Because of the persistently high corona numbers and concerns about new, more contagious virus variants, Labor Minister Heil appeals to the economy to send more employees to the home office. Employers and industry defend themselves against too much pressure from politics.
In view of the continued tense corona situation and concerns about the spread of new virus variants, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has appealed to companies to offer as much home office as possible as quickly as possible.
“We need, wherever possible, the possibility for employees to work from home, where it makes sense and possible, and that immediately,” said the SPD politician after talks with HR directors of several large listed companies.
Employers and industry representatives oppose stricter requirements for companies, such as a home office obligation. They received support from Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU).
Call for the use of home office
Heil spoke of an urgent call to companies and HR managers. He is glad that many companies are already doing this in an exemplary manner. The appeal goes to those who have not yet done so. The union-related Institute for Macroeconomics and Business Cycle Research (IMK) also called on companies and administration to make greater use of home offices.
“We now have to ask ourselves where the number of infections can be reduced with as little economic damage as possible,” said IMK boss Sebastian Dullien to the editorial network Germany (RND). In April 2020, 27 percent of employees worked from home, but in November it was only 14 percent. At the moment, the number is possibly a little higher again. “But obviously the high home office rate in April also significantly reduced the number of new infections, and at the same time companies were able to continue working at relatively low costs. These people could now work from home again.”
The Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the employers’ association BDA rejected stricter requirements for companies. The new BDI President Siegfried Russwurm made it clear that the use of home office would have to be decided by the parties to the company on site. The industry appeals to all companies to use the home office as much as possible, said Russwurm. “And quite a few do that too.” But nobody knows what works and what doesn’t work better than the local operating parties. “Welding from the home office” has not yet been invented by anyone.
Pressure on the economy increases
In the debate, the pressure on the economy had recently increased. CSU boss Markus Söder had also announced talks with companies to create more opportunities for employees to work from home. Söder had brought concrete targets into play. Green parliamentary group leader Katrin Göring-Eckart announced on Tuesday a motion from her parliamentary group in the Bundestag this week: “It must be clear: Everywhere people have to be able to work safely. Whenever they can (and want) from home, they have to employers are obliged to allow that too. “
BDA general manager Steffen Kampeter called in the ZDF “Morgenmagazin” a possible obligation to work from home “unnecessary” and “useless”. This would not reduce the number of infections. Kampeter also referred to the Bundestag, which is meeting in presence this week. There are obviously places in presence that are safe, where one can work together.
Altmaier told “Zeit Online”: “We shouldn’t patronize the companies, many of which are struggling to survive, with additional coercion and regulation”. Home office is certainly still expandable in some areas. “As far as we know, companies are not sources of infection, with the exception of incidents in the meat industry.”
Heil emphasized: “We have to do everything we can to prevent jobs from becoming a site of infection.” Nobody wants to have the entire economy lockdown. “The tapes are running, and it should stay that way if possible.” Where work at home is not possible, for example in areas of the manufacturing industry or in retail, occupational safety standards must be consistently adhered to.
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