In a recent ruling, the German Federal Social Court has clarified its case law on the existence of an occupational accident when working in a home office. Whether the route between the bed and the home office is an insured route to work depends primarily on the employee's inner direction of will. 

 

At the latest since the amendments to the Infection Protection Act on November 24, 2021 and the associated so-called "home office obligation", employees who are able to do so are once again increasingly working from a home office in their respective home. The associated employment law related follow-up problems are likely to become increasingly relevant again in the near future. This is particularly true in view of the plans of German Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil to introduce a statutory home office entitlement.

Particularly relevant for activities within one's own four walls is the question of when an occupational accident can occur. Only if an accident can be classified as an occupational accident that is subject to statutory accident insurance, the employers' statutory accident insurance will be obligated to pay benefits. There have already been numerous rulings on this in the past, from which it is not readily deriveable in the individual case on what specific basis a classification as an occupational accident was made.

Pursuant to § 8 para. 1 sentence 1 SGB VII, occupational accidents are accidents suffered by insured persons as a result of an activity giving rise to insurance cover pursuant to § 2 para. 1 no. 1 SGB VII. The decisive factor is that there must be an internal connection between the specific activity that led to the accident and the insured occupational activity. Whether this prerequisite exists depends on the circumstances of the individual case and the inner activity tendency of the employee. If an activity serving the company was intended and this can be understood by objective circumstances, the accident is insured accordingly.

For example, an injury while pulling a file from a shelf or a fall on the way to the copy machine where a business document was to be copied is covered. In contrast, commuting accidents within the residential building, e.g. to get something to drink or eat, are not insured.

An interesting specification in this regard was made by the German Federal Social Court in its ruling of December 8, 2021 (B 2 U 4/21 R):

The case was as follows: The plaintiff is an area sales manager in the field. In September 2018, he was on his way to start work from his bedroom to the domestic office (home office) located one floor below. Usually, he starts working there immediately - without having breakfast first. While descending the spiral staircase connecting the rooms, he slipped and broke a thoracic vertebra. The defendant employers' statutory accident insurance association refused to pay benefits on account of the accident. The accident insurance protection in a private home on the way to the purpose of the first start of work begins only with reaching the home office.

The German Federal Social Court confirmed the previous court instances and found that the fall on the spiral staircase was an occupational accident within the meaning of the law. The route to the first start of work had to be insured as a route to work.

This decision fits seamlessly into the previous case law of the Federal Social Court. However, the following thought remains curious: If the plaintiff had followed the general advice and had wanted to have breakfast first before starting work, the ruling would have been different. According to the case law, there would then have been no intrinsic connection between the accident and the insured occupational activity.

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