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My manager is forcing me to take my yearly vacation days due to the corona virus outbreak. Is there any way to prevent it?

I've been with company for the 4 years and carried over a vacation day balance from 2019 and 2020. I am software engineer and working in home office. All of my colleagues are working remotely as well.

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    Actually relevant: A certain type of government subsidy (Kurzarbeitergeld) requires that employees of the affected company use up all of their previous year's vacation prior to kicking in. – mag Mar 23 at 5:15
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    This is something every HR manager should now, therefore it doesn't fit the definition of legal advice which would be off-topic. – Chris Mar 23 at 18:29
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    Administrative note: this question was discussed on meta. As the OP's account was deleted, he won't be able to provide further clarification, but the question itself remains useful to others. – Lilienthal Mar 23 at 19:59
  • You're not the only one in this situation right now. But people in gastronomy and hotel industry will be far worse off - if people have used up all their vacation and have none in summer....Just a side note because your question can be interpreted like this: working from home is not vacation. As long as you're working [from wherever], you're not on vacation. Enforcing vacation means, you are NOT working. – Jessica Mar 24 at 13:18
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Yes, you can be forced to take your vaction.

The relevant laws can be found in the Bundesurlaubsgesetz. It declares that wishes of the employee have to be respected in regards of the vacation dates, if no pressing operative needs are opposing it. The common interpretation of this paragraph is that vaction cannot only be rejected but also enforced by the employer.

During the financial crisis in 2008 this was already applied and I'm not aware of any contradicting court rulings. In the current crisis VW and Daimler ordered vacation for many of their employees. Many people are in the same situation as you and you don't have to be worried particularly.

Your company - as most companies these days - is facing a hard time, but they are trying to keep the impact low. If the current crisis persists they might have to take further actions, like Kurzarbeit or lay offs. There is not much you can do at the moment, because finding a new job will be difficult, so make sure you are seen as a valuable employee in case they have to decide whom to keep and whom to let go.

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my manager is forcing me to take a yearly vacation due to coronavirus outbreak ?

That's not unusual at the moment. Many businesses are struggling and have closed offices/stores. Taking vacation is one tool to deal with this.

is it a sign of getting rid of me or fire me?

Impossible to know. You need to ask. Are you the only one or are other people in your company on leave too? Is your business okay or are they struggling with revenue and customers? They might be doing you a favor: you are still getting paid.

I am really worried

Everyone is worried at the moment. It's impossible to know for sure how this will play out. Your boss doesn't know either, so they just doing the best they can with the data that they have.

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If you still have all your 2019 holidays not taken, then it is really urgent that you take them, or most likely you will lose them by the end of March. Your employer shouldn't even have let it get that far.

Your employer absolutely should tell you to take these holidays as soon as possible. I'm not entirely sure if you need to take all the holidays till the end of March, or if your have to book a holiday that starts in March (say on the 31st), but telling you to take that holiday is absolutely normal.

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  • Is this some general statement or specific to your German experience? – guest Mar 22 at 19:37
  • I am asking because in my company (countey) you have 3 years to use the holidays. – guest Mar 22 at 19:37
  • See my comment to nvoigt. Only the contract defines until when vacation has to be taken. The default by law is that it will expire at the end of the year. – Chris Mar 22 at 21:19
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    @guest, that's in the "Bundesurlaubsgesetz" §7 (gesetze-im-internet.de/burlg/__7.html). Vacation days must be taken in the same year, and if that is not possible then within the first three months of the next year. – Eike Pierstorff Mar 22 at 21:19
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    @guest Your company will get itself into trouble if it doesn't put the holidays owed into their books. If they need to pay you 80 days of holidays, that's a huge hidden debt for the company. Enough to cause trouble. – gnasher729 Mar 23 at 13:44
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If you have days from 2019 then you actually have to use them by April, otherwise they might be lost. Allowing you to take them into 2020 is actually already a favor.

While nobody is telepathic enough to know what your boss thinks, sending you home doing no work but paying you anyway seems a very weird way to get rid of you. The whole point of firing you would be to not pay you anymore, right?

Right now life is a little crazy. While there are probably laws about this, to be honest, staying home with full pay is the best case scenario for you right now. Yes, maybe you could use the vacation days later, but you can always negotiate that later, when everybody is glad this blew over and in a way better mood.

For now, I'd say be happy that you can stay home safe and still get paid.

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    Just a side note: While most companies allow you to keep the remaining vacation days until end of march, there is no law that prevents the employer to extend it further. There is a paragraph in the Bundesurlaubsgesetz about transferred vacation days that must be taken until end of March, but it's a special case and can be overwritten in a contract (with benefit for the employee). – Chris Mar 22 at 16:12
  • Wow. In Britain, (UK Government employee) I get 32 days each year. My 'leave year' runs from the anniversary of my start date. The most I can carry over from one leave year to the next is 5 days. The idea is that you need vacations or time off to promote your health. – Michael Harvey Mar 22 at 21:05
  • Yes, but it is not unheard of for people to collect them and take multiple years of vacation at once. It is SO common, it even has a name - Sabbatical year. – TomTom Mar 23 at 9:43
  • My UK employer will not allow a person to go through a whole leave year without taking any annual leave at all. – Michael Harvey Mar 24 at 8:58
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Are you specifically (or a small fraction of the workforce) being singled out to take a vacation, or is a broad swath of the company being sent home?

The former is potentially concerning; although even there the devil is in the details: ex forcing the cleaning staff to take vacation when the rest of the office are working from home shouldn't be a red flag for the former.

If a large chunk of your coworkers are also being sent home on mandatory vacation then you're not being singled out for anything. If work from home is possible for your job though, it does suggest that your employer is at a general risk of collapse in the event of an extended public lockdown.

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    The vacations are paid, though. The employer would actually loose faster by making someone who could work not work at the same pay. – cbeleites unhappy with SX Mar 24 at 0:53
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I'm not so sure about the legality of this move. If it's about left over vacation from 2019, yes that might be legal because this vacation usually has to be taken in the first three months of 2020 anyways, but otherwise there is no general right to force employees to use their PTO for this, surely not for unlimited time and if you could continue to work from home. You might want to look here:

https://www.wr.de/wirtschaft/coronavirus-was-muss-man-tun-wenn-man-arbeitslos-wird-id228733541.html

https://www.dgb.de/themen/++co++a62c8704-69ce-11ea-b2bd-52540088cada

If your boss insists, contact a union or a lawyer and get their opinion on the matter. If your company has a Betriebsrat, you might want to have a talk with them, too (stuff like this could, to some degree, be detailed in a Betriebsvereinbarung).

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    The workers councils of VW and Daimler agreed to enforced vacation in the last weeks. Besides that it's legally possible to do so. – Chris Mar 22 at 22:00
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    It is possible, but there are certain constraints on how it can be done / how much PTO can be used that way / the Betriebsrat has to agree and numerous other stuff. To just state that this is legal is misleading at least. – d_hippo Mar 22 at 22:28
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After Olaf Scholz (minister of finances) was in TV yesterday, things are still as unclear to me as they were to you yesterday. People were able to ask him questions. One question, asked by a young mother, was how she will cope after using up her overtime.

Here's what he said: Germany just released a huge money package. The government talked to the employers association (Arbeitgeberverbände), so employers can "interpret law openly": if you can't go to work without guilt, employers should pay wage continuation (Lohnfortzahlung) as a gesture of goodwill (Kulanz), which varies by contract. I interpret this as it's up to your employer, though it might not even apply to you anyways, as you can work from home.

Olaf Scholz says employers associations are in consens with labour unions (Gewerkschaften). Depending on your employer you might therefore be able to ask your labour union for help.

Olaf Scholz continues, that a new ruling is on its way, that will enable employers to claim wage coverage (Lohnabsicherung) from the state until easter. This new law has still to be passed by parliament (Bundestag). You would have to handle this through your employer, though.

He mentions taking overtime and vacation days are an option, too.

So, to sum it up: it's completely up to your employer. If your employer engages with labour unions, you're better off.

Another question to Olaf Scholz was how people shall cope with less money during Kurzarbeit. He answered, he hopes, enterprises are ramping up to full payment if they have reserve assets.

You can read a summary here: (though there's just the summary, Olaf Scholz answered particularly any question with "we released a huge package") https://www.spiegel.de/kultur/tv/deutschland-fragt-zu-corona-prosieben-show-fuer-eine-verunsicherte-bevoelkerung-a-f7fd4c0e-7b2d-4a34-beda-517e8559ad90

Or watch the whole TV session here: https://www.prosieben.de/tv/prosieben-live-deutschland-fragt-zu-corona/video/20201-experten-beantworten-eure-fragen-zu-corona-sendung-vom-25-maerz-ganze-folge (31:30 - 34:00) (I suggest you watch the whole video, there are also other experts, the whole show was pretty great)

Beforehand (16.03.2020) he said himself he begs employees to take vacation or overtime: Spd.de/aktuelles/corona/corona-aktuelles/

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