German government set to introduce permanent ‘right to work from home’

German government set to introduce permanent 'right to work from home'
Archive photo shows a woman working from home in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA
Germany's Labour Minister Hubertus Heil wants to bring in a ‘right to work from home’ law, which will apply long after the country’s coronavirus lockdown has ended.

Around 25 percent of Germans have been working from home during the lockdown, an increase from 12 percent before the strict measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 were put into place.

Now Heil wants to introduce a permanent right that would allow German employees to decide whether they'd like to work from home for part of the week, or full-time, if their job allows them to do so.

“I am working on a new law for a right to work from home, which I will present by autumn,” he said.  

“Anyone who wants to, and whose workplace allows it, should be able to work from home – even when the corona pandemic is over.

“You can either switch to working from home entirely, or you can decide to do so once or twice per week.”

Under the plan, workers who would prefer to continue to work from the office would be allowed to do so.

“We want to enable more working from home – but not to force them to do so,” he said.

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In an interview with German daily Bild Am Sonntag, Heil said that the right to work from home has come about as a response to seeing how successfully it had operated during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Germany’s Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said the current times were likely to be a turning point for many.

“The past few weeks have shown how much is possible when working from home – this is a real achievement that we should not forget about,” he said.

Heil said the law would however include protections to ensure that working from home “doesn’t eat into the private sphere”. ‘Home office’ must have a closing time, Heil said, “and not at 10pm”.

READ ALSO: How freelancers and small businesses can apply for coronavirus payments in Germany

More support for parents

Heil also announced that he would extend continued payment of wages to parents who are unable to work during the coronavirus crisis due to a lack of childcare.

The government is paying 67 percent of wages, up to a maximum of €2,016 for an initial period of six weeks, if parents have to stay home to look after their children under the age of 12 due to school and nursery closures.

However, Heil said this would be extended beyond six weeks.

“Parents must have security – that is why we are creating a follow-up regulation,” Heil said. The current scheme expires in mid-May.

Unlike schools, there is as yet no concrete plan for a gradual opening of Kitas and care for younger children.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus in Germany: Who will receive financial help and how much?

Vocabulary

Right to work from home – (das) Recht auf Arbeiten von zu Hause

In Germany 'working from home' is also known as (das) Homeoffice

Law – (das) Gesetz

Closing time/end of the working day – (der) Feierabend

Continued payment of wages – (die) Lohnfortzahlung

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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