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Germany: Labour Minister announces draft legislation on remote working is finally ready for what is expected to be robust cabinet debate
Planet Labor, 5 October 2020, n°12163 - www.planetlabor.com

On 04 October, in an interview with the weekly publication Bild am Sonntag, Hubertus Heil, SPD Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs announced that the draft legislation on remote working was finally completed and sent for consultation to the relevant ministries. In principle, the introduction of a right to remote working forms the cornerstone of this future legislation and it essentially mirrors the Minister’s statement from the end of 2019 when he announced the start of this whole legislative project. However, the employers’ federations, the Liberal FDP Party, and the conservative Minister of Economics, Peter Altmaier, made it clear at the time that although they were in favour of extending and regulating remote working, they nonetheless categorically rejected the introduction of an employee’s ‘Right’ to remote working. In the 04 October interview Minister Heil explained the text did provide for a right to 24 days of remote working per year, i.e. two days per month, along with the possibility to negotiate a greater number of days as part of sector and company agreement negotiations. However, employers will be able to refuse remote working if it is incompatible with the effective performance of the planned tasks. While the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) believes the 24-day allowance is largely inadequate, the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) has stated that it opposes such a right and instead believes it fundamental that employers can continue to decide when and where work is to be undertaken. The Minister’s final and watered-down version of the text has been unable to ease robust debate within the ruling coalition. On 06 October the Chancellery even noted that the ruling coalition agreement does not provide for a legal right to remote working. Cabinet negotiations look likely to be difficult. In a bid to minimize excessive use and misuse of the ‘right’, Minister Heil said that the new law would introduce the principle of the ‘digital time clock’, which would be a requirement to accurately and carefully count the number of hours of remote work undertaken. However the ‘digital time clock’ has raised alarm bells over a potential generalized return to the recording of working time in Germany and questions are being asked over the implications of this new draft legislation on the country’s Working Time Act. Government is expected to adopt the draft legislation before the end of the year. This article was updated on 07 October.