Hartz 4: soon no more unemployment benefits for the unvaccinated?

In a letter dated 25. August 2021, Austrian Labor Minister Martin Kocher (oVP) has obliged the Public Employment Service (AMS) to withhold unemployment benefits from job seekers for up to six weeks if they do not apply for a reasonable job solely because a vaccination is required there – or reject an offered job solely for the reason. According to "Standard" information, Kocher was responding to a request from the AMS to do so.

Vaccination against Covid-19: a requirement for a job in many places in Austria

In Austria, more and more employers generally require new employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19. To the 1. September, Lower Austria, for example, introduced compulsory vaccination for new admissions to the entire state service. Vienna and Styria require vaccination for new hires in health and social professions.

But according to the "Standard", other sectors, such as industrial companies or businesses in the retail sector, now also require vaccination as a condition for new employment. In Germany, on the other hand, there is an ongoing debate about a bonus for coronatests in the amount of 100 euros for Hartz 4 recipients.

A Hartz 4 folder with money in front and a man who is vaccinated against Corona

Hartz 4 recipients: Will Austria become a model for Germany in 2021??

Unemployment benefits can now be blocked for up to six weeks by the AMS in Austria because of a refusal to take up work, if jobseekers refuse an application or an offered job due to their lack of vaccination. In the AMS, it is assumed that there will be some cases of blocking in Austria for this reason.

It seems important to mention that the Labor Market Service is not allowed to check the vaccination status of job seekers themselves* – blocking only occurs when employers report back that someone does not accept a job due to lack of vaccination or when people do not even apply for a job that requires vaccination. People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons are of course excluded from this regulation.

However, an application does not require the person seeking employment to actually get vaccinated in the end. If a job seeker applies for a job and the employee does not hire the candidate on his own initiative because he is not vaccinated – or for other reasons – there is no threat of the allowance being blocked.

Unemployment benefit Hartz 4 will not be denied in 2021 even to the unvaccinated for the time being

Is such a regulation also possible in the Federal Republic of Germany?? No, they say for the time being! Because there is no general obligation to test or vaccinate in Germany, vaccination refusers cannot be threatened with Hartz IV sanctions. Even if jobseekers cannot show a negative Corona test, a vaccination certificate or a convalescence certificate and therefore fall through the employer’s grid, they are still entitled to unemployment benefit I and II, colloquially also called Hartz 4.

According to Focus, the managing director of an employment agency in western Germany is clearly annoyed: "We have no legal recourse against this. The reason is that there is no general testing or vaccination obligation in Germany, on the basis of which one could sanction vaccination refusers."

Legal situation for recipients of Hartz 4 is complicated – certain requirements must be met

The legal situation is complex. Theoretically, recipients of unemployment benefit II must meet certain conditions. You have to try to find a job and follow the guidelines of the employment agency along the way. Who offends against certain obligations of the serious job search, must count on benefit reductions.

However, these requirements do not seem to refer to a vaccination requirement. Because so far, with a few exceptions in the care sector, the employer side has no right to a Corona test or vaccination as a condition of employment. For this reason, unvaccinated people are officially not hired because of their refusal to vaccinate, but because of other insufficient qualifications that are put forward.

Another option is, of course, that vaccination opponents apply so flawed that the potential employer waives a hiring from the outset.

Vaccination against Corona may not be required when looking for a job

Companies are therefore not allowed to require vaccination, which is why it would be unlawful to block Hartz-4 benefits if a person is not vaccinated. Nevertheless, it is up to them whom they hire and whether only vaccinated, tested or recovered persons may work in their company.

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Experts therefore expect that the number of people in need of Hartz 4 benefits will increase in the future – in general, according to scientific analyses, a disproportionately large number of unemployment benefit recipients avoid a Corona vaccination. This could prove to be a real problem in the long run.

Compulsory vaccination in Germany? For Hartz 4 recipients 2021 for the time being no topic

On the one hand, vaccination is a personal decision of each individual; anything else would be equivalent to compulsory vaccination, but on the other hand, high costs are incurred by those who refuse vaccination. Because unemployment benefit is an insurance benefit, and anyone who prevents people from taking up work ensures that the community will incur higher costs.

It is a difficult situation, which has already caused a lot of discussion in Austria and Germany. At present, about 3.9 million people in Germany receive unemployment benefit II, which generally corresponds to 446 euros a month. An unemployed bragged that with him apparently 200 euros would remain.

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