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My company traditionally has required people in my position to work from an office. Home work was viewed as incompatible with my position.

Since COVID hit it, the company have actually been really great about it, and it has been strongly recommended that we work from home. They have also supplied us with appropriate tools to do so, and even contributed towards internet costs.

There are rumours that soon they will close our office location, and everyone will be migrated to a work from home contract.

Whilst I completely understand the attractions of that to many people, the thought of having to work from home in the long-term fills me with dread. Since our office reopened with limited capacity last summer, I will tend to work out of the office, even though often (at least three days out of five) I am the only person working there. I find that I am more productive with that level of distance from my home, and fewer distractions.

What are my legal rights here? Can I compel my company to provide an office, or make me redundant, since the job I was employed for (go to this office and do this thing) no longer exists.

Country: Germany Industry: Software.

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  • So your job was considered to be something that one can do only in the office, but it turned out that it's possible to do it at home as well? Or do you have to do different tasks when working from home? Apr 17 at 18:29
  • "the thought of having to work from home in the long-term fills me with dread" - the idea that my team all works from home would fill me with dread. many people may have tools, but no proper workspace. Last year I saw productivity hit epically low levels on "work from home" with all distractions.
    – TomTom
    Apr 17 at 18:38
  • @lawful_neutral - essentially the same tasks, but using different tools / techniques. We exclusively pair program, and it was considered to be significantly more effective in person, so could not be done remotely, Apr 17 at 18:48
  • As @TomTom says, it's reality that certain folks - many folks - simply are not suited to working remotely.
    – Fattie
    Apr 17 at 22:22
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    Not an answer, but if the rumours turn out to be true, you might ask the company to cover the cost of renting a desk in a co-working space (or something similar) near your home. The cost might still be much lower than they were paying for office space per employee, so they may be happy to do so. You could still have the buzz of people around you, and possibly a shorter commute.
    – mhwombat
    Apr 18 at 1:15
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Well, you can always terminate and you may be able to come up with some legal play saying that the environment just does not suit you.

I do not really think there is any precedence for this move - like none at all. When offices close people generally where offered positions on other locations or let go for "betriebsbedingte kündigung". The current situation is "unusual" - in that it is so new and simply was not possible quite a few years ago.

Instead of asking here, I would get an appointment with a lawyer specializing in this field (Arbeitsrecht). You definitely want a legally qualified answer here - one you WILL NOT GET HERE. Among other things because it is illegal to give specific advice in this context for a lawyer.

Generally the company will try to cut the costs - good. I know quite some people that prefer working from the office, and actually socializing there with colleagues, and doing senior work I was regularly told my actual office is at the coffee machine, because you know, the "informal" meetings are quite valuable (and disappear). So, you may see impact on the company and definitely a set of people that look for other opportunities. Given this is still a market where developers are in demand - ask a lawyer, then look for another job.

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  • Thanks for your answer TomTom. Since you seem knowledgeable in this area, would you consider it worthwhile to speak to the company Betriebsrat? Apr 17 at 18:51
  • If you have one, yes. This has to be run through them. If anything it absolves you from the costs for the initial legal investigation - or should.
    – TomTom
    Apr 17 at 19:38
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That depends on whether your contract stipulates a particular location where the work is to be performed.

Mine does, and it is common for standard contracts, but not a required part of the contract, as there are several jobs that can be performed from anywhere.

Right now, employment law makes the validity of such clauses dependent on whether the job can be performed from home: your contract cannot override pandemic control measures, half-hearted as they may be.

After that, things are a bit less clear. If this were a regular move of office, you'd have to accept it if the distance is below 5km, while above that, your contract would have to be terminated and a new one offered at the same position and salary with the new location.

I'd expect this to be more complicated if there is no new office location, but a company closing an office makes the contract impossible to fulfill and requires its dissolution, so I'd expect it to be handled quite similarly.

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There are rumours

I would first suggest that you talk to your manager/bosses and find out if this is something they are considering, then ask about what happens if you can't work from your home full time.

You could suggest they look at shared office spaces.

Can I compel my company to provide an office, or make me redundant

I'm not a lawyer but my understanding is this...

Unless working remotely was in your contract, they can't make you work from home. You are within your rights to refuse. However, you can't make them keep their offices open either.

If you refuse, the company is no longer able to supply you with the required equipment to do your job, yet they still have to keep paying you until they provide an alternative. They will either respond by providing an alternative office space, or making you redundant.

Best to talk to a legal professional for real advice however, first talk to your manager and find out where you stand. Chances are they will provide some kind of alternative office space for the few that do want to go in.

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