In the past, Germany’s Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht or BSG) has been reluctant to classify employee accidents that employees sustain in their homes as occupational accidents covered by the statutory accident insurance. A decision of the Federal Social Court on December 8, 2021, (file no. B 2 U 4/21) clarified that the initial journey from bed to a home office constitutes an occupational accident and thus is considered covered by the statutory accident insurance. As many employees are still working from home due to the pandemic, this decision extends the protection of health and safety of the employees.
A field sales manager who was working from home regularly walked from his bedroom to his home office without eating breakfast. One morning, the manager fell on the stairs connecting the two rooms and fractured a thoracic vertebra. The liability insurance association refused to cover the incident and pay benefits, claiming that accident insurance coverage in a private apartment begins when an employee reaches his or her home office workplace. According to the insurance association, the manager’s walk to his home office workplace was an uninsured preparatory act that merely preceded the insured activity of working.
The Court’s Analysis
The German Federal Social Court ruled that the employee was entitled to benefits under the statutory accident insurance. The initial journey to the home workplace was an insured route to work and not merely an uninsured preparatory act if the home office is located in the same building as the private living space. In the present case, the manager used the stairs solely for the purpose of starting work in his home office. The court thus reasoned that their usage was in the direct interest of the employer. According to the court, during the activity leading to the accident, i.e., walking down the stairs, the employee was performing an activity serving the employer (i.e., starting work).
In light of the ongoing pandemic and employees’ continued obligation to work from home, the German court’s decision is of practical importance and further strengthens employees’ coverage for their home activities.
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