44

I am working in a small business in an apprentice position, being the only one who was left without a home office. Other team members do home office time pretty much the whole time, while I am required to show up at the office. I tried to speak to the manager and to my boss multiple times, but they provided only unconvincing "reasons". Here are some of them:

  • You need to work with the other apprentice in the office

    • actually they moved me in another department and now I not only don't have any common projects with him, but I am also required to sit further away from him.
  • Apprentices can't do home office time

    • well, the other apprentice is the boss' son, and he does home office time, and pretty much everyone I know works from home now due to coronavirus lockdown.
  • It should feel best for you to work at the office

    • no, it does not. It feels like bullying

I feel very frustrated with this situation, but I really don't know how to resolve it in my favor. My overall performance has decreased drastically, and I am not motivated to do anything because of that annoyance factor.

Is there anything I can do to lessen the tension between me and the company's leading staff members and get at least a few days of home office time?

13
  • 2
    Does your company have a JAV (Jugend- und Auszubildendenvertretung)? – Philipp Mar 4 at 14:36
  • 1
    @Philipp no, unfortunately we don't even have a "Betriebsrat" – inchw0rm Mar 4 at 14:41
  • 7
    Do you have any reason why you would do your work more effectively or efficiently from home? If you can demonstrate you’d be more productive from home, it will be easier to convince them. Not everyone being forced to work from home sees it as a benefit btw. – ColleenV Mar 4 at 14:49
  • 1
    Is this job directly related to your studies? Do you get CPs, do you get grades, is is part of your thesis? – Jan Niklas Fingerle Mar 4 at 15:22
  • 2
    @inchw0rm Have there been hints to the fact that you were considered to be unproductive or less productive the last time you were allowed to work from home? – jcaron Mar 5 at 17:26
36

About a month ago, the German ministry of work made a new regulation which mandates home office wherever possible.

The SARS-CoV-2-Arbeitsschutzverordnung (Corona-ArbSchV) says:

(4) Der Arbeitgeber hat den Beschäftigten im Fall von Büroarbeit oder vergleichbaren Tätigkeiten anzubieten, diese Tätigkeiten in deren Wohnung auszuführen, wenn keine zwingenden betriebsbedingten Gründe entgegenstehen.

My translation:

The employer has to give employees in office or similar jobs the opportunity to perform their work duties in their own home, unless there are compelling operational reasons which stand against that.

Showing that regulation to your superiors might convince them that they might want to let you work from home to avoid any legal issues. If they still say that there are "betriebsbedingte Gründe" why you must work from the office which you don't consider "zwingend", then the next option would be to get a lawyer and ask them if there is a legal way to enforce compliance with that regulation.

9
  • 27
    You can save the fee for the lawyer. Those regulations are not enforceable by an employee. You could contact the relevant Arbeitsschutzbehörde (office for safety of work), and they, in return could try to enforce those regulation, but this really is the nuclear option. – Jan Niklas Fingerle Mar 4 at 15:18
  • 13
    A way to enforce compliance is getting the Betriebsrat involved, or the Jugend- und Auszubildendenvertretung. A Betriebsrat must be elected in every company with at least five employees. Non-compliance with that regulation is not sanctioned, though. If there is no Betriebsrat, now is the time to start an election. Any trade union will help with getting that process started, if you don't feel up to the task! – I'm with Monica Mar 5 at 8:35
  • 3
    This is the actual answer. However, you should know that it'd directly inviting hostilities if your boss gets a letter from the relevant bureaucracy with you being the only one affected. Since you don't seem to be that happy to begin with it seems fine – Hobbamok Mar 5 at 8:36
  • 3
    Involving a lawyer or other external parties seems to me like a very bad idea. Don't "attack" your employer if you expect to remain employed for any amount of time to come. Sometimes being an apprentice just sucks. It will end. Accept it. – Gertsen Mar 5 at 9:38
  • 5
    @I'mwithMonica a Betreibsrat does not have to be elected in every company with at least 5 employees. It can be elected in any company with at least 5 employees. Practically, many don't have one. – DonQuiKong Mar 6 at 8:42
26

There are two reasons that your companies policies right now are illegal:

For one, right now, it is the law to enable personnel to work from home whenever possible. And everybody else working remotely is strong evidence that it is indeed possible.

https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/corona-arbschv/Corona-ArbSchV.pdf

But generally speaking, as an apprentice in Germany you cannot work in conditions that the other apprentices in your profession and actual professionals in your company do not have to work under. For example you cannot be required to clean the kitchen. You can be required to clean the kitchen if the other full time employees doing the job you are being trained for have to do it too. So for example everybody does it once a week and at some point it's your turn. That's fine. Saying the Azubi has to do so the others can do their work without disruptions is illegal.

Remote work is a working condition. Working conditions are not separable from your actual work. It is obviously just as illegal to have everybody work on a desk in the first floor office, and just the Azubis working in the basement next to the open sewer.

Please note that perks for seniority do not apply to this concept. So if seniors get a company car (or an office with A/C) and juniors don't, it is perfectly fine to treat apprentices as juniors, after all that is the job the would have if they finished their apprenticeship. But as I understood you, their take is that everybody can do remote work, except Azubis. That is illegal.

So denying you remote work while everybody else is working from home, is illegal even twice. This is not a perk you don't get or an unfairness you have to live with. It's illegal. Period.

Given that Azubis do not make enough money to live on their own without support, it is very likely that your trip to the office consists of risky mass transit usage compared to your leaderships relatively safe drive in their own private vehicle and you are sitting in a bigger, shared office while they have their own room to close the doors, open the windows or disinfect whatever and whenever they feel like. So even if they would say "I'm in the office, why can't you." it would be quite hypocritical.

Is there anything I can do to lessen the tension between me and the companies leading staff members and get at least a few days of home office?

Well, here is the problem. Your company’s leadership consists of self-absorbed idiots. You could show them the laws, but neither of them will convince them they are wrong. Not the general apprenticeship laws, not the current specific COVID regulations. It's not like after 2 years of your apprenticeship and one full year of COVID, they somehow have not heard how this stuff works. They know and they don't give a shit.

You might ask your local IHK for tips and even for a moderator to help in conflicts. They will tell your company exactly what I told you. But we already established your bosses are idiots and telling an idiot they are wrong only angers them.

So do you want to anger your boss? That is a personal decision that is up to you.

Normally, I would caution you. If this were about a perk, I would say you should not stir up bad feelings, instead keep your head down, finish your apprenticeship, stay there for a few months and then look for another company. Because "übernommen werden" looks good on your CV, and finishing your apprenticeship at all is self-explanatory.

But this is not about a perk. Or a little unfairness on the job that is temporary at best. This is about your life. We don't do remote work to be able to have an easier lunch break. We do this because there is a potentially deadly disease out there. Risking your good relationship with your boss for a temporary perk is not worth it, but lets put it this way:

Your boss does not trust you enough to let you work from home. Your boss does not value you enough to allow basic measures of protecting your own health. You have no "good relationship" with your boss. If you had one, this thread would not exist. Your boss is violating health regulations and labor laws and is enough of a hypocrite to not even do it for all their workers, no, only for you. There is no "good relationship" to safe or salvage.

So talk to your "Ausbilder" in the company first. They should help you. Chances are they are leadership in your company and already aware, so the next step is talk to the IHK. Give them a call. Make it urgent. Your health is urgent. If they cannot or will not help, ask a lawyer.

Yes, this is the nuclear option and it will make your boss mad. But again, they are an hypocritical, egoistic idiot, there is no way to enforce the law and make them happy.

There is multiple bad outcomes, but if you had the choice whether to come down with COVID and be liked by your boss (where "like" means being subject to multiple labor law violations) or be hated by your boss, but generally healthy, I don't think that is a hard decision.

3
  • 4
    This is by far the best answer, since unlike most of the others it recognizes that not working from home currently is a health risk, and considerably more important than just a regular "perk". Keeping your boss happy is nice, but not at the cost of your own life. +1. – Nate S. Mar 6 at 0:41
  • 1
    I suggest you be careful when going to the IHK. They might advocate against working from home in case of apprenticeships. Just looking at their FAQ shows they are generally against Azubis working from home (I guess since they should actively be taught and supervised), but begrudgingly allow it because of the corona pandemic "if the organization enables home office for operational reasons" (which might be the law referenced in the first paragraphs). – hoffmale Mar 7 at 19:05
  • "And everybody else working remotely is strong evidence that it is indeed possible." - I suggest this statement should be limited a bit. Granted, my data points are just anecdotal, but some employers in Germany provide a reasoning along the lines of "people are different, and even if Alice, Bob, and Charlie produce good results during WFH, David might not work well from home and thus the employer is free to have them come to the office". And if most of the staff are actually working from home, they can even argue working in the office is not a health risk because almost no-one is there. – O. R. Mapper Mar 13 at 21:59
23

There are many reasons why the company may wish for you to work in the office, and those reasons probably also apply to the other apprentice. Except that the other apprentice is... well... the boss's son.

My recommendation is to ask them for a road-map on when you may be able to work from home or even partially, but keep in mind, this whole situation may have resolved itself before then.

I also want to point out that there is advantages to working in the office. So you should try to mentally see the bright side. Also keep in mind that you are no worse off than you would have been if there was not a pandemic.

Also, friendly tip. I wouldn't throw around the word bullied. It's a bit of a childish word to use when you simply haven't gotten what you want.

Regarding the new German laws indicating that people should work at home if possible. The employer could easily say that apprentices need to work in the office so they can be properly supervised and mentored, and this is not possible if they work from home. It doesn't have to be correct, it just has to sound feasible to whatever authority comes knocking.

17
  • 15
    I have to agree here. If it is the boss's son getting a de-facto exemption from a company rule, the OP would be inviting hostility with the worst person to have hostility with, in exchange for an uncertain chance for a minor and temporary reward. – Pete W Mar 4 at 15:45
  • 7
    Friendly tip #2: if you are dissatisfied with your employee, don't use an identifiable account to do so. Yours has a photo of yourself and a github account link. – Thomas Mar 5 at 7:31
  • 6
    Sorry, I had to downvote this, because it's quite vague and generic, and it misses important factors of the German workplace context. – henning Mar 5 at 9:07
  • 15
    Using the term "bullied" isn't "childish", especially when the OP is being told excuses for being treated differently than their co-workers. There may be better terms (like gas-lighted, coerced, or ostracized), but that could just be a translation artifact. And "oh, just look on the bright side" is often a way to subjugate people into believing things they don't. – computercarguy Mar 5 at 19:10
  • 6
    "you are no worse off than you would have been if there was not a pandemic". Excuse me? If the was no pandemic, one would not be singled out to work in the office all alone! – Andrew Savinykh Mar 6 at 4:36
7

It's probably not unfair.

You state that you're an apprentice, and are required to work in the office. I can think of one very good reason for this: you still require direct supervision of your work, because it would otherwise not be of the standard required. As a result, you're forced to work in the office, and at least one other coworker is also required to work in the office to provide the required supervision (though who that supervisor might be might change, to allow them to work from home as much as possible).

You state that the other apprentice isn't required to work at the office, and that they're the boss's son, and this is unfair. I disagree: the boss's son also likely still requires supervision, and the boss is able to provide that supervision for him when they both work from home. Obviously, this probably isn't a viable solution for you, since you probably don't live with any of your coworkers.

If you want to change this, you need to think about how you would go about enabling them to provide the required level of supervision without being physically present. You might install monitoring software onto your home computer, for instance, so that your supervisor can inspect your work computer's screen at any time during the workday.

7
  • 2
    This is the first answer I found that addresses a likely valid rationale for the current situation. - It is a little off, though: An apprentice does not need supervision, but training. It is totally reasonable for any employee, including apprentices, to not be supervised all the time. The trainer can reasonably demand to be shown results of given tasks, and also to supervise some part of the work - depending on current skill levels - but certainly not continuous and total survaillance. Employees are primarily and foremost people, and only then a part of the corporate machinery... ;) – I'm with Monica Mar 5 at 8:52
  • 5
    While I appreciate the way you are trying to be constructive and find a way forward, installing surveillance software on a computer (especially only on the apprentices computer) just adds another illegal action on top of the two already present. – nvoigt Mar 5 at 9:17
  • 4
    @I'mwithMonica "It is totally reasonable for any employee, including apprentices, to not be supervised all the time. The trainer can reasonably demand to be shown results of given tasks, and also to supervise some part of the work - depending on current skill levels - but certainly not continuous and total survaillance" Depends on the nature of the job and the regulations regarding the apprenticeship. IIRC, here in Australia, apprentices in trades like electrical work are expected to have 100% supervision at the beginning of their apprenticeship. – nick012000 Mar 5 at 9:52
  • 7
    I would assume that when constant supervision is required due to safety concerns, that job cannot be done remotely anyway. – nvoigt Mar 5 at 11:55
  • 3
    "you still require direct supervision of your work" - except "Other team members do home office pretty much the whole time"; so who is doing the supervising? – Taemyr Mar 5 at 22:23
3

Honestly, I think your manager picked up on your drop in performance and is afraid it would drop even more if you were allowed home office. This apprehension is not unfounded, because your private environment offers a lot more distraction from work than your office. If you really want to try again, you should schedule a 30 minutes private meeting. You need time to present your arguments in a calm way and probably react to the arguments of your manager.

You noticed a drop in productivity. Bringing this to the attention of your manager can be a sign of maturity, especially if you start a constructive discussion about how to fix the problem. Be honest about what caused this lack of performance. Your manager might have suspicions, but those might be wrong. Putting the real cause out there in your own words eliminates the guessing and offers him a way to maybe improve the situation.

Order your thoughts and ready your own arguments why you should get home office. Don't imply anything like you're too lazy to get to the office each morning. Better arguments would be:

  • If you rely on public transportation, the risk of infection is higher for you, because some people still ignore the order to wear masks.
  • You feel treated differently. As mentioned by others, I would steer away from words like "bullied" or "discriminated". You simply want to be treated equally to all your colleagues and feel depressed for being denied.
  • Is there a lack of resources that makes it impossible for all colleagues to work from home at the same time? Offer to schedule your days of home office depending on when resources are available.

Do not argue about his reasoning why you can't do home office. The only argument you can dismiss is that "It should feel best for you to work at the office". Your feelings are your own and your anager cannot dictate them. If his goal is to make you feel better but his actions achieve the exact opposite, yoe should tell him because he needs this information.

In order to convince your manager, you should offer practicable solutions to him, but also accept if he decides on a different solution. Some propositions might include:

  • You start a test run of 2 weeks where you work from home for 2 days each week. You evaluate your performance after that time and offer to exclusively work in the office if your performance didn't increase.
  • You offer to come to the office each day you have to work together with another colleague.
  • You report any obstacles you face while working from home, like slow internet connection, missing or bad quality headset and whatnot. Show your manager that you want to make this work, nut just laze around on the couch.
1
  • The way I read the "drop in performance" is that it happened after and because the OP was treated differently than all their coworkers. This is going to happen regardless of the reason for being singled out, unless it's for a positive reason, which this most definitely isn't. And it's not that the OP "feels" treated differently, they definitely are. And the manager isn't likely going to agree with the solutions, since they aren't complying with the law, as described in @nvoit's good answer. – computercarguy Mar 8 at 17:17
2

Fairness is subjective. What may seem fair to you may seem unfair to someone else, and vice versa. The company has an obligation to treat you in a matter that doesn't break the law. They have no obligation to treat you fairly. In your case I'd say you'd be better off not making an issue of this.

2
  • 3
    It's illegal though to have people not in home office if they can be though. (see the Germany tag) – Hobbamok Mar 5 at 8:36
  • 4
    "The company has an obligation to treat you in a matter that doesn't break the law. They have no obligation to treat you fairly." matter of fact, for apprentices in Germany that is pretty much the same. You are required by law to not treat them unfairly. For example you cannot make your apprentice sweep the floors (assuming the apprenticeship is not for being a cleaner). You could have everybody sweep the floors round robin, then you can include the apprentice in this. – nvoigt Mar 5 at 8:53
1

So to summarize: there are only two apprentices - you and the boss' son - and the boss' son is being treated differently than you are?

If that understanding is correct then my thoughts are:

  1. It seems reasonable that more senior team members get more perks
  2. You and the boss' son ought to be treated the same, based on everything you've said. Since y'all aren't, two things are possible:
    • There's not as much confidence in your abilities as there is in the boss' son. Maybe you're newer, or maybe you've not proved yourself as much, who knows. In this scenario, your boss ought to tell you. You ought to be aware of your deficiencies so you can remedy them
    • There is some nepotism going on. I suppose you could file a complaint with HR in this scenario.
3
  • 13
    Filing an HR complaint about nepotism by the boss... generally won't end well. It's his company, after all. – Ben Barden Mar 4 at 16:08
  • 6
    Plus, if the Boss's son still lives with his parents, then having the Boss working from home, and the son not defeats the objective of having the Boss work from home. Either they both work from home, or they can both work from the office. Similarly, when my work started the early home-working pre-lockdown, it was for "Vulnerable Employees", and for Employees who lived with someone classed as "Vulnerable". – Chronocidal Mar 5 at 1:08
  • 3
    "It seems reasonable that more senior team members get more perks" for a senior widget maker and a junior widget maker that is reasonable, for an apprentice widget maker and a fully trained widget maker, that is illegal. The apprentice cannot be treated differently then the worker in the job they are an apprentice for. – nvoigt Mar 5 at 8:56
0

In Germany the laws protecting apprentices are very strict. Should you still be a minor the rules are even stricter.

For one as an employer you have to make sure that your workers have the proper means to work from home, this includes proper chairs, desks etc. Many apprentices/students live in small flats that do not provide these kind of conditions.

Then the law states that you need somebody that will train and supervise you. This is a rule meant to protect you and to make sure that you will actually learn something while working. This person should ideally be with you in the office.

This is why most companies disallow home office for apprentices and this has probably nothing to do with you personally. So I would try not to see it as bullying.

Under the current situation of course now many companies changed their policy and have allowed apprentices to work from home.

From reading your question I get that you are alone in the office and you currently have no supervisor that works with you. Maybe you cloud try to talk to your boss and colleges and tell them that you are having difficulties learning, being alone in the office and with no one there to work with you and maybe they could arrange for one of the team members to be always there with you in the office.

You write that your workplace has no Betriebsrat. But are you in a union (Verdi, IG Metall, ....)? If you are you could contact somebody there and ask them for support. They will be able to tell you how normal these kind of circumstances are and what you can do about that.

When talking to your superiors I wouldn't make a big fuss out of the Bosses son. It might be unfair that he gets special treatment but that is just unfortunately how the world works. Instead you should focus on your issues and needs and make it about that.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .