What comes after mandatory remote work?

 The distancing, hygiene, mask and ventilation rules and testing processes remain in place for now. But will employees be required to return to the office?

What comes after mandatory remote work?

Since July 1, 2021 working from home is no longer mandatory. Companies currently have a lot of questions about this: Are employees entitled to continue working from home because it is unclear which colleagues are immunized?

There is no obligation to inform employers about one’s immunization status. As with pregnancy or illness, this represents sensitive personal information which superiors are not permitted to ask about. Nevertheless, the level of immunization among the employees has a major influence on how the return to the office can be organized.

No entitlement to remote work

Employers can continue to voluntarily permit their employees to work remotely to protect them against infection. But what happens when an employee does not want to return to the office against the will of their supervisor? Perhaps because they prefer mobile working. Or because they are not yet immunized and are worried about being infected.

If the company had already implemented regulations for working from home before or during the pandemic as part of employment or wage contracts or in a company agreement, supervisors can usually recall their employees on this basis. As a rule, a revocation provision or a time limit is generally agreed, upon which employers can draw. Employees must comply with this agreement or risk receiving a written warning.
Even without a contractual foundation, supervisors have the right to issue directives, and they determine where their employees carry out their work.

Generally, milder measures than exercising right to direction are a more effective approach. These can include a meeting with the employee or transitional quotas specifying how much time the employee has to spend on site. This prevents all of the employees from having to return at the same time.

These solutions also help in the opposite case: For example, an employee insists on returning to the office full-time or for specific days, yet the company has reduced its office space during the corona crisis.

What remains in force?

The Ordinance on protection against infection risks continues to remain in force, along with the obligation to carry out the following measures:

  • Even after July 1, 2021, employers must continue to offer all employees working on site two tests per week. Exceptions apply for fully immunized employees or those who have verifiably recovered from a COVID-19 infection.
  • Distancing, hygiene, mask and ventilation: The number of employees enclosed office in break rooms must be limited to the necessary minimum and fixed teams must be formed. Where contact cannot be avoided, employees must continue to wear masks. A company hygiene concept is obligatory.

The end of the mandatory remote work creates potential conflicts. Companies are well advised to refrain from exercising their right to recall their employees and enable transitional options instead. Testing, distancing and hygiene rules remain in force.