Experts on jurisprudence in Bayreuth on new Covid-19 law
University of Bayreuth, Press release No. 053/2020, 14th April 2020
The protection measures for the Covid 19 pandemic involve a variety of legal issues. These concern both their design on the basis of infection protection law and the consequences, in particular for employment contracts and contracts on the market. In the latest issue of the most widely circulated German legal journal ‘Neue Juristische Wochenschrift’, Bayreuth-based legal scholars make a first important contribution on this issue.
The experts of Bayreuth jurisprudence on new Covid 19 law, from left Stephan Rixen, Adam Sagan, Marius Brockfeld, Christina Möllnitz and Martin Schmidt-Kessel.
Prof. Dr. Stephan Rixen analyses the changes to the Infection Protection Act of 27 March 2020. The law brings about an extension of the State’s powers to combat pandemics within the framework of the control of Covid-19 and future infection situations. “The important thing”, said Rixen, “is that the necessarily broad scope of the authorities to effectively combat the disease meets the requirements of constitutional guarantees and basic rights. A lack of certainty must not be at the expense of citizens.” The interpretation of the facts should also respect the generally accepted methods of interpretation of the law. Rixen is Chair of Public Law I – Public Law, Social-Economic & Health Law at the University of Bayreuth.
“In employment relations, the legislator is faced with a conflict of goals between infection protection and continuity of work processes”, Prof. Dr. Adam Sagan explains. For example, the employee must, as an exception to the norm, notify their employer upon falling ill to the virus, however, random checks at the factory gate are not permitted. Meanwhile, employees at particular risk may no longer be expected to travel to work by public transport. Sagan, MJur (Oxon), is Chair of Civil Law II at the University of Bayreuth.
Co-author Marius Brockfeld adds on the subject of company closures and continued payment of wages: “If the company is closed due to interruption of supply chains or of too many employees falling ill, as a rule the continued payment of wages is required.” In the case of closure by official order, however, the risk overwhelmingly does not lie with the employer, meaning the employer does not have to continue to pay wages or salaries. In this case, the welfare state would have to step in with its short-time work allowance. Brockfeld is a research assistant in Civil Law II.
The resulting financial burdens, especially for consumers but also for micro-entrepreneurs, have led the legislator to issue temporary special provisions for debtors who are particularly vulnerable economically. “Consumers and micro-entrepreneurs in serious economic distress as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic can temporarily refuse to make payments on particularly important permanent contracts, although they must continue to receive and maintain the benefits”, explains Dr. Christina Möllnitz. This applies in particular to compulsory insurance, electricity, gas and telecommunications, and, in the case of consumers, also to loans. The payments would then have to be made later, because the new law is only intended to bridge the crisis months. Möllnitz is a postdoc and research assistant at Civil Law IX at the University of Bayreuth .
“For rents of apartments and business premises”, co-author Prof. Dr. Martin Schmidt-Kessel complains, “there have been many erroneous reports on the substance of the new regulations.” In particular, tenants are not permitted to suspend rental payments. They need only not fear eviction due to being in arrear of payment for the time being. “The new regulations are a typical legislative emergency measure at a time of crisis, and their interpretation is therefore still partly in debate”, said Schmidt-Kessel; although he concedes that reasonable results could be achieved with the new regulations. Schmidt-Kessel is Chair for German and European Consumer Law and Private Law and Comparative Law at the University of Bayreuth.
The Bayreuth legal scholars will continue to deal with the questions of the legal management of the coronavirus crisis. A more comprehensive contribution on consumer protection regulations is already in print, and a book on coronavirus contract law is also in preparation. In-depth contributions on infection protection law and the consequences of the coronavirus crisis for the constitutional state are also being prepared. The above-mentioned contributions are published in the latest edition of the most widely distributed German legal journal 'Neue Juristische Wochenschrift' (NJW), issue 16 of 8 April 2020, pp. 1097-1103 (Rixen), pp. 1103-1107 (Schmidt-Kessel / Möllnitz) and pp. 1112-1117 (Sagan / Brockfeld).
Prof. Dr. Stephan Rixen, Prof. Dr. Adam Sagan, Dr. Christina Möllnitz
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