Perspectives for Scientists in the Corona Crisis

Perspectives for Scientists

After easing in summer, the COVID-19 pandemic is once again shaping all our lives with the renewed hard lockdown. At UKE, especially scientists in qualification phases and with short-term employment contracts are hit hard by this development. We would like to use this newsletter to inform about important developments for scientists (e.g. changes in the regulations on fixed-term contracts in the German law on science time contracts).

Renewed increase in the maximum fixed-term period for scientific qualification

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause severe delays in the preparation of experimental doctoral and habilitation theses. As reported in the last newsletter, the Federal Government had decided to change the German law on the temporary contracts for scientific work (WissZeitVG) in April 2020. The maximum term of employment for qualification purposes that existed between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020, was increased by six months. In addition, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) was authorized to extend this period by another six months if the pandemic persists. The BMBF made use of this authorization in September 2020. Thus, the maximum duration of employment contracts for qualification purposes that existed between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020, was increased by a total of twelve months. For employment relationships that are established between October 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, the maximum fixed-term period is increased by six months. There is no legal entitlement to the extension of the employment contract by the employer.

Information from the BMBF (in German): (Section: Fragen und Antworten zu den Corona-bedingten Änderungen)

New regulation of compensation for loss of earnings when traveling to foreign risk areas

The „Third Act for the Protection of the Population in the Event of an Epidemic Situation of National Significance“ (Third Civil Protection Act) passed by the German Bundestag in November 2020 has introduced new regulations for compensation for loss of earnings following travel to foreign risk areas. Previously, employees returning from a foreign high-risk area received compensation from their employer in accordance with §56 of the Infection Protection Act if a quarantine was ordered by the health authorities and the work could not be performed in the home office. The amounts paid out were reimbursed to the employer upon request. This claim for compensation was now excluded by the third Civil Protection Act if the trip to the foreign risk area is avoidable.

According to the definition of the law, a trip is avoidable if at the time of departure there are no compelling reasons for the trip that cannot be postponed. A tourist trip is therefore always considered avoidable. In many other cases (e.g. death or serious illness of a relative), however, the question of the unavoidability of the trip may arise. In such cases, discussions should always be sought in advance with the responsible manager. If there are any uncertainties, the Scientific Staff Council ( and the Alliance for Science ( will be happy to provide advice and support.