New rules come into force: This applies immediately to the home office

New rules come into force
This now applies to the home office

As of today, new requirements for working from home apply. It is now "mandatory" for employers to enable their employees to work from home. You can find out here what restrictions there are and what all this means for employees.

As of today, new requirements for home office apply to employers. With the entry into force of the Federal Ministry of Labor's new "SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance", they are "obliged" to offer employees to work from home in certain cases.

In addition, the rules for infection protection in the workplace are tightened. The regulation is limited in time and is only valid until March 15th. If the situation does not ease, the government could extend it.

How mandatory is the new home office rule exactly?

It leaves room for maneuver. The wording of the regulation states: "In the case of office work or comparable activities, the employer has to offer employees to carry out these activities in their home if there are no compelling operational reasons". So it's only about office or similar activities. The company continues to make the decision whether these can be relocated home. The Federal Ministry of Labor speaks of a "duty" and says the regulation should ensure that home office cannot simply be arbitrarily refused. Employers are legally obliged to look where home office is possible and then have to offer their employees this, said Labor Minister Hubertus Heil.

For which office job could home office be rejected?

For example, if this includes other activities that have to be carried out in the company. The Ministry of Labor names, for example, the processing and distribution of incoming mail, the material issue, the processing of incoming and outgoing goods or customer service. Securing first aid in the company could also prevent a switch to home office.

What if employers do not make it possible to work from home, even if it were possible?

This is where it gets tricky: If talks with the employer do not help and the employer refuses, although the work could also be done from home without any problems, employees should contact the works council, if there is one, recommend the Ministry of Labor and the German Trade Union Federation. In the event of a conflict, the occupational health and safety authority of the respective federal state is named as the contact person, which is responsible for enforcing the rules. At the request of the authority, the employer must then explain reasons why home office is not possible. According to Heil, fines are also possible in the "greatest emergency". Theoretically up to 30,000 euros. Another issue is whether employees would even enter into such a conflict.

And if an employee doesn't want to work from home himself, can the employer oblige him to do so?

No. According to the Federal Ministry of Labor, there is no obligation for employees to accept and implement a home office offer. "A different definition of the contractual place of work requires in any case a corresponding employment contract regulation between employer and employee or a works agreement."

The new regulation also provides for stricter corona protection in the workplace. Which are they?

The number of employees in closed rooms is limited. If several people work in one room, there must be at least ten square meters of space for each. If this is not possible because of the work processes, the employer must "take other suitable protective measures to ensure that employees are equally protected", the regulation continues. This could be partitions, for example. Where this is also not feasible or distance cannot be maintained, employers should provide "medical face masks" or FFP2 masks. This also applies to "activities with a risk due to increased aerosol emissions", for example where people have to speak loudly because of a lot of noise.