A German court has ruled that a man who fell down a staircase while walking from his bedroom to his home office injured himself at work and is therefore covered under his company’s workplace accident insurance policy.
In a ruling published on Wednesday, Germany’s Federal Social Court delivered a victory for an unnamed area sales manager who broke his back at home in 2018. The man, who typically started his day without having breakfast and headed immediately to his home office, slipped on the spiral staircase in his apartment while walking down a floor to his home office and broke a thoracic vertebra.
According to online court documents, which were translated to English using Safari, a lower court had previously ruled that the man’s walk to his home office was not an “insured company path,” but rather “an uninsured preparatory act that only precedes the actual insured activity.” The employee appealed the decision to a higher court.
In his appeal, the employee argued that employees who work from home should not receive less protection from accident insurance than others in the company. He pointed out that during the current pandemic, many people worked from home in Germany.
In fact, the country enacted a work from home rule from January to June that mandated employers let employees work remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is currently considering a similar measure in light of rising covid-19 infections in Europe.
The Federal Social Court agreed with the worker’s appeal. It stated that in exceptional cases, a path to the company can also exist in a domestic area if the apartment and workplace are in the same building.
Additional factors that must be considered, the court said, is the “objective tendency of action of the insured person, i.e. whether he wanted to carry out an activity serving the company in the performance leading to the accident event,” as well as the objective circumstances of the individual case.
While surprising—to Americans, at least—the German case poses an important question that many of us, simply relieved to work from home, probably haven’t thought about. What happens if you get hurt while working at home? It’s clear that the answer will vary by country, but it’s one that should be asked and clarified for the good of us all.