The option of working from home or on the road has been part of everyday working life for many employees since the beginning of the pandemic. In the past two years, employers have therefore had no choice but to address this issue. As the Littler European Employer Survey Report has already shown, not all European companies want to offer these solutions on a permanent basis.
The Federal Ministry of Labor of Germany, however, sees a need to establish a legal basis to reflect the current reality of life. A draft of a regulation governing mobile work was presented for the first time in early October 2020. This proposal was last revised in January 2021. Since then, however, the topic has been on ice. However, according to reports from the German press agency, Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil is now planning to push ahead with the legal regulation of mobile work once again. He wants to create "modern rules for mobile working in Germany." This would include a corresponding right to mobile work for employees. In principle, employers would then have to permit remote work as long as there were no operational reasons against it. Further details on the current plans are not yet known.
The minister's statements are reminiscent of the first version of the draft, however, which also formulated an entitlement to mobile work. This formulation in particular had led to differences of opinion within the coalition at the time. The latest draft, on the other hand, only provided for a right to discuss a remote work option, essentially according to the following procedure:
- Employees submit a written request to work on a mobile basis, including start date, duration, scope and distribution of mobile work
- Request must be made at least three months before proposed start date
- Employers must discuss requests with the aim of reaching an agreement
- If no agreement is reached, employers must explain their decision not to accept the request and the reasons for it no later than two months after being informed of the request
- If employers do not comply with this obligation to explain or discuss, the mobile work option will be deemed to be fixed for the stated duration, but for no longer than six months
- Employees must wait four months to renew their request after refusal
- Either party can terminate the mobile work agreement in text form with a notice period of three months, but no earlier than at the end of the sixth calendar month since the start of the mobile work
It will now be particularly interesting to see whether the new German coalition will return to the controversial entitlement model and also be able to enforce it. In particular, it would then be desirable to specify the appropriate opposing "operational reasons" an employer can offer to deny mobile work. For companies, this means further waiting for concrete signs from politicians.
Regardless of the legislative plans, many companies have already taken the initiative themselves, because flexible working models are an important factor in the competition for the best talent. Often, company regulations already provide for an entitlement to mobile working for a certain number of days per week or month, as well as financial contributions to the facility. Even without a legal basis, it is crucial here to introduce an agreed set of rules. This is especially true if there is a works council in the company.
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.