Since the coronavirus pandemic, everyday working life has changed all over the world. The so-called "home office", i.e. working from home, has now become the norm.
Working from home has a number of advantages, such as the time saved by not having to travel to and from work.
However, there is also a risk that employees will take advantage of the "home office" concept and devote themselves to things other than their actual work. Some employers are therefore critical of the "home office".
The Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Regional Labor Court now also had to deal with a case in which the employer accused its employee of not having worked in the "home office".
Specifically, the case concerned a care manager who was permitted to work from home and was confronted with the accusation that she had not done her job.
In this case, however, the employer was unsuccessful in its claim for repayment of the wages paid. The reason for this was that the employer was unable to prove that the employee had failed to fulfill his work obligations.
No wages without work
The principle also applies in the "home office": "No service, no return". Employees must therefore fulfill their work obligations in order to be entitled to their wages.
Can the employer prove "non-performance" in the home office?
In general, however, the employer bears the burden of presentation and proof that and to what extent the employee did not fulfill their work obligations. It is therefore advisable for employers to secure evidence that concretely and tangibly demonstrates what exactly led to the assumption that the employee did not work in the "home office". Mere assumptions and unsubstantiated accusations are not sufficient. In practice, employment contract supplements that include a performance review of the employee in the home office are also useful here.
Can the employee prove his work performance?
The employee must then provide a substantiated response to the employer's corresponding procedural submission. This can be done, for example, by independently documenting the work performed and demonstrating that he has indeed performed his work.
In order not to violate any contractual obligations, it is advisable to contact a lawyer for advice.
In this case, it was stated in favor of the employee that it was clearly recognizable that she had sent emails including attachments. Both the emails and the associated attachments indicated that the employee had actually performed work.
Employees must work as well as they can
Ultimately, the decision of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Regional Labor Court is an employee-friendly decision that obliges employers to thoroughly explain any accusations against employees for not working in the "home office" and thus protect the employee from unsubstantiated accusations.
In this context, it is worth mentioning a principle developed by the Federal Labor Court, which states that it is irrelevant whether an employee has completed the work in the desired time or to the desired extent and that he fulfills his performance obligation if he works to the reasonable extent of his personal capacity. Ultimately, the decision of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Regional Labor Court is an employee-friendly decision that obliges employers to thoroughly explain any accusations against employees for not working from home and thus protect the employee from unsubstantiated accusations.