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WEATHER

Hitzewelle: This is how long the heatwave in Germany will last

For several days in a row, temperatures around Germany have been well over 30C. When will the heat let up?

Hitzewelle: This is how long the heatwave in Germany will last
Sunflowers at sunrise in Munich on Wednesday morning. Photo: DPA

The weather in Germany continues to leave us all sweltering with temperatures up to 36C expected on Wednesday, as well as a few storms in some parts of the country.

And brace yourselves: the ‘Hitze’ is far from over. 

“What is striking about this heatwave is the endurance. At least until Wednesday one week from now, it will simply remain very hot,” said meteorologist Dominik Jung to the weather portal wetter.net. 

READ ALSO: Germany records hottest temperature of year as country braces for more heat

“And even after that it continues to be quite warm with flashes of extreme heat,” said Jung, adding that there are no signs of significant cooling down until August 21st. 

What's the outlook over the next few days?

In the northern and eastern parts of the country, the weather will remain sunny and dry throughout the day on Wednesday, according to the German Weather Service (DWD). 

In the west and along the Bavarian Alps, thunderstorms and lightning are set to strike throughout the day.

Tourists in Berlin seek out shade on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

The mercury will be the highest in the west and southwest of Germany; there temperatures are expected to climb to 36C on Wednesday.

At the sea it will become bit cooler with maximum temperatures of 25 to 30C.

READ ALSO: In Photos: This is what Germany looks like during the 'Hitze'

In Berlin, temperatures will stretch to 31C, in Frankfurt 34C, in Cologne 34C with scattered thunderstorms throughout the day, and in Munich 30C.

Thursday and Friday are similar: high temperatures of up to 36C will be met by heavy thunderstorms.

Consequences for nature

Already on Tuesday, storms had swept over larges parts of Germany, especially in the south.

Some roads were not passable due to fallen trees or landslides. In Bavaria, the Schweinfurt fire brigade was called 90 times in the evening because of the storm.

The heatwave also perpetuates the dry weather, said Jung, as there has not been enough rain throughout the year.

Germany is heading for an extreme drought for the third year in a row, with a risk of forest fires in many parts of the country, such as Berlin's neighbouring Brandenburg.

“It could hardly be worse,” said Jung. “And while everyone is cheering that it will be so beautiful in the summer, nature, forests and agriculture continue to suffer.

“The forest has already suffered a great deal of damage from the drought so far.”

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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