Working from home and caring for children at the same time: It’s not just organizationally that the lockdowns during the Corona pandemic have presented parents with special challenges. Mobile working also raises questions of employment law and insurance, some of which have still not been definitively clarified. What are the current status of home office safety and insurance coverage? Who pays when the offspring spill their juice all over the company laptop? And how can I ensure my children’s safety while still attending online meetings? Here, you’ll learn the most important facts and tips about home office safety and insurance.
Employers have many obligations to their home office employees. The company must ensure that its employees can work smoothly, efficiently, and safely from home. But for employees, a home office doesn’t mean taking it easy either. Of course, employees must do their work at home just as carefully and conscientiously within the contractually agreed working hours as they do in the office. And this is where things start to get tricky for parents who are simultaneously caring for their children at home during the lockdown. Something always comes up short. And personal and professional activities merge smoothly. And when you have to keep an eye on your playing child and conduct an online meeting at the same time, special precautions need to be taken to avoid mishaps and accidents.
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Insurance Coverage In The Home Office
Professional and personal activities are not always easy to distinguish in a home office. This raises questions about insurance coverage. After all, if an accident happens at home, there is uncertainty as to whether it is an occupational accident or not. Until now, going to the printer or to another room for a business phone call, for example, fell under the definition of a commute. If an accident occurred on this route, the employer was liable. The situation was different for a trip to the toilet or the kitchen, for example. A new law is to provide clarity here.
Company Modernization Act Extends Insurance Coverage
On June 17, 2021, an important change in accident insurance coverage for employees came into force with the promulgation of the Business Modernization Act. The following sentence now supplements § 8 SGB VII para. 1:
“If the insured activity is performed in the insured person’s household or at another location, insurance coverage exists to the same extent as if the activity were performed at the place of business.”
With this amendment, there is now equivalent insurance coverage for mobile work as when the activity is performed at the office.
In addition, a further paragraph has been added to Section 8 (2) No. 2 SGB VII. This concerns the route to the care center for one’s own children or the children of one’s spouse or partner. Previously, only journeys to kindergartens, childminders, or schools that employees made on the way to their place of work were insured. With the new regulation, accident insurance coverage is also extended to those who perform their work in the home office and have to make journeys to care for children outside the home.
Liability In The Home Office
And what about liability or household insurance? Who pays if work equipment provided by the employer is broken or damaged in the home office? For employees, the principle of graduated employee liability also applies in the home office. This means that in individual cases it depends on the degree of fault and the amount of damage. In concrete terms, this means that if the damage was caused by slight negligence on the part of the employee, the employer bears the costs. If you want only to destroy something, you are liable yourself. And in the case of moderate negligence, there is a division of liability.
Incidentally, this rule also applies to homework if a family member damages company property. If, for example, you have not protected your work laptop from third parties due to gross negligence, you usually have to pay for the damage yourself.
Note: It may also be worthwhile to check the clauses of your private liability and adjust them if necessary with regard to possible damage in the home office.
Safety For Children And Parents In The Home Office
Home office with a child and possibly even homeschooling is a balancing act. Ideally, you can take turns working with your partner and your boss will allow certain work to be done in the evenings or on weekends. But even this is not possible for all home office parents. And hardly any parent could avoid working and taking care of the kids at the same time during the lockdown, at least in phases. Here are a few tips on how to manage this balancing act as accident-free and safely as possible:
- There’sstrength in calm – and more safety. Especially in stressful times, it is important to stay calm. After all, stress and a hectic pace encourage mistakes and accidents. Sometimes it helps to relax a situation if we simply take a deep breath and count to ten or leave the room for a moment
- Secure work materials. Cables from PCs, laptops and printers should be stowed away so that they do not create tripping hazards for children. Loose cables can easily be taped to the baseboard for this purpose. The company cell phone should not be within the reach of children, and the company laptop should also always be stored away safely and securely after work is done.
- Take exercise breaks. Thinking about breaks when you’re under the most stress? Absolutely. Especially then. And exercise breaks are a great way to get the kids involved. You can do a few stretching exercises together. Or you can run around the block together. After that, everyone is calmer again
- Keep it simple. You’ve got that incredibly important online meeting and the kid just won’t play by himself? Then put your guilty conscience aside and let your child watch a second episode of his or her favorite show. Because honestly, it’s better to spend twenty minutes contentedly on the sofa than screaming at the office door
- Set boundaries. Create your own workspace. Even if you have to sit in the kitchen or living room. As a barrier, you can draw a “border” on the floor with tape that signals: This is a quiet zone – please do not disturb.