German Labour Minister plans permanent right to work from home
The world of work has fundamentally changed since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020. To ensure that some of the more positive changes remain permanent, Germany’s labour minister wants to enshrine the right to work from home in law - even after the pandemic is over.
“Modern rules for mobile working in Germany”
Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil is planning a permanent legal right to work from home for employees in Germany. “I am in favour of the corona-related, unplanned mass transfer to the home office having fundamental consequences for the world of work,” Heil told dpa.
According to the minister, the traffic light coalition is looking to create “modern rules for mobile working in Germany” and wants to create a legal right to work from home, in an attempt to permanently integrate home working into the German world of work.
Concretely, the change would mean that in future all employees would be allowed to work from home, so long as their presence isn’t necessarily required at the office. Employers would only be allowed to refuse if they had compelling reasons.
“For example, if you work at a blast furnace in a steelworks, then of course you cannot work from home,” said Heil. “But if the employer cannot give any operational reasons, the right to work from home should apply. That finally gives many people the opportunity to work from home even after the pandemic.”
New rules to balance positives and negatives of home working
Heil said that mobile work had created a “new freedom” for many people, and a better work-life balance - but that it also had its downsides, for instance lowering the barrier between people’s working and personal lives and encouraging longer working hours. For this reason, he said, many people do not want to work from home permanently, but only occasionally, to balance these two factors.
Since November 2020, employers in Germany have been obliged to allow their employees to work from home, unless there are operational reasons why this isn’t possible. According to the Ifo Institute, around 27,9 percent of employees currently work from home.
While some studies have shown that people who work from home are actually more productive, a study by Forsa on behalf of Techniker Krankenkasse, the statutory health insurer, also found that four out of 10 home workers struggle with poorly-equipped workplaces, putting them under pressure.