During the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has become well-established. Until recently, however, it was largely unclear to what extent employees working from home were protected by German statutory accident insurance. The German Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) has now passed a widely publicised decision on this issue.
In its ruling of 8 December 2021 (reference B 2 U 4/21), the Federal Social Court decided that an employee who slipped and fell in the morning on his way from bed to his home office was protected by statutory accident insurance.
The plaintiff was employed as area sales manager in the field. On the morning of 17 September 2018, he was on his way from his bedroom to his home office one floor below. He usually started working there early in the morning without having breakfast. While climbing the spiral staircase connecting both rooms, he fell and fractured a thoracic vertebra. The defendant employers’ liability insurance association refused benefits on the grounds of the accident.
While the first instance Social Court considered the first morning commute from bed to the home office to be an insured business ‘journey’, the second instance Regional Social Court ruled it was an uninsured preparatory action. The Federal Social Court as the highest instance has now confirmed the Social Court’s decision.
According to the Federal Social Court decision, for which only the press release is available at the time of writing, the plaintiff employee suffered an occupational accident when he fell on the way to his home office in the morning. In his case, the Court ruled, taking the stairs to the home office was solely for the purpose of starting work and was therefore insured as an activity in the interest of the employer. The objective circumstances had shown that the claimant intended to begin work. His going downstairs was therefore directly in the interests of the employer. Moreover, the accident occurred at the time when the employee usually started work.
The decision is particularly remarkable because the Federal Social Court made the decision in this case on the basis of the legal situation that applied previously. Following an amendment to the law of 14 June 2021, the Seventh Book of the German Social Security Code now expressly stipulates that there is insurance cover for accidents in the home office to the same extent as when working at the company’s premises. The Federal Social Court has therefore now corrected its previous case law and aligned it with current regulation of accident insurance protection in the home office from 2021. The decision promises better accident protection for employees working from home and is therefore to be welcomed, especially in the context of the still-ongoing pandemic.
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