After nearly all travel – including business travel – has come to a standstill in recent weeks, there are now signs of a gradual return to normal. Due to the easing of numerous corona restrictions, such as the reopening of hotels, business travel is becoming less complicated.
Therefore, many employers are now planning to send more employees on business trips again. While around 42% of companies had imposed a comprehensive travel ban at the end of March, only half of those are still upholding these bans according to a recent study by the German Travel Management Association (in German).
However, despite the relaxation, especially for business travel abroad, caution is still required in order not to run the risk of valuable employees being forced into quarantine.
When organizing a planned trip, it is necessary to observe a multitude of different regulations. With regard to returning from the business trip, the entry regulation of the respective federal state the employee is returning to is relevant.
Such ordinances exist in all 16 federal states and in principle, they stipulate that (re-)entry into Germany must be followed by a 14-day quarantine in which the person entering the country must isolate themselves from the rest of the population. Although the separate state regulations are based on the same main ordinance of April 8, 2020 (in German), the main ordinance allows for a certain leeway for each state to create their own ordinance, and this leeway has been used in different ways and to varying degrees. The corresponding ordinances for Baden-Württemberg (in German), Bavaria (in German), Berlin, Brandenburg (in German), Hessen (in German), North Rhine-Westphalia (in German) and Saxony (in German) can be found via the links. In addition, each state endeavors to adapt their regulations to current developments, which can lead to considerable short-term changes.
Therefore, the legal situation should be checked immediately before each journey to avoid unpleasant surprises.
At the present time, business trips to the member states of the European Union, the United Kingdom and the so-called Schengen-associated states Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are generally unproblematic with regard to returning to Germany. Travelers entering Germany from these countries are exempt from the quarantine obligation in most federal states. Exceptions for which this is not the case are currently only Saxony and Thuringia (in German).
A further exception, which is particularly relevant for business travel, is the duration of the stay abroad. In most of the federal states there is a “significance threshold” according to which a stay abroad of less than 48 or 72 hours – in Hamburg (in German) and Bremen (in English) even up to 5 days – does not lead to an obligation to quarantine. This exception is not limited to the Schengen area, but also includes third countries.
It is sufficient if one of the exceptional circumstances is fulfilled. A business trip to a country in the above-mentioned Schengen group of states does not therefore lead to a quarantine obligation even if the stay there exceeds 48 or 72 hours. Vice versa, a business trip to a third country does not lead to a quarantine obligation if the stay there was less than 48 or 72 hours.
The current German legal situation thus allows business travel in many cases without the need for subsequent quarantine. With this liberal approach, however, the Federal Republic of Germany has been an international pioneer. We therefore urgently recommend that you inform yourself about the current entry requirements of the destination country on the website of the Federal Foreign Office (in German) while making your travel plans.
The majority of countries have more restrictive and very different entry regulations. Either they have complete entry bans in place, as is the case in the USA, or many countries, such as Italy and Spain, stipulate an obligation self-isolate for a period of 14 days after entry regardless of the travel purpose.
In Austria, travelers entering the country must carry a medical certificate confirming a negative molecular biological test for SARS-CoV-2. France or Belgium require proof of the necessity of entry into the country. Only Germany’s neighboring countries, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, can be entered without any problems or requirements. Since the situation is developing at a very dynamic pace, any of this might change at any time, however.
We therefore strongly recommend keeping an eye on current developments and entry regulations in country of destination.