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Germany to draft new law to regulate working from home

Germany to draft new law to regulate working from home

Germany to draft new law to regulate working from home

Germany’s Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs has announced his intention to draft a law that will protect workers who are working from home. The idea has drawn criticism from business leaders.

Protecting workers in Germany

Hubertus Heil (SPD), Germany's Labour Minister, announced his intention this week to submit a draft law which will regulate home working. “Nobody should be forced to be available for the employer around the clock – neither at home nor the office,” Heil told reporters, insisting that the boundary be maintained between one’s private life and paid working hours. While acknowledging that some jobs would still require workers to be physically present, he added that “we need clear rules.”

Heil’s draft law has garnered criticism from some business leaders. Jana Schimke (CDU), the vice president of the MIT, the CDU’s pro-business wing, has argued that businesses are already adopting more mobile practices and that Heil’s law will only create more bureaucracy. “Why must the state interfere in the innermost occupational processes, when we see that, in the end, it takes care of itself," she said.

Working from home during the pandemic

Before the coronavirus crisis, only 11 percent of Germany’s workforce regularly or occasionally worked from home. Now, the number of people working from the home office has increased exponentially.

According to Daniel Erdsiek, a researcher for the ZEW institute for economic research in Mannheim, “About 75 percent of companies in the information technology sector with 100 or more employees expect a permanent expansion of home-based work.” Even in the manufacturing sector, Erdsiek explained, “More than half of large companies expect a permanent increase in the number of home offices.”

A study by the DAK Health Fund in July found that “home office activity” has tripled during the crisis, as has worker satisfaction. 59 percent of employees said they had become more productive and 68 percent said they appreciated the time saved not having to commute to work.

Despite this, there have been some issues. 75 percent of respondents said that working from home meant they could not discuss matters with their colleagues on short notice, with just under half of them unable to contact their boss on short notice. Additionally, a study by the trade union, IG Metall, found that 48 percent of employees had no separate workspace and had to equip themselves.

The right to work from home

Back in June, the Greens submitted a parliamentary resolution calling for the “right to a home office” that was still integrated with the workplace and had equipment provided. The details of the resolution would be down to negotiations between employers and trade unions.

According to DAK chief, Andreas Storm, “Working from home not only reduces the risk of viral infections but [it] also pays off in terms of emotional balance.” He also stated that, "In the corona crisis, we are gaining valuable findings to redefine healthy working for the digital future.”

William Nehra

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William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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