Germany: Legal Claim To Home Office?

Last Updated: 14 August 2018
Article by Falk Repenning
Most Read Contributor in Germany, August 2018

Not only since the Flexible Working Act entered into force in the Netherlands on January 1, 2016, working from a home office (or according to the legislative term: telework) has become a much discussed topic. Just recently, Annelie Buntenbach, board member of the German Federation of Trade Unions, called for a legal claim to the "location and time of working hours." To this end, a new legal framework would be required, which would place "strong guardrails" against an "increasing dissolution of limits relating to working hours and availability expectations by employers."

In fact, providing work in the form of a home office is considered a key example of the working environment's increasing dissolution of limits, which – unlike Annelie Buntenbach's demand suggests – is not classified in the negative sense as "degeneration" to employees' detriment, but rather in the sense of flexibility with positive effects for both employees and employers. The positive elements for employees are initially supposedly easy to determine. Work within one's own four walls, for example, means that the work commute – frequently a strenuous undertaking, particularly in urban areas – is no longer necessary. In addition, the home office in many respects offers the best conditions for coordinating work and family life. There are also advantages for employers in offering home office jobs. The setup eliminates – initially theoretically – the obligation to centrally provide cost-intensive infrastructures for employees to perform their work. In addition, international studies show that employees work more productively from home or on the road.

If all this is the case, the question arises as to why only one third of companies1 in Germany are generally prepared to offer employees the option of working from home, at least in part. One of the main reasons for this reluctance is probably that the change "in people's minds" is progressing more slowly than today's technical possibilities would allow. In a survey conducted by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, 69% of employees stated that they did not work from home because their presence at the workplace was important to their superiors. At the same time, however, 64% of employees surveyed responded that they themselves prefer to work in the company because they wanted strict separation of work and private life.

Irrespective of the – still – lacking mentality for more flexible work, the statutory provisions are not yet ready for the comprehensive introduction of such a legal claim. The biggest "obstacles" for employers are likely the regulations on occupational safety. According to its wording, Section 1(1) Occupational Safety and Health Act makes no distinction between different forms of work, but requires "safety and health protection" at "work" and applies "to all sectors of activity." In connection with the home office workplace, the question arises as to how employers intend to ensure this in employees' private homes. Section 4 Occupational Safety and Health Act specifies the employers' obligation to guarantee occupational safety through suitable technical, organizational, or personal measures. In accordance with Section 5 Occupational Safety and Health Act, this is to be assessed on a case-by-case basis following a workplace-related risk assessment. It is easy to see that these provisions were drafted at a time when workers were doing their work without restriction at a workplace provided by employers on the employers' premises. There is both an access deficit for employers, because Article 13 Basic Law prevents such access to the domestic workplace, and – caused by that access deficit – an information deficit for employers. This shows that the granting of home office work is not without risks for employers.

In addition to the spatial component, however, the home office also causes "problems" in terms of time. The Working Hours Act gives employers relatively strict instructions with regard to the maximum working hours (Section 3 Working Hours Act), breaks (Section 4 Working Hours Act), and rest periods (Section 5 Working Hours Act). For example, are employees forbidden under Section 5(1) Working Hours Act, according to which the rest period between the "end of working hours" and the start of work must be at least eleven hours, from writing an email in their home office at 11 p.m. when they usually start work at home at 8 a.m.? In nominal terms, the Working Hours Act would be violated in any event.

Finally, the legal problem of the home office concerns omnipresent data protection. Monitoring of employees at the workplace already poses hurdles in terms of data protection law. This is even more the case in the context of home offices. Data protection law also places special demands on employers, however. They must guarantee the data protection of employees as data controllers within the meaning of the Federal Data Protection Act when work is performed from home. When accessing employee data, special care must also be taken to ensure that such access does not invade employees' private sphere.

Conclusion

At present, a legal claim of employees to home office work would probably come too early, both in factual and in legal respects. Such a claim does not seem to be intended by the legislator, anyway. The 2018 Coalition Agreement does not contain any corresponding provisions, but merely a declaration of intent, according to which a "framework [is to] be created in which companies, employees and the collective agreement partners can meet the many wishes and requirements in the organization of working hours." It is not clear whether this means a legal framework that grants employees greater rights of co-determination or even self-determination – where the respective profession actually allows for that – with respect to the choice of workplace. At least for employers, the current legal situation makes the risk-free granting of home offices more difficult.

Footnotes

1 Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, "Mobiles und entgrenztes Arbeiten" ["Mobile work and work at home or outside of regular office hours"], available in German at https://www.bmas.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/PDF-Publikationen/a873.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=2

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions