Suddenly the sick leave quadrupled

Building cleaners and security companies are feeling the crisis in their own way: In some companies, up to 35 percent of employees are now on sick leave.

Exceptional times for all industries.

Wo Breaking off orders and closing shops, switching to short-time working gives employees the long-awaited economic relief for many companies – the employment agency then steps in for a large part of the wage costs. But that doesn’t work in every industry.

The building cleaning and security industry, which employ 900,000 people, are instead struggling with a problem of their own: There, with the corona crisis, the loss of staff due to sick leave has increased dramatically. Even companies that still have good orders are threatened with a serious problem, and also economically, warn industry representatives. They are therefore now sounding the alarm at politicians and calling for specific help: In order to relieve the companies of continued wage payments, the health insurance companies should step in earlier with sick pay.

Instead of the normal 8 percent, up to 35 percent of employees in security and cleaning companies are currently absent due to sick leave, report the Federal Association of the Security Industry (BDSW) and the Federal Association of Building Cleaning Trades (BIV). One explanation for this is that the employees there are exposed to an above-average risk of infection – for example during personal checks or cleaning in areas where many other people are, not least in hospitals.

Another explanation is probably the special regulation recently decided by statutory health insurance physicians for the corona crisis that employees with cold symptoms can get sick leave more easily, namely by simply calling the doctor. In economic terms, all of this means for companies that they have to spend more money on continued wages, while at the same time they have increased difficulties in processing remaining orders.

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“The costs of continued wages are growing steadily, which could get dramatically worse in the next few days,” explains Friedrich P. Kötter, head of the Essen-based family company of the same name, to FAZ.NET. The Kötter Group is one of the largest providers in the market, providing both security and cleaning services with 19,000 employees across Germany. “Conventional instruments such as short-time work benefits are not enough here,” says Kötter. “We need direct help through the assumption of the cost of continued wages by the state, from day one.”

Both Kötter and the associations emphasize that significantly increased hygiene standards and protective measures for employees are now being used in everyday life. At the same time, they do not want to question the new sick leave regulation.

But the consequences have to be cushioned, because the connection is clear. “The fact that employees with mild respiratory illnesses can take sick leave by telephone has led to a significant increase in sick leave in our industries.” This is what the BDSW and BIV write in a letter available to FAZ.NET that was sent to the members of the Bundestag. The rising costs of full payment of wages threatened to become “unaffordable” for the companies.

Specifically, they demand from the government and parliament that the employees concerned should receive sick pay from the health insurance company “from the first day, at the latest after the first week” instead of continued wages being paid by the employer.

The cash registers would then have to receive a tax-financed subsidy for this, according to BDSW President Gregor Lehnert. At present, employers have to pay regular wages for sick employees for up to six weeks; thereafter, the wage replacement benefit from the health insurance company covers up to 90 percent of the net wage.

Security companies and building cleaners also see themselves disproportionately burdened because they have a particularly high share of personnel costs in sales. In addition, cleaning staff and security guards cannot be sent to the “home office” for protection.