(Never) back to the office again!?

During the Corona crisis, many employers have agreed with their employers that they shall perform their work in the home office. Different experiences were made in this process. For some companies, this new work arrangement works very well and increases productivity, flexibility and employee satisfaction. For other companies it has been shown that cooperation works better when employees do their work on site at the workplace. These companies would like their employees to return to the office as painlessly as possible.

Home office could become tax deductible

New in the political discussion since this week is that work in the home office should be tax deductible. The German states of Hesse and Bavaria, for example, are proposing to introduce a deductible flat rate of five euros for each full day in the home office as income-related expenses up to a maximum of 600 euros per year. However, the Federal Government and the German Länder have yet to agree on precise regulations.

Back to the office?!

Many companies have now succeeded in developing functioning hygiene protection concepts. They are striving for a return to normal in their company, including the gradual return of employees from their home office to their usual workplace. But can the employer order the employee to return to the company without the employee’s consent? Unless the employer and employee have agreed otherwise regarding the home office, the employer can determine the employee’s place of work within the scope of his right to issue directions.

In generally, it is to be recommended for employers to make clear agreements with employees on the details of tele- and mobile work when introducing home office. A fixed component of such an agreement should be that the home office is either agreed for a limited period of time or can be declared terminated by the employer at any time. It is also a good idea to give a reasonable period of notice of one to two weeks. Companies with a works council must also observe its co-determination rights.

Home office forever?!

But not all employers want their employees to return to their regular workplace. Many companies have had good experience of employing their staff in a home office and are now considering to abolish their presence jobs completely. This raises the question of whether the employer may determine unilaterally that its employees should now work in the home office permanently? As always, contractual or company regulations take precedence. If the employment contract, a company agreement or a collective agreement stipulates that the employee may also be obliged to work permanently from home or a mobile workplace, the employer can determine this.

If no comparable regulations have been made at company level or between the parties, the employer may not order the permanent transfer to the home office within the scope of his right to issue instructions. Work from home differs significantly from work in an office and can be associated with a number of disadvantages for the employee. A transfer to the home office therefore requires the employee’s consent.

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