The cold and wet season doesn’t exactly make it easy for us to get out of bed early in the morning, get ready and drive to the office. How good it is to have the option of working from a home. The only question is who will pay for the heating, equipment, etc.?
Since spring, companies are no longer obliged to let their employees work from home, but some companies continue to offer this option. The IFO Institute estimates that one in four employees in Germany still works from home. In some industries, the number is even higher.
Particularly in winter, employees appreciate the option of working from home, as it saves them the way to the office, which can become a real challenge due to icy roads, snowfall and train delays.
But what about the actual legal regulations for working from home?
The terms at a glance: Home office, telework and mobile working.
So far, mobile working has not been clearly regulated by law in Germany. Thus, the colloquial term “home office” is often used.
In contrast, telework is clearly defined. This means that work with fixed working hours takes place outside the company at a fixed workstation, which is usually located within the employee’s own four walls. Precise requirements apply, which are regulated by the Workplace Ordinance.
If the above-mentioned characteristics are fulfilled and corresponding conditions are agreed upon, it is a case of telework. In this case, the employer must comply with the legal regulations on telework. Detailed regulations on the implementation of home office can result from the collective agreement or a company agreement.
If one works partly in the office and partly in the home office or on the road, one speaks of alternating telework, since the employee does not work from a fixed location. For example, the work can also be done in a coworking space, on the train or from a hotel.
What does a home office minimum equipment look like?
According to Verdi, the employer is obligated to equip the employee with a home office workstation – at the company’s expense. In addition to furniture, this also includes other office materials and suitable telecommunications technology, including software and hardware. This can also include computers, telephones, headphones and cameras. The costs of any maintenance and repairs are also borne by the employer.
According to the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, the employer may not demand that employees use their private devices for work unless this has been agreed with the employees in advance. Regardless of which devices are ultimately used, data protection and data security must always be guaranteed.
What should the workplace in the home office legally look like?
In addition to ergonomic equipment, accident prevention regulations and occupational safety naturally also play an important and central role. The employer has a duty to ensure this. It is important to ensure that sufficient space and ventilation and heating options are available. A risk assessment, which in the best case is carried out by each employee on the instructions of the management, can help to uncover and eliminate possible risks. The employer does not have a general right of access to the private home.
In larger companies, there is a works council that can provide support in the design and implementation of home office regulations. In addition, a works agreement can contain home office regulations.
Does the employer contribute to the costs incurred in the home office?
This can be agreed between employer and employee on an individual basis. According to Verdi, if there is neither an agreement nor a collective bargaining agreement nor a works agreement, it depends on the overall circumstances. The employee has a legal right to reimbursement of his additional costs, provided that the employer’s interest in performing work in the home office outweighs. In this regard, there is a case law of the Federal Labor Court on the reimbursement of expenses for home office.
The more employees work from home, the fewer costs are incurred by the employer in the company. This is what makes home office work so attractive to many employers. If disagreements do arise between the two parties, employees can enforce the right to application replacement in the labor court.
I can just go to the company if it is too cold at home, right?
If the employer gives the employee the option to work from home or at the office, you can of course also do the work at the office. The same applies if your home office agreement includes a right of return to the office. In any case, you should make an arrangement with your employer for the costs incurred (electricity, heating, pro rata rent, telephone, etc.) in home office and write it down.
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* Source: NTV