Do you have to go back to the office?

Office workers

Normality is also slowly returning to the world of work.

(Photo: Unsplash)

Dusseldorf Life in this country is slowly normalizing. So also the everyday work, many companies prepare the return of their employees to the office. Some worry about their health – the legal uncertainties are also great. Answers to the most important questions.

Can my boss order me back to work?

Yes – at least for most of them. “The right to issue instructions allows the employer to determine the place of work,” says Sebastian Schröder, owner of the Emplaw law firm in Viersen

Exceptions: If, at the start of the pandemic, employees have, for example, agreed with their employer for six months of homework, the company is also bound by it. Even parents who cannot find childcare for their children under the age of twelve could not be forced to return to the office, says Schröder.

In any case, the company has to involve the works council – this is often overlooked. The lawyer recommends companies to give one week’s notice so that employees can prepare for their return.

What applies to high-risk groups – and if I’m afraid to get infected?

Employees have no right to stay home preventively if they are afraid of being infected. This applies even to risk groups – however, companies have greater care obligations for them. Anyone who refuses to come to work is threatened with a warning or even dismissal because there is currently no right to a home office in this country.

Schröder: “For everyone who belongs to a risk group, dismissal would be disproportionate if they could also do their work in their home office.”

Can my company force me to download the Corona Warning app?

The company cannot oblige employees to do this on their private cell phones – after all, even the government voluntarily uses the Corona app. Whether this also applies to the work cell phone is controversial among lawyers. Schröder says that the employer can at least arrange the installation of the app on the pure business cell phone. However, he advises employers to stick to a recommendation.

What protective measures must employers take?

Companies must take precautions to protect the health of their employees. “If the employer is not willing or able to do this, nobody has to come back to the office,” says Schröder. The Corona protection standards published by the Ministry of Labor provide guidance.

Companies are therefore obliged to allow a minimum distance of 1.50 meters between workplaces and to ventilate them regularly. You have to set up disinfection dispensers and equalize the break times.

Personal meetings should also be reduced to the bare minimum. The employer can ask his employees in the office themselves to wear mouth-nose protection, provided that this is reasonable and the company provides the masks.

Can my company order home work permanently?

No. “Companies must not unilaterally instruct their employees to work permanently from home,” says Schröder. “That would intervene too much in private life.” Two years ago, a company wanted to quit an engineer because he didn’t always want to work in his home office. The Berlin-Brandenburg State Labor Court declared the termination ineffective.

More: Comment: Beware of permanent home office!

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