Merkel pours cold water on Germany's draft work-from-home bill

Jill Petzinger
·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2 min read
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Markus Schreiber/AFP via Getty Images

German chancellor Angela Merkel has cast doubt on any swift approval of a draft bill that would legally require employers to allow their staff to work from home 24 days a year.

"As it is now, it will certainly not leave the Bundestag in this legislative period, I think," Merkel said on Thursday at a German Confederation of Skilled Crafts event. "There is a lot about this draft that needs to be discussed.”

The Mobile Work Act was proposed by labour minister Hubertus Heil earlier this year. He said it was a response to seeing how well companies and their staff had adapted to working from home during the lockdown — some 25% of people in Germany were able to work from home.

"As mobile working is already part of the modern working world for some – but not yet possible for many – it needs a law,” Heil said in an interview. The law would mean that employers have to negotiate with their staff about the days they want to work from home.

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However, whether a law is needed for that is a bone of contention. German Employers’ Association president Ingo Kramer called it “utter nonsense.” He said the law could mean companies might then outsource jobs abroad, but Heil told the Financial Times that his draft law would not hurt collective bargaining rights.

“I am not in favour of abolishing classic wage systems,” Heil told the FT. “Companies and employees will always have different interests. We have to balance these interests fairly.”

Opposition has also come from Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). Jana Schimke, a CDU member of the Bundestag, told public broadcaster ZDF in July that the new law would just create more bureaucracy for companies to deal with. "Why must the state interfere in … occupational processes, when we see that in the end, it takes care of itself?" she said.

Merkel said on Thursday that she sympathised with the fact that companies don’t want more regulation.

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