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Winter tyre rule causes supply shortage

As Germany continues to dig out after a hefty winter storm, authorities reminded drivers on Friday that they have just one day left to get their obligatory seasonal tyres. Anyone caught driving in wintry conditions without them faces a fine.

Winter tyre rule causes supply shortage
Photo: DPA

Last week, Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, voted to pass new regulations cracking down on the failure to use winter tyres, with the new rules to take effect on Saturday.

Under the new rules, drivers caught using their summer tyres in ice, snow or slush will have to pay a €40 fine — up from €20 in previous years. Anyone caught obstructing traffic with inappropriate tyres during the difficult winter season faces an €80 fine and receiving a point on their driver’s licence.

Any tyres bearing the “M+S” marking, which stands for Matsch und Schnee, or “slush and snow,” are approved by the new regulation.

“All-weather tires also count,” the Transportation Ministry said.

But the new rules, in addition to this week’s severe winter weather, mean that the regulation tyres are already sold out in many parts of the country.

“A demand has been created that can hardly be met,” head of the BVR federal association for tyre dealers, Peter Hülzer, told news agency DPA on Thursday.

Despite autumn deliveries being up by some 20 percent compared to last year, there are shortages, he said, adding that the situation may worsen, as manufacturers are already producing summer tyres and rubber prices remain high.

“The market is crazy right now,” Hülzer said, explaining in the most extreme example, tyres suitable for an Audi A2 model which normally cost €45 each are now selling for €150 each.

On average though, prices have increased between five and 10 percent, he said.

Customers who did not anticipate the change in regulations are in for a nasty surprise, too. Anyone trying to make an appointment to get their tyres changes faces a wait of more than two weeks, he added.

DAPD/DPA/ka

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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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