In its July 4, 2019 ruling (Case: S 40 U 227/18), Munich Social Court clarified that taking bathroom breaks in the home office does not serve the employer’s direct business interests and is therefore not covered by statutory accident insurance.
With its decision, Munich Social Court follows the Federal Social Court’s July 5, 2016 ruling. The Federal Social Court has made it clear for quite some time that it distinguishes between employees working in a home office and those working at a company’s place of business when it comes to statutory accident insurance.
Accident at work
In established jurisdiction, accidents on the way to lunch or bathroom breaks in the company are recognized as accidents at work.
Taking a bathroom break is an action that cannot be postponed and where, unlike at home, employees are forced to go to the bathroom at another place, the company. This allows employees to resume their work immediately afterwards, which in turn is in the employer’s indirect interest.
The courts argue similarly in cases of lunch or other food breaks. The obligation to be present at the workplace means that employees also have to take their lunch or food breaks there.
Federal Social Court, July 5, 2016 – B 2 U 5/15
Jurisdiction arrives at different conclusions in relation to home office workers. In a case before the Federal Social Court, the parties disputed the existence of an accident at work.
The plaintiff worked for the defendant from a workplace set up in her apartment. The employee left her workplace to get a drink from the kitchen. On the way there, she slipped on the stairs and injured herself.
The plaintiff sought recognition of the injury as the result of an accident at work.
The Federal Social Court clarified that in this specific case the plaintiff no longer acted in the company’s direct interest. She had left her home office workplace to get a drink. This was a private activity that had no connection whatsoever with the employer’s interests. It was therefore no accident at work. The insured activity ended upon leaving the home office workplace. It would only have been different if specifically the insured activity had caused the plaintiff to feel thirsty.
Munich Social Court, July 4, 2019 – S 40 U 227/18
Taking into account the Federal Social Court jurisdiction, Munich Social Court decided similarly in the following case.
The parties also disagreed as to whether the following facts constituted an accident at work. The plaintiff also worked in the home office. After taking a bathroom break, the plaintiff fell on the way back to his home office workplace and sustained an injury.
Munich Social Court ruled that the fall was not objectively related to the insured activity. The bathroom is to be attributed to the private area of a residence. Therefore, the way back from the bathroom to the home office workplace cannot be work-related.
In its jurisdiction, Munich Social Court consistently applies the jurisdiction of the Federal Social Court as relates to statutory accident insurance coverage for employees in the home office.
Due to the different assesments of accidents involving employees working in a home office and employees working at an employer’s place of business, employees are advised to take out private accident insurance.