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Teleworking vs. mobile working
It is common to speak of a home office whenever employees work at home, either completely or temporarily. This does not mean much. The terms teleworking and mobile working are much more precise when describing the two different forms of working from home.
Paragraph 2.2 of the SARS-CoV-2 occupational safety regulations published on August 20, 2020, describes the home office as a form of mobile working. Mobile working in the home office is defined there as a form of working that enables employees to "temporarily work for the employer in the private sphere, for example using portable IT systems (e.g. notebooks) or data carriers". There are no concrete specifications for the establishment of domestic workplaces. The ArbStättV does not usually apply here. However, work at home in the form of mobile working is not completely unregulated. Like any other occupationally related activity, it is subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG), which obliges employers in general to prepare risk assessments, define protective measures and instruct employees.
Who works regularly at home, shifts his workplace (partially) home. This is usually referred to as teleworking. Telework is characterized by working at a permanently installed computer workstation, a written agreement between employer and employee on the working hours and duration of the installation, and the provision and installation of the equipment required for the work - including furniture - by the employer or a person appointed by him.
Legal regulations on teleworking
These can be found in the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV) in the form of a definition of teleworkstations and specifications for employers based on this definition.
Tele workstations are DSE workstations installed permanently by the employer in the workers’ private sphere, for which the employer has stipulated weekly working hours – agreed with the worker – and the duration of the installation. A tele workstation is not set up by the employer until the employer and the worker have stipulated the conditions for teleworking in a contract of employment or in the framework of an agreement and the necessary fitting out of the workstation with furniture, work toolsincluding communications equipment has been provided and installed in the worker’s private sphere by the employer or a person commissioned by him.
Source: Bundesgesetzblatt (Federal Law Gazette) Year 2004 Part I No. 4 issued in Bonn on 24 August 2004 4, cited by Bundesgesetzblatt www.baua.de
If a workstation in the home office of an employee differs from those in the company, the employer is obligated according to § 1, para. 3 of the ArbStättV to prepare a risk assessment for this home workstation and to instruct the employees in the use of their Hiemarbeitsplatz. Both can be done by a person commissioned by the employer. However, as the Verwaltungsberufsgenosschaft (VBG) emphasizes in its guidebook "Telework - Health, Design, Law", this task may not be delegated to the user of the home office. In order not to come into conflict with the inviolability of the home, which is anchored in the German constitution, the VBG therefore recommends that the right of access to the home office be regulated in a company agreement. Unlike office workplaces, regular updating of the risk assessment is not mandatory.
The requirements defined in Appendix 6 of the ArbstättV and specified in the relevant Technical Rules (ASR) apply to the equipment of workstations. In other words: The same requirements are made of teleworking stations as of office workplaces!
One way or another
If regular work is to be done at home, this is a clear case for telework. This is also the case when work at home alternates with work in a shared office. If, on the other hand, you only want to work on one or two e-mails from time to time, e.g. after a day's travel, this can be done in the form of mobile work. In any case, the employer is obliged to check the working conditions and to prevent risks to the safety and health of the employee.