictions will apply for all public leisure activities in a given state. A value of six per 100,000 will require individuals to show an additional negative COVID-19 test ("2G-Plus"). From a value of nine, further measures such as contact restrictions will be implemented. Currently, all German states except Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland are above the value of three.

In addition to social restrictions, the new legislation includes 3G requirements in the workplace with effect from 24 November 2021. This means that workplaces may only be entered if employees have been vaccinated, have recovered or have been tested for COVID-19 and there is an obligation for employers to check their employees’ 3G status. In addition, an obligation to work from home returns.

It is expected that further guidance and clarification will be issued in due course by the German authorities. In the meantime, outlined below are some frequently asked questions, based on the information currently available:


Points to note

What is the difference between 2G, 2G-Plus, 3G and 3G-Plus?

2G means vaccinated or recovered. Vaccinated persons are those for whom the final vaccination was at least two weeks prior. Individuals who have had COVID-19 confirmed with a PCR test are considered to have recovered. This test result must be at least 28 days old and the test must have been carried out within the last six months.

2G-Plus refers to vaccination and recovered in the same way as 2G, but with additional testing required through a COVID-19 rapid test.

3G means fully vaccinated, recovered or tested. In terms of tested, a negative rapid antigen test is required, which must not be older than 24 hours.

3G-Plus means vaccinated, recovered or PCR tested, the PCR test not being older than 48 hours.


Does the obligation to offer working from home apply to all workplaces?

The obligation applies in the case of office work or comparable activities. The obligation is however subject to the condition that compelling operational reasons to the contrary do not exist. Further, although there is an obligation on employees to accept working from home, this may be rejected if reasons to the contrary exist. For example, where the employee is unable to work at home due to lack of space or for other personal reasons.


Does the requirement for employees to be vaccinated, tested or recovered from COVID-19 apply to all workplaces?


The requirement applies to all employers and their employees in workplaces where those employees may have contact with other persons during their working hours.

What is the proof that must be provided by employees to enter workplaces?

Employers must ask employees to present “3G proof”. This means:

  • a vaccination or recovery record;
  • a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test record from a testing center; or
  • a supervised rapid antigen self-test.

In certain workplaces which are accessible to the public only based on the “2G” rule, such as, for example gyms, theatres, cinemas and similar, and in respect of staff with customer contact, the so-called “3G-Plus” rule applies, i.e. proof of testing can only be provided by a PCR test.


How should 3G proof be checked by  employers?

Employers are under a duty to check 3G status. However, the legislation does not specify the manner in which checks should be conducted.

Pending further clarification, employers should therefore carry out checks in a similar way to 3G checks that are carried out prior to accessing certain other venues, for example in the hospitality sector. This means asking employees to provide the employer with sight of their 3G proof at the point of entry to the workplace. That proof can be presented by the employee showing:

  • a vaccination certificate/pass;
  • a printed QR code;
  • a QR code on the government’s Corona Warn app or the Robert Koch Institute’s CovPass app; or
  • evidence of a COVID-19 test result (either a PCR test result or a supervised rapid antigen self-test result).


How often must 3G status be checked for employees entering the workplace?

Vaccinated and recovered workers need only be checked once for the duration of their status.

For those workers who are relying on testing as their 3G status, that status must be checked every day of the week that they attend the workplace.


Should employers collect and store the 3G proof?

Pending further clarification and taking account of data privacy restrictions, it is recommended that employers should not collect and store copies of the 3G proof, but should record only the fact of the 3G status and the date of any COVID-19 test, where applicable. Employers may wish to use a list to collect and retain that information consisting of:

  • the name of the employee accessing the workplace;
  • the date that the 3G proof was seen;
  • the nature of the 3G proof (i.e. test/vaccination); and
  • the date of the COVID-19 test, if applicable.

In addition, deletion periods (six months) must be observed and access to this data by unauthorised persons must be prevented.

It is advisable for employees to ensure that they retain any COVID-19 test certificates for a period in order to provide proof (i.e. 14 days).


Do employers have to pay for the COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated employees?

Employers must offer a rapid test twice per calendar week, at no cost to their employees. If an employer is unable or unwilling to offer rapid testing at the workplace, it must pay the cost of appropriate rapid testing with an outside service provider.

If an employee wishes to go to the office more than twice a week or take a PCR test instead of a rapid test, the employee must bear the cost for this, unless otherwise agreed with the employer.


Click to view our Evolution of Work report and materials.