German minister backs creating legal right to work from home

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s labor minister wants to enshrine into law the right to work from home if it is feasible to do so, even after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Labor Minister Hubertus Heil told Sunday’s edition of the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that he aims to put forward such legislation this fall. He said initial estimates suggest the proportion of the work force working from home has risen from 12% to 25% during the virus crisis, to around 8 million people.

“Everyone who wants to and whose job allows it should be able to work in a home office, even when the corona pandemic is over,” Heil was quoted as saying. “We are learning in the pandemic how much work can be done from home these days.”

Heil stressed that “we want to enable more home working, but not force it.” He said people could choose to switch entirely to working from home, or do so for only one or two days per week.

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Heil’s center-left Social Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, had already called in December — long before the virus epidemic brought public life in Germany and elsewhere to a near-standstill — for the establishment of a right to work from home.

Germany’s main employer group rejected the idea. The chief executive of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, Steffen Kampeter, said mobile work is in everyone’s interest when it is possible and makes sense, but “operational issues and customers’ wishes must play a central role.”

“We need a moratorium on burdens instead of further requirements that limit growth and flexibility,” he said.

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