Heil announces controls: Home office rule could apply from next week

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Heil announces controls
Home office rule could apply from next week

The federal and state governments want more people to work from home in the pandemic. The basis should be a regulation that sees employers in particular as an obligation. But sanctions should remain the exception.

The withdrawal from the workplace to the home office should become a central component in the fight against the corona pandemic. According to the will of the federal and state governments, employers must make this possible wherever the activities permit. This is intended to reduce contacts at work, but also on the way to work. Labor Minister Hubertus Heil wants to present details of the planned specifications at 11 a.m.

The regulation could come into force in the coming week. It is to be decided in the cabinet today. Since it is an ordinance, not a law, the approval of the Bundestag and Bundesrat is not required.

The relevant ordinance states that employers must offer employees in the case of office work or comparable activities to carry out these in their home if there are no compelling operational reasons to the contrary. In the explanations of the regulation, the ministry speaks of a "duty" to offer home office "as far as this is possible according to operational conditions".

In addition, stricter occupational health and safety rules for distances and mouth and nose protection are prescribed. If rooms are used by several people at the same time, ten square meters must be available per person. In companies with ten or more employees, these must be divided into the smallest possible, fixed working groups. If clearances and occupancy regulations cannot be met, employers must provide medical face masks.

There should be controls

SPD politician Heil warned employers on Tuesday evening at "Bild live" not to arbitrarily deny the option to work from home and announced controls. "They have to say clearly where it is possible – and also where it is not possible. Where it is possible, they should make it possible, and if in doubt, this is also checked by the occupational safety and health authorities." According to the ministry, there is no obligation for employees to accept and implement a home office offer.

In the opinion of Economics Minister Peter Altmaier, however, controls or sanctions for compliance with the home office regulations will "only rarely" be needed. "We do not want a bureaucratic structure, we want to achieve that it functions flexibly in the interests of companies and employees," he told ARD. There should be as few people as possible in local public transport or on the streets. "We have to reduce social contacts," said the CDU politician. "We want as little government regulation as possible."

For left-wing chairman Katja Kipping, the decision to work from home does not go far enough. In the end he was "unfortunately only very half-heartedly", said the ARD politician. It is long overdue that the Federal Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of the federal states take further steps on this point, said Kipping. Politicians could "not just put the full burden of infection protection on private households". The coronavirus is not interested in "whether the contact takes place in the world of work or in private".

An obligation to work in your own four walls is, however, controversial. North Rhine-Westphalia's Economics Minister Andreas Pinkwart from the FDP said on the radio station WDR 5 that the goal of increasing the home office share of the workforce was correct, but the way of a regulation was wrong. The regulation presented by Heil is a "bureaucratic monster". Pinkwart pointed out that since the outbreak of the pandemic, companies had "worked excellently" with hygiene concepts and with divided teams that were alternately at home and in the company.

Simulation calculates the benefits of the control

Business associations had argued similarly in the home office debate that had been going on for weeks – and always blocked themselves against an obligation to work at home. For medical officer Frank Ulrich Montgomery, however, such an obligation is now urgently required. "It is good that employers are now to be brought to more home office offers by ordinance," said the chairman of the World Medical Association of the "Rheinische Post". "In this second wave, far too many offices were left open. There were even declarations of indispensability that were sent to employees, although this was not absolutely necessary." In his view, employers "have a share in the fact that the number of infections was able to rise so sharply again".

The general manager of the employers' association Gesamtmetall, Oliver Zander, described the agreed specifications for more home offices as "unacceptable". In November, Heil announced that it would refrain from this plan. "Bringing this under the label of fighting pandemic gives the impression that the minister is using the pandemic for party political purposes," said Zander.

Moving office work home to a greater extent could significantly reduce the number of infections, according to economists' calculations. Researchers led by Bonn economics professor Hans-Martin von Gaudecker have simulated an increase in the home office rate (which is currently estimated at 25 percent) to 35 percent in a computer model. The number of new infections could be a good quarter lower at the end of February.

. (tagsToTranslate) Politics (t) Hubertus Heil (t) Home office (t) Pandemics (t) Labor law (t) Corona measures (t) Corona crisis