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What legal framework do you have to consider for a home office?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the home office is becoming a reality for more and more people. This is work from home, either on a voluntary basis or by order of the employer. Especially the latter is a widespread practice in times of lockdown. But what exactly is a home office and what legal conditions must be observed? Home office is working from home either on a voluntary basis or at the direction of the employer. There are several reasons why people choose to have a home office. Some want to improve their work-life balance, others have family commitments or live in rural areas where changing jobs would be costly and time-consuming. However, in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, home office is often the only way to continue to be productive and avoid contact with others as much as possible. However, the home office poses some legal risks for both employees and employers. These relate primarily to liability in the event of accidents, the protection of trade secrets and the reimbursement of expenses for setting up the home office. To cover these risks, it is important to plan carefully and pay close attention to the legal framework. When working from home, employees are primarily entitled to continued payment of remuneration in the event of illness, as well as maternity and parental leave. In addition, there is a statutory minimum vacation entitlement. Even if this leave cannot usually be taken, the employee is still entitled to it. However, the employer is not obliged to pay for the leave. With regard to liability for accidents at the home office, the same rules apply as at the regular workplace. This means that the employer is generally liable if an accident occurs in connection with the performance of the job outside the company premises. When it comes to protecting trade secrets, the basic rule is that they must also be protected outside the company premises. This means that the employee is obliged to take all necessary precautions to ensure that no unauthorized persons have access to the information.

Working Hours Act and Home Office: What are the regulations for working hours in the home office?

The Working Hours Act regulates the basics of when and for how long employees may work in a home office. As a rule, 48 hours per week and eight hours per day are the maximum working hours allowed. The same applies to a 5-day week: eight hours per day and 40 hours per week are the upper limits. Additionally, it is important that the employment contract clearly states what type of work is to be done to prevent abuse of the situation. It is also important that every employee in the home office has the same opportunities to take breaks or vacation. It is therefore essential to ensure that employees in the home office also enjoy at least 11 hours of rest and get a day off after six days of work. It is also important that all documentation of work performed is complete and properly recorded. In addition, companies must comply with certain standards in order to create an appropriate working situation for their home office employees. For example, companies must provide ergonomic furnishings or provide appropriate training materials to keep employees up to date. This is to prevent employees from being overly burdened or neglected. Another issue in the context of the home office is employee control. However, companies have only limited possibilities to exercise this control, as it is not legal to monitor employees’ private devices. If companies want to exercise control, they should therefore try to protect sensitive data with specially protected programs or cloud services, or define special security rules for the use of private devices and make them known to employees. In any case, however, anything that is found to be in violation of the rules must be severely punished in order to clarify what performance or expectation is placed on their home office employees. This is the only way to ensure smooth cooperation while taking into account all legal framework conditions.

Data protection law: What obligations are required to comply with data protection?

If personal data is processed in the context of the home office, the data protection obligations under the GDPR and national data protection law must be observed. This includes, in particular, the obligation to establish a data protection-compliant procedure for the collection, processing and use of the data. Personal data includes, for example, names, addresses, e-mail addresses or telephone numbers. Data protection compliance is essential for companies, otherwise they will face heavy fines. In most cases, it is sufficient to create a suitable security concept and implement it consistently. This can be done, for example, by using passwords or encrypting data. Providing employees with training materials on data privacy can also help them comply with their obligations.

Secrecy: Information security in the home office?

Another important aspect to consider with a home office is information security. Because even in the home office, there are some rules and guidelines that must be followed to ensure that no sensitive data falls into the wrong hands. On this subject, there are some important points to consider:

1. access to sensitive data: Who has access to which data?

2. safekeeping of data: How is data stored and protected?

3. access control: which access rights do employees have?

4. internal company communication: What guidelines are there for internal communication?

5. training of employees: How are employees educated about information security?

All these points are important to ensure that there are no security gaps in the home office and that data protection regulations are complied with.

Accident in the home office and statutory accident insurance

Unfortunately, a home office accident is not uncommon. If you’re not careful, you can quickly overshoot the mark and suffer a painful injury. Therefore, it is important to know the legal framework in order to protect yourself from accidents in the best possible way. In principle, all employees in Germany are entitled to statutory accident insurance. The insurance takes effect in the event of accidents at work or occupational illnesses related to the home office. You are also covered for damage caused by the use of equipment – as long as it is used in the course of professional activities. However, it is advisable to take even more extensive safety precautions: after all, you can never be completely sure that an accident in the home office is not due to a lack of hygiene or safety measures. In such cases, the statutory accident insurance does not apply. It is therefore all the more important to take measures in advance to prevent accidents – especially when it comes to sources of danger such as electrical appliances or stairs! Employees also usually expect the employer to provide adequate protection against accidents: For example, appropriate work protection must be put in place and the workplace must be regularly inspected for risks. Therefore, employees should regularly inform their boss about the development of the home office and ask him to take measures to protect against accidents, if necessary. In conclusion, it remains to be said: In addition to a great deal of freedom and flexibility, a home office also harbors its dangers – which is why it is important that employees and employers alike are sensitized to accident prevention and observe the legal framework. This is the only way to avoid more serious injuries or even larger amounts of damage!

Conclusion: Why is it important to know and consider the legal framework for the home office?

A home office is a very convenient way to work from home. It not only offers employees more flexibility and mobility, but can also save costs. However, there are some legal frameworks that must be considered in order to operate a legally compliant home office. It is essential for companies to fully understand and comply with legal requirements for the home office. This applies in particular to occupational health and safety regulations as well as data protection and security requirements. Employees should be informed regarding their home office rights and educated on the employer’s necessary obligations related to the home office. The employer also has the responsibility to periodically review working conditions to ensure that all legal requirements are being met. In conclusion, it is essential to fully understand and comply with the legal framework for the home office. By following these rules, inconveniences can be avoided and both parties can be sure that everything is legal. It is therefore important that both the employer and the employee maintain open communication and comply with legal requirements. This allows companies to achieve efficient workflows while ensuring that all parties are treated fairly.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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