Questions and answers for companies and the self-employed about the coronavirus

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 The city of Dortmund is in close contact with the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The latest findings, facts and background information are published via a news ticker on the website corona.dortmund.de. The information listed there is made available by the Dortmund Health Authority and other official offices of the city council.

We ask all residents and entrepreneurs to use the above-mentioned page for general questions and to please keep the telephone hotlines of the health authority and the local authority free for emergencies.

The Dortmund business development agency has put together a separate FAQ section for companies and the self-employed, which provides information on initial measures and various offers of help.

Alternatively, we are offering a telephone info line to answer questions from Dortmund entrepreneurs and solo self-employed people. Not everything has been arranged yet, but we can already offer you shortcuts to forms and applications.
In parallel with this service we are working with the state and the municipality as well as other partners to develop further regulations for financial support.

Hotline phone number: 0231 50-22860

If you cannot reach us by phone, please send us an e-mail:

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How can I minimise the risk of infection in my company?

It is part of the employer's duty of care to keep the risk of infection as low as possible. With a few simple steps, anyone can help contain the coronavirus. This includes hygiene measures as well as avoiding personal contacts, for example through working from home or cancelling/rescheduling business trips.

Which hygiene measures are to be taken in the company?

Make sure that sufficient soap is available in the sanitary facilities and encourage your employees to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. Do not shake hands. Frequently used surfaces (door handles, toilet flushes, coffee machine and the workstation with keyboard, mouse etc.) must be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Do I have to send the employees home to work?

There is no general right to work from home. To reduce the risk of infection, however, social contacts must be minimised. This is why working from home is recommended wherever feasible. Make sure that the technology required for this (laptop, work mobile, etc.) is available.

How can I protect my employees from infection in the manufacturing industry?

Check whether a safety distance of 1.5 metres can be implemented. It may also be possible to stagger shifts so that as few employees as possible are in one place.

How do I protect retail employees from infection?

In particular, make sure that the hygiene measures and, if possible, the recommended minimum distance of 1.5 metres from other people are observed. The German employers' liability insurance association for trade and goods logistics (Berufsgenossenschaft Handel und Warenlogistik) has other important information:

https://www.bghw.de/presse/pressemitteilungen/aktuelle-pressemitteilungen/das-coronavirus-tipps-fuer-handel-und-warenlogistik

Can I still keep business appointments?

Unnecessary trips, including within Germany, are to be avoided. Think about whether you can conduct the meeting by phone or video call, for example.

How do I prepare my company for periods of illness and related interruptions?

Make sure that you have all the necessary data from customers and suppliers for contacting them. As a precaution, management should prepare for emergencies and answer questions such as:

  • What happens when locations have to close?
  • What happens when supply chains are affected?
  • How can I still ensure that operational processes are carried out in the event of sick leave among the workforce?
  • Are there communication measures for the public, such as a press release?
  • Am I informed about all the help I am entitled to in economically difficult times?

The German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) offers free advice on company pandemic planning:

https://publikationen.dguv.de/praevention/allgemeine-informationen/2054/10-tipps-zur-betrieblichen-pandemieplanung

How do I deal with employees who have symptoms of the disease?

Employees who show symptoms of the disease, which may indicate a coronavirus infection (e.g. cough, fever), should stay away from the company and discuss further action with their family doctor.

What should I do if one of my employees returns from a (business) trip to a declared risk area?

Persons returning from a risk area declared by the Robert Koch Institute are instructed to enter a 14-day self-quarantine period - regardless of whether symptoms of a respiratory disease exist or not. The health authority responsible for the place of residence must be informed of this.

Are employees allowed to come to work if they have had contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus?

It depends on how close the contact with this person was. The responsible health authority decides in individual cases whether (domestic) quarantine is necessary, even if the employee shows no symptoms of the disease.

The Robert Koch Institute has provided an information flyer on the subject of quarantine:

https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/Quarantaene/Flyer.pdf?__blob=publicationFile

Do salaries have to be paid if employees are in quarantine?

Yes, regardless of whether the employee is in domestic or hospital quarantine. According to Section 56 of the Infection Protection Act, the employer can, however, have the costs reimbursed by the competent authority (e.g. the health authority) of the respective federal state. Remuneration must be paid for a period of six weeks, after which sickness benefit applies.

The coronavirus was detected in one of my employees. What does this mean for me and the other employees?

In the event of an employee contracting a coronavirus-related disease, the health authority will contact the company concerned and decide on further precautionary measures to be taken. This can also include the precautionary quarantining of all or some of the employees.

Where can I get further information?

The Robert Koch Institute provides answers to common questions about the coronavirus and infection prevention:

https://www.rki.de/SharedDocs/FAQ/NCOV2019/FAQ_Liste.html

The City of Dortmund Health Authority also offers comprehensive information on the subject of the coronavirus:

https://www.dortmund.de/de/leben_in_dortmund/gesundheit/informationen_zum_coronavirus/index.html

The Federal Ministry of Health also provides up-to-date information:

https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/coronavirus.html

Which establishments, meeting places and other facilities are to be closed or discontinued?

  • All restaurants, inns, snack bars, dining halls, canteens, bars, pubs, cafés and other catering establishments
  • All clubs, discotheques, theatres, opera and concert halls, cinemas, museums and similar establishments
  • All trade fairs, exhibitions, leisure and animal parks and providers of leisure activities (indoor and outdoor), special markets and similar facilities
  • All gyms, swimming pools and leisure pools, saunas and similar facilities
  • All offerings at adult education centres, music schools and other public and private extracurricular educational institutions
  • Coach travel
  • All sports in and on all public and private sports centres and grounds as well as all gatherings in clubs, sports clubs, and other sports and leisure facilities
  • Amusement arcades, casinos, betting shops and similar facilities
  • The same applies to prostitution facilities, brothels and similar facilities

Are there facilities to which access is still permitted under restrictions or under strict conditions?

Yes. The delivery of food and beverages as well as takeaway sales by restaurants, pubs, snack bars, dining halls, cafés and canteens is permitted if the distances required to protect against infections are observed. Consumption within a radius of 50 metres from the catering facility is prohibited.

Company canteens that are not publicly accessible may be used to feed employees if the necessary precautions for hygiene, controlling access, avoiding queues and ensuring a minimum distance of 1.5 metres are guaranteed.

Libraries, including university libraries, must restrict access to their services and only permit access under strict protective conditions (in particular visitor registration with contact details, regulation of the number of visitors, requirements for minimum distances of 2 metres between reading and workplaces, hygiene measures, notices with information on correct hygiene measures).

Are the services of hairdressers, nail salons, tattoo artists and massage parlours prohibited?

Yes. Services where a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between people cannot be maintained (especially by hairdressers, nail salons, tattoo artists, massage parlours) are prohibited.

Can physical and occupational therapists continue to practice?

Yes. Therapeutic occupations, in particular those undertaken by physiotherapists and occupational therapists, are permitted provided the medical necessity of the treatment is proven by a medical certificate and strict protective measures against infections are taken.

Do I have access to inpatient health and care facilities?

Visits are generally prohibited if they do not serve medical or nursing purposes or unless they are necessary for legal reasons. The managers of the facility should allow exceptions under protective measures and after hygiene instruction if it is medically or ethically and socially necessary (e.g. in maternity and child wards as well as for palliative care patients).

Which facilities remain open?

The following facilities are not affected by the closures:

  • Food retail
  • Weekly markets
  • Pick-up and delivery services
  • Beverage stores
  • Pharmacies, medical supply stores and drug stores
  • Petrol stations
  • Banks and savings banks
  • Post offices
  • Dry cleaners
  • Laundrettes
  • Newsagents
  • DIY, garden and pet stores

The operation of DIY superstores and garden centres remains permitted for supplying traders and craftsmen. Other people may only be allowed access if suitable measures have been taken to protect against infections (in particular measures to ensure minimum distances and protective measures for the cashiers). Under these conditions, florists are also allowed to continue operating.

  • Wholesale

What adjustments are there in the craft and service industries?

Craftsmen and service providers can continue to work with measures to protect against infections. However, opticians, hearing care professionals, orthopaedic shoemakers and other craftsmen with business premises are prohibited from selling goods that are not related to their trade there, with the exception of necessary accessories.

Is access to shopping centres, malls and outlets still allowed?

Access to these and similar facilities is only permitted if there are facilities there that are not to be closed (see above). People are only allowed to access the respective institution and must not linger. The operation of DIY superstores and garden centres remains permitted for supplying traders and craftsmen. Other people may only be allowed access if suitable measures have been taken to protect against infections (in particular measures to ensure minimum distances and protective measures for the cashiers). Under these conditions, florists are also allowed to continue operating.

Do special opening times apply to individual establishments?

Retail stores for groceries, weekly markets, pick-up and delivery services, pharmacies and wholesale stores may also open on Sundays and public holidays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m, except for Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

Are events still allowed?

No. Events are strictly prohibited. Exceptions apply to those that serve the purpose of food supply, security and order, or services of general interest and public welfare, for example weekly markets.

Are hotels allowed to continue to accommodate tourists?

No. Accommodation offers for tourist purposes are prohibited until further notice.

No. Accommodation offers for tourist purposes are prohibited until further notice.

The duration of the measures depends on the further course of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany. In view of the recent drastic increase in the number of infections, the first step is to interrupt the chains of infection and wait for the measures to take effect. Please also follow announcements from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia: www.mags.nrw

What financial aid is available to companies and the self-employed?

In order to support companies and the self-employed who are in financial difficulties due to the effects of the coronavirus, the federal and state governments have decided on measures to ensure liquidity. These are intended to bridge temporary supply bottlenecks and fluctuations in demand. They include:

  1. low-interest (working capital) loans
  2. guarantees to secure loans
  3. Short-time working allowance
  4. compensation for loss of earnings

further measures in the course of the NRW rescue package

Further information can be found in the FAQ “Financial aid for companies”.

The decree of the Ministry of the Interior of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia of 22 March 2020 can be found here: https://recht.nrw.de/lmi/owa/br_vbl_detail_text?anw_nr=6&vd_id=18354&ver=8&val=18354&sg=0&menu=1&vd_back=N

Emergency aid programme (Federal and North Rhine-Westphalia)

The Federal Government supports small and medium-sized companies with an emergency aid programme.The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is increasing payments for companies with up to 50 employees through state funds.


Aid is provided through a one-time, non-repayable grant.It is tiered according to the number of employees and is for three months:

  • €9,000: up to five employees (federal funds)
  • €15,000: up to ten employees (federal funds)
  • €25,000: up to fifty employees (state funds)

Applications can be submitted from Friday, 27 March 2020, at https://www.wirtschaft.nrw/corona

Short-time working allowance (Employment Agency)

If companies order short-time working due to the global incidence of illness caused by the coronavirus and this results in loss of remuneration, affected employees may receive short-time working allowance.This benefit must be applied for by the employer.Companies wishing to apply for short-time working allowance due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic must first report the short-time working to the local Federal Employment Agency.This then checks whether the prerequisites for the benefit are met.


The Federal Employment Agency employer service can be reached on the hotline 0800 4555520 from Monday to Friday (08:00 - 18:00).


For companies from Dortmund, Hamm and the district of Unna there is a collective phone number 0231 842 9031.

There are two ways to apply:

  1. The application is completed online and can be printed out and submitted
  2. For business people who are registered for eServices with the Agency, the application can also be sent online: eServices

Complementary programmes to secure liquidity

  • KfW loans: Companies, the self-employed or freelancers who are in financial difficulties due to the Corona crisis and need a loan receive help from the KfW bank. You can now apply for a loan for investments and working capital from your principal bank, provided that you were not in economic difficulties up to 31/12/2019.KfW assumes 80% - 90% of the default risk of the principal bank. Contact:0800 539-900
  • Universal loan from NRW-Bank: NRW.BANK is making the terms of its universal loan more attractive and will now assume up to 80% (instead of 50%) of the risk from the first euro.For exemptions from liability up to an amount of €250,000, the documents available at principal banks are sufficient for the risk assessment.The loan approval is usually made within 72 hours. Contact:0211 91741 4800
  • Guarantees: The Bürgschaftsbank NRW , the North Rhine-Westphalia guarantee bank, provides default guarantees for loans to medium-sized businesspeople and freelancers if they cannot provide their bank with sufficient collateral. Contact:02131 5107-200
  • Investment capital: The ‘Mikromezzaninfonds Deutschland’ , or ‘German Micromezzanine Fund’ can enter into silent participation without the involvement of the principal bank and without collateral (max. €75,000).It is aimed at small companies, start-ups and special target groups (including companies that provide training and start-ups out of unemployment).
  • Support for freelance artists: An immediate programme is intended to support artists who are active professionally and self-employed and who can prove loss of income due to cancelled projects, events or other engagements due to the above-mentioned decrees. The application is made via the district government.. Contact:02931 823092/-88
  • Compensation for quarantine: Compensation measures exist for loss of earnings in connection with an officially declared quarantine period.Employees and self-employed people / freelancers are entitled to this. The LWL Office for Social Compensation Law in Münster is responsible. Contact:0251 591-01

Basic income (unemployment benefit II), especially for small businesspeople and the so-called solo self-employed (job centre)

Basic income can be applied for by any person in need of help who has too little or no means to support themselves (and their own family).This applies regardless of what form of employment this person has.


The following temporary simplifications of access to basic income are planned (this information is still provisional and subject to legal decisions):

  • There is no longer an asset check for the first six months.
  • In the first 6 months of receiving the benefit, the actual rent and heating expenses are accepted.
  • The applicant receives a child supplement (KiZ) as an alternative to basic income and his/her income is sufficient for him/herself but not for his/her family.

You can find further information here: https://www.arbeitsagentur.de/corona-faq-grundsicherung.

You can do this immediately (Tax office, “GEZ”, GEMA):

  • Fiscal liquidity assistance: The liquidity of companies can be improved through tax measures.
    • Interest-free deferral of income tax, corporation tax, value-added tax
    • Application for a reduction in advance payments / the tax rate for business tax advance payments
    • The contact person is the responsible tax office: Application documents
  • Exemption from broadcasting licence fee (“GEZ”) and GEMA (performing rights fees): A temporary exemption from payment of the broadcasting licence fee and for GEMA is possible for the period of business closure:
    • Broadcasting licence Send a message on the website www.rundfunkbeitrag.de via the selection field "I would like to ask a question about my contribution account" with your customer number, brief details of the reasons and the estimated period of closure.
    • GEMA: Email with customer number, brief details of the reasons and the estimated period of closure Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!

What can I do if I can’t look after my child myself at home?

In Dortmund, the care of children from Class 1 up to and including Class 6 is provided in the usual schools for parents who cannot provide other care for their children and who work in so-called critical infrastructure (KRITIS). This also applies to childcare centres in the city.

What is ‘critical infrastructure’?

According to the Federal Ministry of Labour, Health and Welfare in North Rhine-Westphalia, critical infrastructure (KRITIS) includes ‘organisations or institutions of major importance to the state community, the failure or disruption of which would result in lasting supply shortages, serious disruption to public security or other serious consequences.’

What is a key person?

Key persons are parents who work in critical infrastructure. Care is provided for their children despite the closures.

How do companies demonstrate the critical infrastructure to key personnel to be eligible for childcare?

The city of Dortmund has provided a form on its website that employers can use to certify to their employees that they are key personnel because the company operates as part of the critical infrastructure. (https://www.dortmund.de/media/p/fabido/dl_fabido/20200315_Muster-Vordruck_Betreuungseinrichtungen.pdf)

What are decrees for and who formulates them?

The state's decrees are on the Website of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of the State of North Rhine Westphalia..

The state government has basically decided on various packages of measures with the aim of preventing further infections and slowing and stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Personal contacts must be severely restricted because the virus is transmitted from person to person through the air and through touch.

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How are the decrees implemented in Dortmund?

After the decree, the city of Dortmund implements the measures in the municipality. The Notices are published in the official gazettes on the dortmund.de website. All measures taken for entrepreneurs as well as the self-employed and their employees are derived from decrees and notices.

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