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Is walking from your bed to your desk a commute?

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Posted by Steph Marsh on 15th December 2021

Business Services
For many, the pandemic and consequent working from home arrangements has dramatically reduced the daily commute to the workplace, with some only taking a few minutes to get out of bed and be sat at their desk. But what happens if you injure yourself running up the stairs with your morning coffee, or even getting out of bed?

Well, the German courts have had to make a decision on precisely that!

Background

An employee in Germany slipped whilst walking from his bed to his home office set up, breaking his back in the process. The employer’s insurance refused to cover the employee’s claim which led to a slightly lengthy court battle.

Ruling

Initially the two lower courts in Germany had a disagreement on whether such a short journey (he just went downstairs and didn’t leave the house) could be classified as a commute.

This led to the case being heard in the German Federal Court, which held that the first journey to work, regardless as to the length, should in fact be classed as a commute.

In Germany, statutory accident insurance is only available for the “first” journey to work which was an important factor in this case – the employee regularly went straight to his home office without even going to the kitchen to get breakfast in the morning. If this were not the case, and he had started working before grabbing some food, his case could have been rejected as technically it would have been classed as a second journey.

A further point that the court considered was the duty of care that employers owe to their employees. It was decided that this duty would still apply regardless as to where the employee was working; stating that “if the insured activity is carried out in the household of the insured person or at another location, insurance cover is provided to the same extent as when the activity is carried out at the company premises”.

Take away points

Whilst this case is not binding on the UK, it does provide some interesting points and highlight the fact that employers have a duty of care to their employees which extends to when employees are working from home.

Employers should ensure that the home working arrangements that their employees have, including the desk set up (some people have had to resort to using the dining room table!) are safe. Employers should carry out adequate risk assessments to cover any desks, monitor heights and general set-up, as well as checking their policies to make sure that suitable equipment has been provided.

If you would like any advice on the duty of care owed to employees or would like us to review any working from home policies, please get in touch with a member of the team on 01752 663295.