Obligation to work from home: Employees now have to pay attention to this

Berlin. It already existed in the first half of the year and now, in view of the increasing number of corona infections, it is apparently facing an unexpected comeback: The obligation to work in the home office.

Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) confirmed reports on Sunday evening that his ministry had presented the traffic light parties with a formulation aid for corona protection at the workplace, which provides for a 3G regulation at the workplace and a reintroduction of the home office obligation.

What will apply to whom in the workplace in the future and from when? The most important questions and answers at a glance.

What does the traffic light mean by an obligation to work from home?

The obligation to work in the home office is nothing new in the fight against pandemics. As early as January, employers were obliged to offer all employees who are allowed to work in the home office. Initially, however, there was no obligation to accept the offer.

At the end of April, the legislature tightened the regulation: The so-called Federal Emergency Brake obliged employees to accept the offer to work in the home office. In view of the falling number of infections, the regulation expired at the end of June. Now it should be reactivated.


Corona: traffic light parties tighten measures

The start of the hot coalition negotiations is overshadowed by a nationwide record incidence value of 303. © Reuters

Who does the home office obligation apply to?

The government is trying to make the obligation to work from home as broad as possible. “Wherever it is possible,” said Labor Minister Heil on Sunday evening, the regulation should apply. Employees whose work can also be carried out from home should no longer drive to the company.

The goal is to reduce contacts. The vaccination status of the employees is irrelevant, including whether they have been tested or have recovered. The home office obligation basically applies to everyone.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes there is. The draft law states that employers must offer their employees work from home in the case of office work or comparable activities, “if there are no compelling operational reasons”.

Conversely, this means: if there are operational reasons, the obligation to work from home can be circumvented. What “operational reasons” are in the sense of the regulation can be debated for a long time. A “significant restriction in operational processes” is mentioned in the explanatory memorandum of the draft law.

The draft law also provides for an exception for employees. You are obliged to accept the home office offer, but under the condition that “there are no reasons to oppose this on your part.” According to the reasoning, this could be “limited space, interference from third parties or inadequate equipment”.

When does the home office obligation come into force?

From when the obligation to work from home will apply has not yet been finally clarified. But it will presumably happen very quickly. Talks between the rapporteurs of the traffic light groups, in which final points of dispute were to be clarified, continued until Monday evening.

The main committee of the Bundestag is to initiate the changes on Tuesday, the vote in the plenary of the parliament is planned for Thursday. The Federal Council could agree on Friday. After that, the new rules could come into effect at short notice.

What applies to employees who do not have the option to work from home?

Strict 3G regulations will apply in the workplace in the future. That means: only those who have been tested, recovered or vaccinated should still be allowed to enter offices or production facilities. Employers should be given the opportunity to query the vaccination status of their employees. So far something has not been possible.

Anyone who has not been vaccinated or recovered must show a rapid test every day. Employers are obliged to monitor this. The data collected must be deleted within 6 months.

How do employers react?

The planned 3G rule meets with approval from the employers’ association BDA. “The fact that employers can in future query and save the vaccination status of their employees is an important prerequisite for ensuring effective and targeted in-house health protection,” said employer president Rainer Dulger.

Dulger announced that anyone who owes a 3G certificate and therefore cannot work will no longer receive a salary in the future. “Anyone who does not show up for work for reasons for which they are responsible has not yet been able to claim any wages for the lost work.” Business representatives, on the other hand, cautiously commented on the obligation to work from home.

And what do the unions say?

The German Trade Union Federation (DGB) welcomes the announcement to reintroduce the home office obligation. In view of the dramatically increasing number of corona infections, it is “right that employers are again obliged to offer home offices wherever possible,” said DGB chairman Reiner Hoffmann.

“In the current situation, it is also right and important that employees basically have to take this offer seriously,” he added. However, nobody should be forced to work in the home office. “That it is not possible to work from home has to suffice as an acclamation,” says Hoffmann.

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Obligation to work from home: Employees now have to pay attention to this