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Letter from the TU Berlin Crisis Committee

Thursday, 19. March 2020

Re: Transition to essential-only presence from 20 March 2020 (cessation of on-site operations)

Dear Colleagues,

The TU Berlin Crisis Committee has decreed that TU Berlin will transition to essential-only presence (meaning that only personnel whose presence is absolutely essential will be able to access TU Berlin buildings) from Friday, 20 March 2020, 15:00. This means that only essential operations will be conducted throughout the University´s premises with all TU staff otherwise working from home.

This measure has been adopted in response to a decision taken by the task force of the state secretary for science and research together with the presidents of Berlin universities on 18 March 2020 and reflects the obligation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in all situations and effectively as possible. This regulation is binding for all and is in effect until further notice.

The wording of the decision is as follows:

“Administrative operations will be restricted to essential-only presence from Friday, 20.03.2020 (with the exception of Charité– Universitätsmedizin Berlin). The affected institutions are to determine on the basis of their right to determine who is granted or denied access to their buildings and the extent of their measures for dealing with a pandemic which key persons are essential for the emergency operation of their institution and are thus to be granted access. Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin will determine appropriate measures to reflect the work it does.”

TU Berlin President Professor Dr. Christian Thomsen says: “We currently find ourselves in the most extraordinary situation in the modern history of TU Berlin. These enacted regulations impact the University at its core. We will have to re-think the University. It is up to each and every one of us to meet the challenges of this new togetherness without direct personal contact. I would like to thank all TU Berlin staff who have managed these extraordinary days and exceptional tasks with vigor, creativity, and composure. Currently there is no alternative other than to adopt a policy of essential-only presence. Our most important duty, for every organization and every single person, is to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. This is the need of the hour and we are acting accordingly.”

A video message from the TU Berlin president can be found at: youtu.be/_4EULLCb3bI 

The vice president for education, digitalization, and sustainability, Professor Hans-Ulrich Heiß, has also spoken about studies and teaching in the current situation in a video message: youtu.be/UbW6NnwtanE 

What does this mean exactly?

Essential-only presence means that

  • all TU Berlin buildings will be shut, 

  • no one will be allowed to enter the University buildings, 

  • TU Berlin staff are required to continue working exclusively from home,

  • the exception are staff working in areas which need to keep operating in order to maintain essential operations (determined in an extraordinary regulation drafted by TU Berlin´s vice president for administration),

  • management are to agree exceptional regulations with staff whose regular work does not permit them, whether for technical reasons or due to the nature of the work itself, to work from home,

  • management have the right to grant leave on full pay to staff whose work cannot be performed from home,

  • face-to-face teaching and in-person exams are canceled until further notice, 

  • research operations will be suspended, with certain exceptions approved by the Crisis Committee,

  • the University administration will continue to operate essential Services,

  • no cafés, restaurants, offices, points of sale, etc. may remain open on the campus

  • The essential-only presence regulations also apply for third parties renting spaces on the campus.

TU Berlin has determined that essential presence applies to the following:

  • necessary technical supervision and maintenance of buildings and equipment by the building department

  • minimal processing of staff-related issues such as extending and terminating contracts to prevent individuals becoming unemployed

  • minimal processing of staff-related issues as they relate to the payment of wages and salaries

  • minimal accounting procedures as they relate to the paying of small invoices and salaries and wages

  • minimal staff required to perform security services
  • minimal staff required for decentralized technical plants, generally only occasionally and in the event of emergency

  • essential interoffice mail services

  • on-call Duty

  • a small number of staff in Campus Management to perform essential operations

  • members of the TU Berlin Crisis Committee

  • anybody working in the fight against the virus on a case-by-case basis (production of enzymes for test kits or the production of spare parts for respiratory equipment, etc.)

All members of the University are called upon and obliged to

  • leave their offices and work places at the University,
  • continue working from home,
  • take advantage as parents of children aged up to 12 of the option of paid leave of absence for 10 working days,
  • agree regulations with their managers if their work cannot be conducted from home for technical, logistical or other reasons,
  • use Campus Management´s services for telephone and video conferences, tubCloud and other similar services.

The following applies as a point of principle: TU Berlin continues to pay regular salaries and wages during a period of essential-only presence.

Studying and teaching

No in-person examinations will be conducted from 19 March 2020. Examinations will be conducted in an alternative form and/or at a later date. Guidelines for conducting state examinations will be drafted and made available by the relevant examination offices.

Submission dates for final theses for bachelor´s, master´s and Diplom programs will be suspended from 12.03.2020 until normal operations are resumed for students (not before 11.05.2020). This means that you will have the full period for completing your final thesis from the time the University returns to normal operations, including the reopening of libraries, PC labs, etc. There will be no disadvantages for you.

Further details are available in the information letter of 17 March 2020: www.tu-berlin.de/?212770 

Working from home

Employment contracts remain unchanged
Should staff work from home, their employment contracts remain unaltered in their current state. Employees are only freed from their obligation to work in their respective place of work for the duration of the exception approving their working from home.

Joint agreement on the scope of responsibilities
The employee and manager are to jointly determine the type and scope of duties to be completed from home. Work packages, scopes for action, and the means and extent of accessibility are to be clearly agreed upon by the employee and manager.

Working times when working from home
Collective agreements and statutory provisions as well as the existing service agreements and circulars on working hours, rest breaks and incapacity for work apply.

Pursuant to the flextime framework in the TU Berlin/Staff Council agreement on flexible working hours, employees are permitted to freely determine their working hours when working from home. When recording your working hours, please enter “Homeoffice” under “Comments” in column J. You are not required to enter your start and end times. Employees are to arrange the times they are available when working from home with their supervisors.

Tools, data privacy, and occupational and health protection when working from home
Employees are permitted to use both official and personal tools when working from home. Please ensure data privacy and security (see info sheet “Data privacy and IT security when working from home”).

Employees are also protected by statutory accident insurance when working from home. Protection extends to occupational accidents and occupational illnesses. According to Section 8 (1) sentence 1 SGB VII, occupational accidents are accidents suffered by insured persons as a result of an activity which constitutes the basis for insurance coverage.

Obligations of staff

During the period of restricted operations, staff are required to check their university email address at least twice every working day (https://exchange.tu-berlin.de/owa) to keep up to date with the latest developments and to ensure that they remain contactable in urgent circumstances. They are also obliged to check the University website once a day as the latest information and statements are published there. Should you not be able to access your email inbox, please provide your supervisor with a telephone number where you can be contacted.

Regulations regarding your workplace at the University

Every member of staff is obliged to leave their workplace in an orderly condition. Please remember to ensure that you leave no valuables behind and that fridges are emptied. The electricity supply will continue to operate during the period of restricted operation. Users are responsible for ensuring that they switch off all lights in offices, corridors and labs. Disconnect coffee machines, kettles etc. from the mains. Switch off the heating.
It is essential to ensure that all doors are locked when you leave your rooms. If possible, place equipment in lockable cupboards.

Reducing the workload for University support services

As all central administrative departments, teams, and sections as well as faculties etc. are required to switch over to “emergency mode”, the following regulations apply for all staff:

Staff procedures

Staff teams and staff councils have agreed regulations to avoid all appointment procedures as well as the procedures for extending and terminating contracts being suspended to a later date. Initially those procedures will be undertaken which are critical in terms of time (e.g. extensions to contracts in March/April 2020) or which are necessary to prevent personal difficulties arising (such as unemployment due to non-renewal of contract etc.). We would kindly ask you to refrain from making inquiries to allow the staff to organize everything. We will keep you updated regarding these issues.  

Advisory and other services of the women´s representatives

Answering inquiries, providing advice and receiving complaints will be conducted exclusively by email and telephone until further notice. The following applies regarding the women´s representatives´ involvement in staff procedures: With immediate effect, all staff procedures will be conducted electronically. This includes the forwarding of documents. Approval or rejection by the women´s representatives for electronically conducted procedures will be given by email.

Suspension of ordering of goods

We request all TU members – whether working from home or the office – NOT to order any goods from now on. Only orders placed to ensure the essential operation of the University will be approved. This regulation is binding and is in effect until further notice. The reasons for this decision are that it is not possible to arrange for the proper receipt of goods and to reduce the workload of the finance department to allow them to conduct essential business as smoothly as possible. This includes the payment of wages and salaries. We thank you for your cooperation. Please avoid doing anything at the moment which is not strictly necessary.


During the period of essential-only presence, the Crisis Committee will also be meeting regularly (currently on a daily basis) to evaluate the situation. Information letters with binding regulations will continue to be published. The Office of Communication, Events and Alumni will be updating you on the situation at the University on an ongoing basis throughout this period.

Please ensure that you visit the TU Berlin website on a daily basis to update yourself: www.tu-berlin.de 

Please also make use of the University´s main official social media channels:

Please address any questions regarding TU Berlin or your specific place of work to the following email address only:  

We will provide a prompt answer to all your emails.

Please refrain from making general inquiries concerning the spread of the virus and illness etc. For such questions, please use the following information service: www.tu-berlin.de/?212570 

TU Berlin Crisis Committee
19 March 2020

Zusatzinformationen / Extras

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