News / Media / ЖУРНАЛ LGP NEWS 01/2021 / The new Working-from-Home Act

Das neue Homeoffice-Gesetz

Das neue Homeoffice-Gesetz

The COVID pandemic has made working from home more important than ever before in Austria. Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 20 percent of employees have started working from home full-time, with another 20 per cent working part-time. The federal government is taking these new realities into account and has drafted a ‘Working-from-home Act’ with its social partners. The key points of this Act have already been released. 

Workers will not be under any obligation or entitlement to work from home in the future. As a result, employers and employees can reach an agreement in individual contracts (or through a voluntary company agreement) that they are to work from home, whether full-time or part-time, for either a limited or unlimited period of time. In any case, this agreement must be concluded in writing and can be revoked by either party for good cause, giving one month’s notice. 

This means that the employees’ own homes will become their place of work. Depending on how the law ends up being worded, this could also apply to the home of an employee’s partner or another place of residence. In future, accidents that occur at this place of work will be regarded as occupational accidents. Similarly, this applies to accidents that occur while taking a child to childcare immediately before starting to work, or picking them up directly afterwards. The same would apply to accidents that occur while the employee is travelling to doctor’s appointments that cannot be postponed. However, accidents during the ‘satisfaction of vital needs’, such as going to the supermarket and other clearly personal activities are not covered by accident insurance. 

In terms of protecting employees, the employer is responsible for the security of the electronic infrastructure provided to the employee. However, the labour inspectorate still does not have any right to enter the employee’s private rooms. The employer is to provide all digital work equipment that the employee needs to work from home, primarily a laptop, screens, cameras, any specific tools needed – and the data connection, too. If employees use work equipment they provide themselves, an appropriate compensation is to be agreed upon and the employees should receive this. This can also take the form of a lump sum. 

Supplementary tax and social security provisions are intended to ensure that, for example, the provision of work equipment or payments by the employer to compensate for the employee’s use of their own infrastructure do not count as taxable remuneration in kind. In this respect, it is to be expected that, as with daily allowances, payments of 3 euros can be made tax-free for a maximum of 100 days per year, provided that the employee worked from home for at least 26 days of the year. If the employee has purchased ergonomic furniture, they can claim a further 300 euros per year as ‘income-related expenses’ within the framework of the employee assessment, and they can even make a partial retroactive claim for 2020. There are plans to re-evaluate the implementation of this in 2023. 

In the event of damage to the employer’s property, employees are subject to mitigated liability on the basis of the Employee Liability Act (Dienstnehmerhaftpflichtgesetz, DHG). A judge can be called to moderate the obligation to pay compensation, depending on how much fault lies with the employee, how great a burden and how much responsibility they had to bear, and how easy it was to understand the mistake in question. Previously, ‘external’ persons were excluded from this privileged treatment. Now, the new Working-From-Home Act aims to clarify that damage caused to the employer’s work equipment by household members (or pets) is to be attributed to the employee and, by extension, subject to the privilege of the DHG. 

Nevertheless, it is advisable to put your laptop and other paraphernalia away carefully once you have finished work. This protects against damage – and also ensures there is a clear division between working hours and private time within your own four walls.


AUTHOR:

Mag. Piroska Vargha, Attorney-at-Law and Head of Employment and Corporate Litigation at LANSKY, GANZGER + partner

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