Most accidents happen in the home, and home office time makes no exception. In recent months, more and more employers have been making working from home possible for their employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But what happens when employees get injured in the home office?
According to § 8 SGB VII (German Social Code VII), accidents are covered by the insurance protection of the SGB (German Social Cove) as so-called work accidents, if they are the result of an activity covered by the insurance within the meaning of the SGB. In principle, this is the case if an activity is done for the employer’s company and advantages or disadvantages which arise directly from such activity do not arise for the employee but for the employer. Thus, there must be an according connection between the activity causing the accident and the performance of primary or secondary duties arising from an employment contract. If an employee does however pursue a purely private purpose with a certain activity (even during working hours), any accidents that occur in the process of that activity are not covered by the accident insurance according to the SGB (German Social Code).
Naturally, the private and business spheres mingle in the home office and a sharp separation between the two can become more difficult. It is helpful to clearly differentiate between so-called commute accidents and work route accidents. Commute accidents pursuant to the SGB VII (German Social Code VII) are accidents that occur on the way to or from work. According to the case law of the Federal Social Court, the insurance coverage of the SGB VII (German Social Code VII), for example, includes accidents on the way to work only after the outer door of the building in which the employee resides has been passed. Business routes in the sense of SGB VII (German Social Code VII) go beyond this and include routes while performing work duties. They are not limited to the commute between the workplace and home.
In implementing these principles and transferring them to working in the home office, the Federal Social Court has decided that ways at home for the purpose of eating food are to be seen as a purely private activity. Thus, they do not count as work routes and any accident that may happen cannot be seen as a work accident. However, if an accident happens in the home office during the fulfillment of work duties (such as to participate in a telephone conference or to use a photocopier), the accident has to be considered a work accident. This however does not apply to routes within the home for the purpose of enabling the performance of work in general.
If, on the other hand, the employee leaves home in order to purchase food, the insurance protection of SGB VII (German Social Code VII) applies for one such trip each day to ensure that employees in the home office receive equal treatment to employees working at the company’s premises.
In summary, the motives that moved the employee to perform the activity causing the accident is important when determining whether an accident was work related or not. If such an activity is mainly aimed at fulfilling contractual work duties, insurance coverage can be assumed. If, on the other hand, private motives are the main motivator, the accident cannot be assumed to have been work related.