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Working from home: what are your rights and obligations?

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Can you deduct the cost of working from home from tax? 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.  

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

The requirement to work from home was lifted by the FOPH on February 3, 2022 and other measures were also removed on April 1. Do I now have to go back into the office?

Employees are not normally entitled to work from home. On the contrary, most employment contracts specify that the office is the primary place of work. In other words, if your employer wants you to come back to the office, you must do so.

However, if there was already a contractual agreement in place before the pandemic allowing you to work from home on certain days, this applies again. 

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.

Do I always have to be available for my line managers when I'm working from home?

The contractually agreed working hours including breaks also apply when you're working from home. Our tip: Speak to your employer about when you have to be available and also how quickly you have to respond to emails.

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

Your employer must normally provide you with work equipment and materials that you need for your job, or compensate you accordingly. This is what the law provides for.

However, employers and employees may deviate from this rule. This means that an agreement is normally permitted where you procure equipment at your own cost or you have to use your own existing equipment. If your employer already provides you with a fully equipped work station at your place of work, it does not have to pay for an additional work station if you are voluntarily working from home. Consequently, whether compensation is due or not in individual cases depends on whether there is a fully equipped work station at the place of work and if not, whether an agreement to that effect was drawn up.

If private equipment is damaged when you're working from home, you also have to pay for this yourself. 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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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.  

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.

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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?

If the conditions for working from home are unsuitable, you should discuss this with your employer. However, the hurdles are quite high before working from home is considered to be unreasonable.

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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