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Working from home: what are your rights and obligations?

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Who pays for the cost of electricity, broadband or office supplies if your employer orders you to work from home? Who pays if your company cell phone falls on the kitchen floor or the laptop is stolen? Working from home brings up many questions concerning labor law and insurance.  

Insurance experts from AXA and lawyers from AXA-ARAG give answers to the most important questions about teleworking.

I work from home using my company laptop, but I’m using my own second screen. Do I get compensation for this?

Costs that arise through working from home voluntarily do not have to be met by the employer. In the current situation however, many people have been ordered to work from home. If in these cases employees themselves have to provide equipment or material for carrying out their work, they should be appropriately compensated, unless otherwise agreed. However, if you are voluntarily using the second screen and could also carry out your work with the laptop, your employer does not have to assume the cost.

Does my employer also have to provide me with office supplies or compensate me for them if I buy pens or paper myself?

Yes if they are necessary, such disbursements should be appropriately compensated or provided by your employer. 

I use much more electricity when working from home. Can I ask my employer to refund a proportion of these costs to me?

Yes, the employer must also help to pay for higher electricity costs. This is also on condition that you are not working from home voluntarily.

Can I deduct my workplace at the kitchen table from my tax?

If working from home is only a temporary arrangement, this isn’t possible. Anyone wishing to deduct a proportion of rent etc. from their tax for a private office must meet strict conditions.

I keep having major problems with my VPN at home and often can’t work for more than an hour. Do I have to work unpaid overtime because of this?

No. If you have technical problems when working from home, such as a power cut or internet problems for which you as an employee are not responsible, the employer must bear the related risks (obligation to continue salary payments, payment of overtime). 

Am I still obliged to record my working hours when working from home?

Yes, when working from home you must still comply with the statutory provisions of labor law such as working hours and rest periods. Under labor law, you are also obliged to document the hours that you worked at home, unless any other arrangements on a simplified way of recording working time or a corresponding waiver has been agreed.

Who has to cover the repair costs if – for example – the WiFi (WLAN) I need to work from home is no longer working?

Repair costs for WiFi (WLAN) generally have to be covered by the employee.

I'm using my own private screen and printer when working from home. Who would pay for these if they were to get broken?

Damage to private devices must be covered by the employee, even when these devices are being used to work from home.

I left my work laptop unattended for just a second when I was working in the park and it was stolen. My cell phone and wallet too. Which insurance policy pays?

No insurance pays for the work laptop: the loss is not covered through either personal liability coverage (GIC exclusion B5.6) or household contents insurance (laptop not in private use). Commercial property insurance normally excludes simple theft.

Your cell phone and wallet are covered by your household contents insurance through simple theft away from home (provided you have sufficient coverage). Cash is not insured in this instance.

My house and home-working space was broken into and all the devices from my employer stolen. Who pays for this?

In most cases, your employer's commercial property insurance will pay for the stolen (work) devices. Household contents insurance provides no coverage for your employer's devices (not professional equipment). Provided you have sufficient coverage, your household contents will pay for damaged or stolen property in your own private ownership.

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I ordered face masks online during the lockdown but never received them. What can I do about a fake shop? 

Most people falling victim to a fake shop need nerves of steel and a great deal of time. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify a fake shop, as the operators are becoming craftier. But always check the URL: does it contain transposed letters such as mircosoft.com instead of microsoft.com? You should also check whether the online shop has a legal notice and carefully read through the small print, the general terms and conditions (GTC). You should normally steer well clear of strikingly cheap offers. There is a major risk that they are from a fake shop or are counterfeit goods.

There have been more warnings about phishing emails during the coronavirus crisis. What can happen in the worst case scenario?

Nothing can happen by opening a fake email, but if you open a link in a phishing email and enter personal details, the cybercriminals have achieved their aim. To err on the side of caution when an email seems strange, you can enter the URL in the address bar manually rather than clicking on the link to the site.  

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Can my employer use specific software or similar to check whether I’m working all the time?

Control systems aimed solely at monitoring whether employees are carrying out their work are prohibited in the office or if an employee is working from home.  Consequently, work presence when employees are working from home cannot be constantly monitored and checked. If employees are informed in advance, appropriate monitoring of security or checks on work productivity are permitted while adhering to the principle of proportionality.

When working from home, I’m much more distracted by the children, other people in the house etc. and am therefore less productive. Do I have to work overtime?

When working from home, you should normally ensure that you can work undisturbed. Any work carried out that is not for the employer (e.g. child care) cannot be counted as working hours.

Tip: Due to the current school situation, many parents are faced with having to juggle home schooling and working from home. If your working activities are partially or wholly restricted by childcare, you should speak to your employer.

Due to back problems, I have had to buy a standing desk and a special chair. Can I charge the cost to my employer?

This must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you’re working from home for a long time, you must also place greater emphasis on having an ergonomic workplace setup at home.

As your employer cannot carry out any checks in your home, you must take personal responsibility here. If you have to buy new furniture because your workplace at home does not meet health regulations, particularly if it is being used intensively and over a long period, your employer should contribute toward the cost. However, the company is not obliged to provide an ideal office at home for every employee.

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