The home office obligation ends, the desire for mobile work remains

BerlinOn June 30th, the home office obligation resolved by the federal emergency brake expires. According to the stipulation, employers are required to offer their employees the opportunity to work from home until the end of the month, provided there are no compelling operational reasons to the contrary. According to the federal government, there are no intentions to extend the obligation – meanwhile, workers and employers alike are thinking about how to continue working after the pandemic.

This does not go past the federal government and so the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is currently advising on rules at the workplace according to the home office obligation. The home office made an important contribution to infection protection, said a spokeswoman a week ago. According to your information, the ministry now wants to adapt and extend the Corona occupational health and safety ordinance, which sets area, distance and mask specifications for the workplace and would also expire at the end of the month.

Mobile working is desirable, but a different management culture is necessary

In turn, the auditors Ernst & Young presented a study on how the employees were doing with the home office, according to which a majority of those surveyed would like to work flexibly and regardless of location, even after the pandemic. For the study, the auditors interviewed 1,000 employees between the ages of 20 and 50. 90 percent of those surveyed stated that they were very satisfied or satisfied with the conditions in the home office during the pandemic. A return to the status quo before the pandemic is out of the question for the group examined: A good 80 percent want to continue to spend all or at least part of their working hours in the home office in the future. According to the consulting firm, 84 percent of those surveyed said that they would like to see the world of work in the future in 2030: “I can work completely anywhere.” 78 percent expect to be able to organize their work flexibly in the future.

In a study last summer, the Institute for Leadership and Human Resource Management at the University of St. Gallen also found other effects of working from home. In it, the scientists describe the home office between optimism and isolation. Around 400 employees were interviewed for the study during the summer months of last year. 81 percent of those surveyed stated that they learned and tried out a lot of new things while working virtually. While 79 percent of those surveyed said they would communicate more than before, 42 percent said they were concerned that they would feel left alone in the situation “and overly burdened”. According to the results of the study, younger and older workers in particular felt left behind. 30 percent of the younger respondents felt overwhelmed with their work, 44 percent of the older people had struggled with the technology. The scientists conclude that virtual work requires a new management culture in order to counteract these effects.

Legislators are lagging behind

The idea of ​​permanently mobile work has been translated into the world of work, although not for a long time. So far, employees have no legal right to work from their home office, mobile or location-independent, although the CDU and SPD promised in the 2018 coalition agreement to take on mobile work. Following this, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil presented a draft law in December last year with the “Mobile Work Act” to make work more flexible. Heil’s draft law gave employees the right to work from home 24 days a year. However, the Chancellery received the draft at the beginning of this year.

“In the later discussion, this draft was modified to a right of application for the employee,” says Nathalie Oberthür, lawyer and chairwoman of the labor law committee in the German Lawyers’ Association. Accordingly, the employer must object to the request at the request of his employee. Otherwise mobile working would come about, so Oberthür.

The EU has already presented a directive on mobile working

Either way, the federal government cannot ignore the subject. In 2019, the EU launched a directive on transparent and reliable working conditions, which must be implemented in the national law of its member states by August 2022. This directive includes, among other things, the right for European workers to be able to apply to their employers for working conditions such as mobile working. Employers are then obliged by a European template to explain and justify their decision for or against mobile working.

With the expiry of the home office obligation, the dispute over a legal right to mobile work beyond the pandemic is also boiling among trade unions and employers. “In many companies there are already good regulations for this, but not everywhere,” said DGB board member Anja Piel of the Funke media group. The DGB also called for an independent law on employee data protection. “Digital work equipment and instruments must not be misused to control employees or even to monitor them permanently,” said Piel.

“The exception must not become the rule,” said Markus Jerger, Federal Managing Director of the Federal Association of Medium-Sized Enterprises (BVMW). The middle class rejects state intervention in the entrepreneurial autonomy resolutely. This also and especially applies to an obligation on companies to offer mobile working.

Workplace ordinance as a home office hurdle

In this regard, the workplace ordinance for home office workplaces is also repeatedly problematized. It is hardly possible for employers to control the workplace regulations in a private residence or on the move on the train, according to the CDU Economic Council, for example. So far, that regulation requires employers to check every means that is used for safety. This applies not only to work equipment provided by the employer, says lawyer Oberthür, but also to those from the private property of the employee. “That means that the employer would have to make sure that this kitchen table is safe, even if the employee is sitting at his own kitchen table,” says Oberthür.


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