No accident insurance cover between home office and kitchen

The Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) decided on 5 July 2016 (Az.: B 2 U 2/15 R) that an accident on the way from the home office to the kitchen in an employee’s apartment to have a glass of water does not qualify as a workplace accident and is thus not covered by the statutory accident insurance. Such an accident does not result from an insured activity but is part of the daily risk of living and results from risks inherent in the employee’s private apartment.

The plaintiff worked under a service agreement with her employer in a separate space in the attic of her flat as a teleworker. She left the working area to get some water in the kitchen which was located one floor down, slipped on the stairs leading to the ground floor and injured herself. The accident insurance refused the claim, stating that this was not a workplace accident. The employee’s claim before the Social Court (Sozialgericht) was unsuccessful. On appeal, the higher Social Court (Landessozialgericht) ruled that the insurer should recognize this as a work accident. The insurance then appealed against this decision.

The Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) ruled in favor of the insurance. The plaintiff had not been undertaking activities connected with the insured activity or travelling to or from the work area at the time of the accident. She slipped on the way from her workplace to the kitchen, which was in the sphere of her private life. She was not carrying out her insured employment, but fetching water. In doing so she performed a typical individual economic purpose/independent commercial use, not an insured activity.

Unlike employees at company premises, the plaintiff was not subject to operational guidelines or constraints. Although an agreement about work in a “home office leads to the performance of activities which serve the enterprise in the domestic area, the operational interests in allowing work at home do not change the character of the home from being private and not insured. Also, the insured person, not the employer, has bear the risks inherent in a private flat. The statutory accident insurance is unable to take preventive, risk-reducing measures beyond the employers’ company premises. Hence, it is appropriate that accident risks arising from the domestic and therefore private life are considered personal affairs and not covered by the statutory insurance.