German court rules man who broke his back working at home was commuting

The term commuting has been given a new meaning by a Court in Germany.

The definition of the workplace has undergone a drastic change the past two years of The Pandemic.  

The new workplace reality was brought home so to speak when a German Court ruled that a man who fell and broke his back walking to his computer area from bedroom to start his workday was commuting.

The Guardian 12.9.2021

A German court has ruled that a man who slipped while walking a few metres from his bed to his home office can claim on workplace accident insurance as he was technically commuting.

The man was working from home and on his way to his desk one floor below his bedroom, the federal social court, which oversees social security issues, said in its decision.

While walking on the spiral staircase connecting the rooms, the unnamed man slipped and broke his back.

It ruled: “The plaintiff suffered an accident at work when he fell on the way to his home office in the morning.”In many countries, firms have a duty of care to their employees, regardless of where they work.

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The German federal court said: “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.”

It is not clear if the man was working from home due to the pandemic or had done so previously. The ruling said the law applied to “teleworking positions”, which are “computer workstations that are permanently set up by the employer in the private area of ​​the employees”.

The court noted that the employee usually started working in his home office “immediately without having breakfast beforehand”, but did not explain why that was relevant to the case. However, later it said that statutory accident insurance was only afforded to the “first” journey to work, suggesting that a trip on the way to get breakfast after already being in the home office could be rejected.

The employer’s insurance refused to cover the claim. While two lower courts disagreed on whether the short trip was a commute, the higher federal social court said it had found that “the first morning journey from bed to the home office [was] an insured work route”.

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