Employee liability: When do employees have to pay?

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From: Andrea Stettner

Mistakes at work can be very expensive. ©Panthermedia/Imago

A mishap at work can happen quickly. You can read here when employees are liable for damage caused and what upper limits apply.

Whether on the construction site, on the assembly line or in the office: a mistake can quickly result in costly damage – for example because a machine breaks down or legal regulations have not been complied with. In the worst case, people can even be injured. But who is then liable – the employer or the employee?

Also read: This is the biggest mistake employees make when working from home.

Employee liability: Employees usually only have to pay a proportionate amount

Employers are usually well insured. That’s why workers have to account for a self-inflicted error usually only pay a proportionate amount. It is important whether it is a case of so-called slight, medium or gross negligence. This is then used to determine what share the employer takes on and whether or how much the employee has to contribute.

  • Slight negligence: In this case, the employee can only be accused of a very small degree of fault from the outset. This could be considered, for example, in the event of extreme excessive demands, explain the lawyers at Hensche.de, for example “if the employee was put in a situation by an instruction from the employer that he was not able to cope with from the outset based on his previous work experience.” Liability on the part of the employee is completely excluded.
  • Medium negligence: If the required level of care is simply not taken and there are no indications of slight or gross negligence, this is usually referred to as moderate negligence. Then the damage is often shared between employee and employer. In practice, the employer usually takes on the largest share of this, because many circumstances have a “mitigating” effect, such as the company hierarchy, the remuneration or the work done so far.
  • Gross negligence: This lies loud hensche always occurs when you disregard very obvious rules of care that anyone would have followed in the given situation (e.g. driving a truck through a red light). In the event of gross negligence, the employee must generally compensate for the entire damage.

Also interesting: Dismissal: 21 reasons why your employer can fire you.

Individual cases decide whether employees have to accept liability

However, it is often not always clear from the outset whether slight or gross negligence is involved. “You have to examine each individual casein order to be able to judge fairly,” explains Benjamin Stumpp, legal expert at the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, to the portal active.

For example, occupational safety and health in Germany is now so high that it almost impossible to make a serious mistake through slight negligence. “Forklift operators, for example, receive a lot of training, which is why accidents through no fault of their own are rare,” the expert explains to the portal.

But even in the case of gross negligence, there are definitely exceptions that exclude full liability, for example, “if that Disproportion between earnings and the amount of damage would be too extreme, or even if the employer also contributed to the fact that the damage was so high (e.g. by not taking out insurance to prevent it),” it says Hensche.de.

Also read: Can the boss fire employees who are not good enough?

What if customers or colleagues get hurt?

The same rules apply if property damage occurs to third parties – such as customers or colleagues. If the craftsman unintentionally falls a pair of pliers into the customer’s washbasin, his employer takes over the damage. “If, on the other hand, the employee was on a ladder without protective measures and falls over and destroys the sink, the employee will be held proportionately accountable by his employer,” explains legal expert Stumpp in an interview with active.

for personal injury Incidentally, employees are not liable among work colleagues. If the damage was not caused intentionally, pays for the statutory accident insurance.

Even if the employee is not threatened with any claims for damages, a mistake can also have consequences under labor law, such as a warning or dismissal have as a consequence. Read here when employers are allowed to give notice of termination for reasons of conduct.(as) *Merkur.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.


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