The Corona pandemic also has the local communications industry firmly in its grip. Martin Bonelli, lawyer at the German Association of Communication Agencies (GWA), gives companies and agencies advice on the most pressing legal issues.
Even if an employer sends its employees to the home office, it must ensure data protection.
In view of the increasing spread of the coronavirus and the exit restrictions, the world of work in marketing has also changed massively. Companies cancel orders, projects are postponed, campaigns, events and film productions are canceled and employees work from home to the greatest extent possible.
The communications industry is feeling the effects of Corona, in some cases massively, as a recent survey by the GWA shows. Employers, clients and customers have a lot to keep in mind under the current circumstances.
Read the fine print when it comes to cancellations
When it comes to cancelling contracts, the first thing that matters is the contract. What is important is what has been agreed there with regard to adjustment and termination rules. Do the regulations on the changes help? And how does the termination of individual projects possibly affect the framework agreement?? Are there any "force majeure" clauses? Corresponding passages can often be found in contracts, orders or general terms and conditions for this purpose. If no agreements have been made here, the statutory regulations apply.
The specific type of contract is crucial here: For example, is it a contract for services or a contract for work and services?? And what is the reason for the cancellation of the order? Contracts for work and services can be terminated at any time without giving reasons. However, this means that the claim to remuneration remains partially intact. Any other agreement and contract can also be terminated with immediate effect, if there is "good cause". This is the case if one party can no longer reasonably be expected to continue the contract. In this case, the reason must be the responsibility of the termination recipient.
The situation is somewhat different with the Corona crisis. Here, for example, an official order can force the customer to close the business due to quarantine or to cancel an event. As a result, the customer would stop or cancel the order with the agency. However, it is largely unclear here whether this is sufficient for cancellation of the contract or termination of the collaboration. Altogether a fast and transparent communication counts here from both sides. Client and customer should find a joint solution to maintain the partnership.
Ensuring data protection in the home office as well
Data protection aspects are also currently playing a major role in the relationship between agencies and customers. Because even if all employees work in a home office, mobile or remotely, companies must of course continue to guarantee the data protection rules of collaboration that have applied up to now.
In order to ensure the protection of personal data and business secrets, employers should impose certain requirements on their employees regarding off-site work. This includes, for example, a secure connection to the company network, protective measures such as password policies and encrypted hard drives. Many agencies have made a special commitment to their customers regarding secrecy and confidentiality.
Financial relief through short-time work
Due to the massive drop in orders, short-time work is also currently an issue for the communications industry. This is intended to relieve employers financially in difficult times and avoid terminations. The federal government has introduced short-time working retroactively to 1. March 2020 facilitated. The prerequisite is now that at least ten percent of the employees are affected by the loss of work and have a loss of pay of at least ten percent of their monthly gross salary in each case. Short-time work is possible for the entire workforce or for individual employees in varying amounts.
The Federal Employment Agency will pay up to 67 percent of the lost net wages for the employees in question. In addition, employers receive full reimbursement of their social security contributions thanks to the simplified payment of short-time working allowances.
The loss of work should be reported quickly to the employment agency. The agency usually decides quickly. Upon application, employers will then be reimbursed monthly in arrears for the short-time allowance paid. It is also important to get employees on board at an early stage, above all to reduce uncertainty among the workforce, but also because, for example, their consent is required for the introduction of short-time work.
About the author: Martin Bonelli is an in-house lawyer at the GWA industry association in Frankfurt. He advises the member agencies of the GWA on all legal issues. Focus on issues related to labor law, general contract law, data protection, competition and Internet law, and currently Corona.