Fall on the way to the home office – the direct route to statutory accident insurance

In a recent judgment, the German Federal Social Court clarified its case law on the existence of an accident at work when working at home. Whether the route from bed to home office is an assured route to work depends primarily on the inner direction of the employee’s will.

At the latest since the amendments to the Infection Protection Act of 24 November 2021 and the associated “teleworking obligation”, employees who have the possibility are increasingly working from home again at their respective homes. Related labor law monitoring issues are likely to become increasingly relevant again in the near future. This is especially true given German Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil’s plans to introduce a statutory right to registered office.

The question of when an accident at work can occur is particularly relevant for activities carried out within its own walls. Only if an accident qualifies as an accident at work subject to statutory accident insurance will the statutory accident insurance of the employer be obliged to pay benefits. There have already been numerous decisions on this subject in the past, from which it is not easy to deduce on a case-by-case basis on what precise basis a qualification as an accident at work was made.

According to § 8 para. 1 sentence 1 SGB VII, accidents at work are accidents suffered by the insured Consequently an activity giving rise to insurance cover in accordance with § 2 para. 1 no. 1 SGB VII. The decisive factor is that there must be an internal link between the specific activity which led to the accident and the insured occupational activity. The existence of this precondition depends on the circumstances of each case and the tendency to inner activity of the employee. If an activity in the service of the company was planned and this can be understood by objective circumstances, the accident is insured accordingly.

For example, an injury from pulling a file from a shelf or a fall on the way to the photocopier where a business document needed to be copied is covered. On the other hand, accidents on the way inside the residential building, for example to get something to drink or eat, are not insured.

An interesting clarification in this regard was made by the German Federal Social Court in its judgment of December 8, 2021 (B 2 U 4/21 R):

The case was as follows: The plaintiff is a regional field sales manager. In September 2018, he was on his way to start working from his bedroom in the domestic office (home office) one floor below. Usually he starts working on it immediately – without having eaten breakfast first. While descending the spiral staircase connecting the rooms, he slipped and broke a thoracic vertebra. The defendant accident insurance employers’ association refused to pay benefits because of the accident. Insurance protection against accidents in a private house on the way to the goal of the first start of work begins only with arrival at the home office.

The German Federal Social Court upheld previous court proceedings and concluded that the fall down the spiral staircase was an accident at work within the meaning of the law. The journey to the first start of work had to be provided as a journey to work.

This decision is perfectly in line with the previous case law of the Federal Social Court. However, the following reflection remains curious: If the plaintiff had followed the general advice and wanted to have breakfast before starting work, the decision would have been different. According to case law, there would then have been no intrinsic link between the accident and the insured professional activity.

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