Home office – what does the law say?

According to a survey by Statista, four out of ten professionals were working from home at least some of the time in January 2021. A new law aims to answer the most important questions surrounding home offices.
Since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, the topic of home office has gained massive importance. Until now, however, there has been a lack of clarification and legal regulations on working from home.
A draft of the Home Office Package of Measures 2021 was now introduced in February 2021. The new regulations are expected to come into force in April 2021.

Jakob Hütthaler-Brandauer

What is regulated?

It has been stipulated that home office must not only be mutually agreed in writing, but that this agreement may also be terminated by either party to the employment contract for good cause by giving one month’s notice to the last day of any calendar month.
Such good cause may be substantial changes in operational requirements on the one hand or substantial changes in the living situation on the other hand.

How is "home office" defined?

According to the § 18c of the “Arbeitsvertragsrechts-Anpassungsgesetz (AVRAG)” someone is working in a home office if he performs work services in his home.
In the explanatory notes, this narrow definition is interpreted more comprehensively: Accordingly, one is also in a home office if one works in an apartment at a secondary residence or in the apartment of a close relative or life partner.
Overall, these formulations are rather fuzzy. For this reason, I recommend that a home office agreement between the employer and the employee explicitly specify the residential premises used for the professional work.

Notebook, printer & Co. - what do you work with in the home office?

The new legal regulation obliges the employer to provide the digital work equipment required for regular work in the home office. This obligation can be deviated from by means of an individual agreement. In this case, the employee is entitled to compensation for the costs, which can also take the form of a lump sum.
This home office flat rate, as well as other costs such as those for digital work equipment, should be able to be taken into account for tax purposes under certain conditions as a result of the new draft law.

Who is liable for damages?

When you work at home, it can happen that the cat runs over the keyboard and deletes an entire morning’s work. Or the kids spill cocoa on the company laptop. The new law clarifies that damage to digital work equipment or stored work results by relatives or even pets is to be treated as if the employee caused the damage.

You can read the new draft law here, and the accompanying explanations here.

Home office – what does the law say?