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Home office: What am I entitled to?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 213 views

From the office chair to the computer, mouse and screen to the telephone and internet connection: you need a lot of equipment in the home office. But who actually pays for that? What support does the employer provide and what are the obligations in the home office? Read here what you are entitled to when you work from home – and what you have to pay for yourself.

Home office, telework, mobile work: What are the differences?

Home office is a colloquial term. Behind this are various forms of work: home or alternating telework as well as mobile work. Characteristic of these models is that the work is carried out in whole or in part at a location outside the employer’s premises.

Telework and mobile work differ in terms of employer obligations. So it’s worth taking a close look.

telework

Home telework means that the employee works exclusively outside the company, there is no longer a permanent workplace within the employer’s premises. The prerequisite for this is that the conditions are regulated in an agreement. If you only work part of the time at home and continue to work in the office, this is referred to as alternating telework.

If telework has been agreed, the employer must set up the external workplace or bear the costs for it. In addition, the provisions of the Working Time, Occupational Health and Safety and Data Protection Act and the Workplace Ordinance apply. In short, it is the employer’s duty to equip the home workplace so that it meets the same standards as the office workplace. That means, for example:

  • The employer must carry out a risk assessment and eliminate possible hazards in the home workplace.
  • Even when working from home, data protection must be ensured at all times.
  • At home, the same legal provisions apply to maximum working hours and rest periods.

Mobile working

Mobile work is not legally defined. It means that employees work in different places outside the company, for example in the hotel, on the train, on the plane, at customers’ premises or at home. It is characteristic that there is no permanent job. This form of work is typical, for example, for jobs that involve a lot of travel, such as in field service.

The employer provides the necessary mobile devices such as notebooks or mobile phones. The workplace ordinance does not apply to mobile work, since there is not one fixed workplace. The legal regulations on working and rest times as well as data protection also apply to this form of work. In addition, the employer may set certain framework conditions – such as a time window in which the employee can be reached.

Home office: How does my employer have to support me?

Regardless of whether it is telework or mobile work – in Germany there is currently no statutory right to work from home. This means that employers in this country are not obliged to enable their employees to work from home. On the other hand, companies cannot order their employees to work from home either.

The home office obligation that applies during the corona pandemic is not stipulated by law, but is part of the Corona Protection Ordinance. It is only valid for a limited period of time.

However, more and more companies and institutions are promoting working at home on their own initiative. There are often image reasons behind it. For example, you want to present yourself to potential applicants as a modern, open-minded employer. However, there is an increasing realization that some tasks can be done in a more concentrated and efficient manner at home.

Against this background, numerous employers have stipulated home office regulations in individual company agreements or in employment contracts. If there are such agreements, employees can demand the right to work from home.

What does the employer have to provide for the home office?

If telework is agreed, then the employer must provide the necessary equipment so that you can do your job adequately at home. Depending on the work involved, this includes, for example, a computer, screen, keyboard and mouse, an Internet and telephone connection and the necessary software to securely exchange sensitive data and participate in necessary meetings.

Costs that you incur, for example for electricity and telephone, are also to be borne by the employer. In order to simplify the distinction between professional and private expenses, monthly expense allowances have proven themselves in practice – experts estimate these at around 50 euros per month.

Even if you work at your desk at home, your employer must ensure that the statutory provisions on work, health and data protection are observed. In practical terms, this means, for example, that you are entitled to:

  • an ergonomic home office
  • a secure internet connection
  • secure access to the company server
  • Working hours according to the legal regulations
  • Breaks and rest periods in accordance with legal regulations
  • Insurance protection within the framework of statutory accident insurance

These points also apply to mobile working – with one exception: the employer is not responsible for the equipment and safety of the workplace. However, you are entitled to the mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones that you need to do your work on the go and to be available to your employer.

Can the employer refuse to support you?

If you have agreed on teleworking with your employer, then the company is obliged to design your workplace in such a way that you can perform your tasks there just as well as in the office. If you work remotely, you are entitled to the necessary end devices.

The company cannot refuse its support. Your boss must not ask you to take care of setting up your home office yourself or to use your own devices.

Of course, it is possible to agree on the professional use of your own devices. It is then advisable to record this in writing. In this case, your employer is obliged to reimburse you for the costs of professional use.

Home office: what are my obligations as an employee?

Of course, there are also some things that you are required to do when working remotely and remotely. In principle, everything that is in the employment contract applies to work at home or on the go.

Compliance with the agreed working and break times is at the top of the list. During working hours – and only then – you must be available for your superiors and colleagues. Data protection is also important. It is your responsibility to protect sensitive corporate data from third-party access.

Can my employer check me in my home office?

With teleworking and mobile work, your employer relinquishes some control. Nevertheless, he remains responsible for compliance with labor, health and data protection regulations. Therefore, he also has the right to randomly check these aspects.

With telework, however, you don’t have to let your boss into your apartment – it is quite sufficient if you show him photos of your home workplace if requested.

In addition, your superiors are of course interested in you adhering to the specified working and break times. In practice, digital time recording systems are often used for this, which you can use online. Alternatively, it is possible to write down the working hours and break times and send them to your superiors on a regular basis.

More extensive controls, such as so-called spy software on your office computer, are generally not permitted. Your employer may only work with such means if there is a concrete suspicion of a serious breach of duty on your part. An example would be the justified suspicion that you are doing a part-time job during the working hours defined in the employment contract.

Can my employer force me to work from home?

Just as there is no right to work from home, there is also no obligation to work from home. This means your boss must not force you to work from home or on the go. However, this does not apply if the job description requires mobile working, for example in the field.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule. A current example is the corona pandemic. The so-called Corona Protection Ordinance clearly stipulates that employers must enable their employees to work from home if the task profile allows it.

Conversely, employees are obliged to work from home. As long as the Corona Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance applies, you have no right to work in the on-site office.

This home office regulation applies to all jobs that do not require a presence in the company. Excluded are, for example, many professions in industrial production, services or jobs that require regular customer contact.

Home office: pros and cons

With the corona pandemic, working from home has received a career boost: around 45 percent of those in employment in Germany are working from home during this time. For comparison: in 2019, just under 13 percent did their job in whole or in part at their desk at home.

Experts assume that many people will continue to use the home office even after the end of the corona pandemic. Estimates expect a share of around 35 percent in the medium term.

Pro Homeoffice

This is not surprising, after all, working from home offers many advantages:

  • time saving
  • Relief for traffic and thus for the environment
  • Flexibility – Work and family can be better combined
  • freedom and self-determination

Contra Homeoffice

But where there is light, there is also shadow. There are also typical hurdles to be overcome in the home office. It is sometimes difficult to separate work and private life and to concentrate fully on the job. Because there are many more distractions lurking at home than in the office: for example, the mountain of ironing that cannot be overlooked, the dirty dishes from dinner, the exciting book or simply the comfortable couch.

Conversely, it is sometimes difficult to actually call it a day after the end of the official working hours and not just answer the boss’s email or prepare the agenda for the following day.

Many people also miss the informal exchange with colleagues at home in the long term. Virtual meetings can only partially replace the short chat and exchange of information in the coffee kitchen or in the hallway.

Read more here about how to keep in touch with your colleagues despite working from home .

If you plan to work all or part of the time from home, it is best to think about how you want to deal with these hurdles beforehand. Then you are well prepared and will not be easily disturbed by one or the other distraction at your desk at home.

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