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“Super Strike Day”: Are employees allowed to stay at home?


Public transport is likely to be paralyzed in large parts of Germany tomorrow. What happens if workers don’t make it to work on time? An overview.

By Michael-Matthias Nordhardt, ARD legal department

Are employees allowed to stay at home when buses and trains are not running?

No. The employee is affected by the so-called travel risk. So it is his responsibility to be at the workplace on time. Simply staying away from work – that’s definitely not possible. The most important thing is to talk to the employer and look for solutions together. If the strike – like now – has been announced, you have to do it in advance. But even if there is a spontaneous strike, you should contact your employer as soon as possible. If you are late or absent without an excuse, you will be warned.

What rules apply to announced strikes?

When strikes are announced, employees must do everything that is reasonable to be at work on time. This now means for the strike days: get up earlier, drive by car or bike, form carpools, plan traffic jams and detours early on. If this results in higher costs than on a “normal” working day – for example for petrol – that is up to the employee.

Only in exceptional cases can it be that something is not proportionate and reasonable: For example, if long and expensive taxi rides are necessary for people with low incomes. Then, for once, it might be okay not to drive to work on strike days.

What rules apply to spontaneous strikes?

Even if there is a spontaneous strike, these rules apply in the first instance and workers must endeavor to be at work on time. However, the requirements are not quite as strict. In view of the limited possibilities for remedial action, warnings from the employer could be disproportionate in such cases.

Do employees have the right to work from home?

Since the corona pandemic, working from home has become much more common than before. However, employees are not entitled to this. Nevertheless, if the specific job allows, working from home is also an spontaneous option on strike days – provided the boss agrees.

Those who want to avoid the effects of the strikes can also take a few days off without pay, take vacation or work overtime – also in consultation with the employer.

Are workers paid if they are late because of a strike?

No. Employees are not paid for the time they are not working. Here the principle applies: “No work, no money.”

In some situations, this principle is broken: when employees are ill, for example. Then you will receive “continued payment of wages in case of illness”. Or if you take paid vacation. Or – this results from paragraph 616 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – BGB) – if an employee is prevented from working “for a relatively insignificant period of time for a personal reason through no fault of his own”. Examples of this are your own wedding or funerals in the immediate family circle.

However, a strike is not a “personal” hindrance, because its effects do not affect the individual employee, but also many other people. That’s why the principle “no work, no money” remains.

Do children have to go to school when the bus and train strike?

Even if buses and trains go on strike, the state-ordered compulsory schooling will remain, say the ministries of education. Regular classes also take place. In some federal states, however, special rules apply to the strike on Monday: For example, in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, schoolchildren can exceptionally stay away from face-to-face classes if they have no alternative travel options. The school must then be informed immediately.

In other federal states, attendance remains compulsory. In North Rhine-Westphalia, however, the school management should “proceed with a sense of proportion” if the way to school is actually impossible for pupils. Pupils in Brandenburg can be exempted from attendance classes if they are dependent on the bus and train. In Berlin, children are not allowed to stay at home. Lower Saxony and Bremen start their Easter holidays on Monday.