Germany will introduce new legislation giving all employees the right to work from home in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
A draft of the new law will be published within weeks, employment minister Hubertus Heil said on Thursday.
It will guarantee the right to work from home wherever possible, and regulate home office work, including limiting working hours.
“We cannot stop the changes in the world of work, nor do we want to,” Mr Heil told the Financial Times. “The question is how we can turn technological progress, new business models and higher productivity into progress not only for a few, but for many.”
The experience of national lockdowns earlier this year is driving a revolution in the way people work. Major US companies such as Twitter are giving all staff the option of working from home permanently.
Germany is not the first country to enshrine the right to work from home in law. The Netherlands introduced similar legislation in 2016 and more than 13pc of Dutch workers were already doing so before the pandemic struck.
Britain, Boris Johnson has advised workers to avoid the office if possible this winter and nearly a quarter worked exclusively from home last week.
Elsewhere in Europe, the dramatic rise in home working has led governments to legislate on everything from when an employer can contact staff to who should bear the cost of setting up and running a home office.
Spain released draft legislation last week to regulate home working hours and protect workers’ rights, but stopped short of guaranteeing the right to work from home.
Ireland is drafting similar legislation, while France has had laws regulating home working hours since 2017.
Mr Heil announced plans to enshrine the right to work from home as long ago as April, but has faced opposition from business leaders.
The German Employers’ Association has warned the plans will make companies send more jobs abroad.
Mr Heil, who is a member of Angela Merkel’s centre-Left coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD), also faces an uphill struggle to secure the backing of the Chancellor’s more business-oriented Christian Democrats (CDU).
Senior CDU figures have said it should be up to employers whether to allow staff to work from home. They have warned the proposed law will create more bureaucracy.
Others said that a right to work from home could erode collective wage bargaining and open a Pandora’s box with employers switching to paying on a results-based model rather than by hours worked.
Mr Heil said he would protect the right to collective bargaining in the new legislation, but acknowledged concerns over how it could affect women.
“There is the cliché, which is unfortunately often true, that men go into their home office and close the door while women working from home are simultaneously taking care of children,” he said.