German labour minister wants to put right to home working in law

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Labour Minister Hubertus Heil is working on legislation to give employees the right to work from home even when the coronavirus crisis is over, he told a newspaper on Sunday.

“Everyone who wants to and whose workplace allows it should be able to work in a home office – even when the coronavirus pandemic is over,” Heil told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

With schools closed and many companies encouraging their employees to work from home to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, about 25% of Germans are now estimated to be working from home, up from about 12% normally.

Heil, a Social Democrat (SPD), said he would present legislation later in the year to anchor a right to home working in law, with employees allowed to work from home the whole time or for one or two days a week.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, also from the SPD, supported the idea, telling the paper: “The past weeks have shown how much is possible in the home office – this is a real achievement that we should not just abandon.”

However, the German Employers’ Association rejected it, telling the Funke media group that the last thing the battered economy needed at this time was more rules.

Katrin Goering-Eckardt, parliamentary leader of the opposition Greens, supported a right to home work but said it would only work if the government also guaranteed high-speed internet for all.

“A home office or mobile working must always be voluntary and needs binding rules. Nobody should be forced to do it, and a home office should not lead to work becoming limitless,” she said in a statement.

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