In the Corona situation, the government is pulling itself together, but when it comes to compulsory vaccination, they cannot find a common denominator. The medium-sized companies regulate it meanwhile among themselves.

Sauerland. Not far from Dortmund. Here in Menden, Kludi builds showerheads, showerheads and taps. They have 1000 employees worldwide, 300 greet each other every morning at the Menden site. Here is middle class. And in medium-sized companies, where production takes place, where customer meetings are scheduled every day, where the handshake still has quality, all hell is said to have broken loose because nobody knows how to deal with the vaccination. Data protection prohibits asking, noting and sorting. But without asking, nobody at Kludi knows whether they can get closer to the person next to them in assembly, whether the sales representative should visit customers, or whether the training will take place as planned.

So is there chaos? “No,” says Julian Henco, head of Kludi, 56 years old and someone who knows what it means to supply the world market from Sauerland. He has already fought other battles than the one about compulsory vaccination. “We actively promote vaccination,” he says, but he rigorously rejects an obligation. That doesn’t go well with a culture of personal responsibility. “Medium-sized companies regulate this among themselves,” he adds.

Politics is less relaxed there. The possible future government partners SPD, Greens and FDP are heating up the debate about compulsory vaccination. After Greens parliamentary group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt announced that an agreement had been reached and shortly afterwards backtracked, SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz called for the topic to be discussed further. “I think it’s right that we have now started a discussion about whether this should be done,” said the chancellor-to-be – which, however, did not bring the debate any further.

After all, he added: A vaccination requirement for certain professional groups is only possible with a consensus. “If that is achieved, I would think that would be good.” Such a decision could also be made at short notice. So far, however, this consensus is not in sight: The FDP health politician Andrew Ullmann rejects compulsory vaccination – even if it should only affect certain professional groups. That makes little sense in terms of infection, he said, “because people are all the same here and can infect each other and become seriously ill.”

Even the employee representatives do not fulfill Scholz’s urge for unity. The trade union for education and science, for example, rejects compulsory vaccination for teachers. “The only way out of the pandemic is through a high vaccination rate among the entire population and behavior appropriate to the pandemic in order to protect yourself and others,” says union boss Maike Finnern. On the other hand, the chairwoman of the Rhineland-Palatinate General Practitioners Association, Barbara Römer, clearly calls for compulsory vaccination for medical staff. “People think they are protected in the medical field, and then the unvaccinated jump around,” she is quoted as saying.

But Römer also knows that even in the healthcare sector, it is controversial whether employers are allowed to send employees to clinics and nursing homes for vaccinations. Paragraph 23 of the Infection Protection Act stipulates that the heads of hospitals, emergency services, homes and medical practices must take all necessary measures to prevent the further spread of pathogens. In addition to complying with the hygiene and distance measures, you can expect an increased interest in vaccination from the staff. But can the employer ask here? And are employees allowed to lie like in other companies? That’s where legal opinions differ.

If the government coalition that is being formed really wants to cut the knot, it would have to pull itself together and change data protection law. It prevents companies from being able to record who is already vaccinated in their own ranks and who is not. And it also prevents the boss from being able to ask individual employees, let alone order them to spray. This can cause planning difficulties for companies, for example if fitters have to go to customers or to countries that require vaccination. Those who do not want to be vaccinated can refer to the “physical integrity” protected by the Basic Law. The vaccinated could, however, also. So what if the vaccinated insist not to work with a resister because, for example, they have small children at home who cannot be immunized at all?

Frictions in operation can be the result. “It is not unlikely that this will happen,” fears Roman Zitzelsberger, head of the powerful IG Metall district administration in Stuttgart, in an interview with the magazine “Markt und Mittelstand” in view of the currently “insoluble conflict”. Labor law and Corona are largely incompatible, complains Thilo Brodtmann, Managing Director of the Association of German Machine and Plant Manufacturers. In view of the unclear situation, people there are noticeably annoyed: “There is great uncertainty as to how to deal with those who are not vaccinated. The companies are stuck between the chairs,” complains Brodtmann. On the one hand there is no legal obligation to vaccinate, on the other hand it is tricky in terms of data protection to ask about the vaccination status. In addition: “Companies must also keep infection risks low from a welfare point of view. Just coaxing those who don’t like vaccination doesn’t help much. The uncertainty is great. The legislator is urgently required to do something here,” is the attitude of the VDMA General Manager.

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In principle, the state can oblige or even force people to behave sensibly. The European Court of Human Rights confirmed this just a few months ago. The governments of many European countries are acting accordingly. France made vaccination mandatory for health and care workers. In Italy, teachers and lecturers are not paid if they do not appear vaccinated. Similar rules apply in Greece and the UK.

Politicians in Berlin are still reluctant to make clear announcements. Although compulsory vaccination would not be new in this country either. To protect against the highly contagious measles, vaccination for children in day care centers and schools has been mandatory since March 1, 2020. And the workplace is no exception. Supervisors also fall under this regulation. The Federal Constitutional Court intends to rule on constitutional complaints against this requirement before the end of this year. Urgent applications have already been rejected. Vaccinations against measles would not only protect the individual against the disease, but also prevent the disease from spreading in the population, according to the justification.

But as long as politics avoids the hot topic of compulsory vaccination, the companies are on their own. That’s fine for Kludi boss Henco. Kludi made internal vaccinations available to employees in the summer, there is a 3G rule and 2G has prevailed in meetings. And internally, he established the “Three V Rule”: be careful, think ahead, lead the way. “We have to show how it’s done,” he says. And he knows: “100 percent can never be achieved. This also applies to the vaccination rate.”

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The article “Vaccination obligation? While politicians are at odds, medium-sized companies regulate it among themselves” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.