Can I really work from home?

Career & Salary

Modern technology makes it possible: In theory, thanks to laptops, broadband, cloud, etc., almost no one is tied to a permanent workplace. In fact, more and more employers are leaving it up to their employees where they want to work from. That makes the job more attractive and increases satisfaction. Mobile work and home office work offer advantages such as flexibility, greater self-determination and the compatibility of work and family.

Anyone who would like to offer mobile work or benefit from the mobile workstation themselves, be it at home, on the train, with customers, in the outdoor pool or cafe, should also think about the legal and organizational framework.

The following checklist (photo gallery) can help:

  1. Rights and duties in the home office
    Labor law also applies in the home office. Claudia Knuth, specialist lawyer for labor law in the Hamburg office of the Lutz Abel law firm, explains the rights and obligations of employees and employers.
  2. The employer decides
    The employee has no right to a mobile or domestic workplace. Ultimately, the decision is made by the employer who has the freedom to design the company organization.
  3. Note the legal situation
    Anyone who takes printouts, files or forwarded e-mails home risks penalties under labor law, and depending on the sensitivity of the information, up to and including termination. Employees should therefore coordinate with the employer beforehand as to whether and which company documents they can take home with them.
  4. Check requirements
    In principle, the work of the employee must be suitable for this. Business appointments, customer appointments and meetings should have priority. If mobile work can be integrated into operational processes without disruption, the same efficiency of work should be ensured as with face-to-face work.
  5. Clarify time recording
    Instead of clocking in and out at the beginning and end of work, the home office should note how long the employee worked per day in the week. A prerequisite for this is a trust and results-oriented work culture, as time recording is more difficult to control. The Working Hours Act also applies outside the office: The maximum working hours per day (maximum ten hours), rest periods (at least eleven hours) and the ban on Sundays and public holidays must be observed.
  6. Ensure data protection
    The employer must take the necessary protective measures. For example, secure data transfer can be guaranteed by using VPN connections. It is important that only software and files approved by the employer are used. The employee must ensure that no one except himself, including family members, has access to the mobile devices used. In addition, passwords must not be passed on to third parties or negligently kept easily accessible.
  7. The works council has a say
    The works council has no say in the decision for or against mobile working. In the case of some changes, however, for example, changes in working hours, the use of technical facilities that have not yet been co-determined, the prevention of occupational accidents or transfers. The works council must also be involved in the planning process.
  8. Assumption of costs
    If the employer allows home office, he must also cover the necessary costs. This includes the office equipment, the technical equipment and the telecommunication costs. Either the employee is provided with everything they need or he uses his own end devices ("bring your own devices"). Whichever variant or mixed constellation you choose, a contractual basis is essential.

1. Who decides whether to work mobile?

The employee has no right to a mobile or domestic workplace. Ultimately, the decision is made by the employer who has the freedom to design the company organization. However, if mobile work is already granted or tolerated to a significant extent without a regulatory basis, claims may arise from a company exercise.

2. What is the legal situation if an employee takes work home with them?

Anyone who takes printouts, files or forwarded e-mails home risks penalties under labor law, and depending on the sensitivity of the information, up to and including termination. Employees should therefore coordinate with the employer beforehand as to whether and which company documents they can take home with them. Employers, on the other hand, should note that tacit tolerance of mobile work can also justify a claim on the part of the employee. Without regulations, working outside the office should therefore be an exception.

3. What are the requirements for mobile work?

In principle, the work of the employee must be suitable for this. Business appointments, customer appointments and meetings should have priority. If mobile work can be integrated into operational processes without disruption, the same efficiency of work should be ensured as with face-to-face work.

The appropriate hardware must also be in place: a set up mobile device must be available and the Internet connection must have sufficient speed. Hardware and software must guarantee a secure connection to the company's internal data network and communication network as well as adequate data backup.

4. How are working hours outside the company recorded?

According to the judgment of the European Court of Justice of May 14, the working hours in the home office must also be precisely recorded in future.

The maximum working time per day (a maximum of ten hours), the rest periods (at least eleven hours) and the ban on Sundays and public holidays must be observed. By the way: if you compare the average weekly hours of employees in mobile work and in the office, employees in mobile work work on average around four hours more per week.

In addition to the Working Hours Act, the employer must also take other health and safety precautions (risk assessment, protective measures, instruction and regulations for VDU workstations) - especially when working from home - and the employee himself is obliged to ensure the requirements for a safe workplace while working on the move.

5. What about data protection in times of the GDPR?

The employer must take the necessary protective measures. For example, secure data transfer can be guaranteed by using VPN connections. It is important that only software and files approved by the employer are used. The employee must ensure that no one except himself, including family members, has access to the mobile devices used. In addition, passwords must not be passed on to third parties or negligently kept easily accessible. It is better not to install services like WhatsApp on the work cell phone - they often access all contacts unnoticed.

In addition to the obligation to data protection, employees themselves also have a right to data protection when working on the move. The employer may only check equipment and work performance in accordance with data protection regulations.

6. Does the works council have a say?

Not when deciding for or against mobile working itself. However, the works council has a say in some changes, for example changes in working hours, the use of technical facilities that are not yet co-determined, the prevention of accidents at work or transfers. The works council must also be involved in the planning process. The employer is obliged to inform and the works council has a right of initiative in the event of specific violations of the humane design of the workplace.

7. Who bears the costs for equipment and telecommunications?

If the employee grants mobile work, he must also cover the necessary costs. This includes the office equipment, the technical equipment and the telecommunication costs. Either the employee is provided with everything they need or he uses his own end devices ("bring your own devices"). Whichever variant or mixed constellation you choose, a contractual basis is essential.