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A trip to the drycleaners is no workplace activity

A trip to the drycleaners during an employee’s lunch break is not covered by the German statutory accident insurance relating to accidents at the workplace (judgment by the Higher Regional Social Court of Hessen dated March 24, 2015, docket number L 3 U 225/10).

Under German law, employees are protected by statutory accident insurance during their work. This not only covers accidents at the workplace itself but also accidents during breaks if employees are on their way to eat. In practice, this means that the route to the cafeteria or a restaurant is insured while accidents during the consumption of food are not. If, however, employees make a detour on their way to lunch for other reasons, this will not be covered by statutory insurance.

In the case at hand, an employee fell down the stairs outside the company’s premises during her lunch break. The statutory accident insurance refused payment, arguing that the employee had been on her way to the drycleaners and thus had been pursuing a private activity. The employee was unable to demonstrate that she had been directly on her way to lunch. As the burden of proof to demonstrate their true motivation is on the employees, both the relevant Social Court and Higher Regional Social Court found that the employee was not entitled to any payments from the statutory accident insurance.

Lawsuits regarding coverage by the statutory accident insurance are quite frequent. In this context, see also our previous posts on this topic:

https://blogs.dlapiper.com/employmentgermany/2014/12/10/tis-the-season-holiday-parties-and-workplace-accidents/

https://blogs.dlapiper.com/employmentgermany/2014/07/15/work-hard-play-harder/