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Employers may order employees to stop working from home

While for some people working from home during the pandemic was a nightmare, others certainly came to appreciate it. A case before the state labour court (Landesarbeitsgericht, LAG) of Munich, of 26.8.2021 (case reference: 3 221 13/ 21), showed what can happen when an employer changes its instruction to work from home again and wishes its employees to be back on site.

The staff member was employed as a graphic designer and worked in the employer’s workplace. From December 2020, the employees who otherwise worked in the office then worked from home with the permission of the managing director. Only the secretariat had to be present to a limited extent in the Munich office. However, the managing director then instructed the graphic designer to perform his work once again in the office in Munich. The employee moved for a summary judgement against this through the labour courts. He believed that he should continue to be allowed to work from home.

The LAG took a different view. An employer that allows its employee to perform his work as a graphic designer from home is generally entitled to change its instruction. This applies especially if, subsequently, operational reasons for not carrying out the work at home come to light. The German Coronavirus Occupational Health and Safety Regulation likewise does not grant a subjective right to work from home. Even the general risk of contracting the coronavirus on the way to work as well as the risk of infection in the workplace do not preclude the obligation to show up at the office.

Please note: An employer’s right to issue instructions is frequently more wide-ranging than some employees would suppose. An employer may specify, at its reasonable discretion, the work to be performed in terms of its content, place and time. However, this only applies if these working conditions have not been determined by an employment contract, works agreement, a collective agreement, or by law.

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