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The consequences under German insurance law of an accident in a home office

Those who pursue professional activities within their own four walls should be aware that accidents in a home office will be covered by an employer’s statutory accident insurance insofar as the triggering event took place in the interests of the company and not for purely private reasons. A ruling in 2021 by the Federal Social Court underpinned this accident insurance protection in home offices. Carrying out work in a home office has been put on an equal footing with doing the same activity in the workplace.

In the case in question, one morning in 2018, an employee fell on the spiral staircase that led to his workroom and consequently fractured a thoracic vertebra. His employer’s statutory trade association for health and safety at work and employer liability insurance [Berufsgenossenschaft] refused an insurance pay-out even though the employee had been on the way to his workroom for the purpose of working. The Berufsgenossenschaft had argued that insurance protection only starts in the workroom and that the accident had not occurred on a route that was insured. The employee brought proceedings before the courts and, in the first instance, was successful. The judges at the Social Court considered that, in this case, there had been a work-related accident since the claimant had been on his direct way to work. However, in the second instance, the Higher Social Court disagreed and argued that routes within your own home were not covered by insurance protection. 

In the third instance, the supreme Federal Social Court then ultimately confirmed the opinion of the court of first instance, namely, that taking the stairs was for the purpose of starting work and, as this was something that needed to be performed in the interests of the employer, the stairs constituted an insured route to the workplace. Therefore, the judges at the supreme social court classified the fall as a work-related accident that was covered by the protection of statutory accident insurance.

Result: Therefore, when working in a home office the routes within the household are the equivalent of routes to the workplace if they are directly connected with the work. On the basis of an amendment to the law, since June 2021, these routes are now also explicitly covered by insurance under the law. Moreover, the court ruling will apply retroactively to work-related accidents that occurred prior to the amendment. In the meantime, it is not just the route you use so that you can start working but the route to work also includes the route to the kitchen to fetch coffee, the way that is taken to go for lunch or to the toilet. 

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