Migrating birds leave frozen Germany

Migrating birds are doing what many people in Germany would dearly love to do - heading back south in the face of the continuing freezing weather.

Migrating birds leave frozen Germany
Photo: DPA

The east will be particularly cold over the weekend, German Weather Service DWD said on Friday.

Huge flocks of migratory birds, such as cranes, lapwings and golden plovers, have been returning to Germany over the last couple of weeks after spending the winter in warmer climes. Many of them have now turned around and left thanks to the cold weather.

A lack of food was driving the birds out of the country, Matthias Werner from the national ornithological institute said on Thursday. Hundreds of them made a brief stop-over in northern Hesse, he added.

There remained a few stubborn cranes around the country though, which Werner said, “were hardy creatures” able to tolerate a lot.

For Germany’s non-migrating human population, the DWD has forecast a string of sub-zero nights with Friday night bringing snow and rain across the west of the country. The east will stay mostly clear and very cold with lows plummeting to -11C. The west should remain around 0C.

Nighttime snow and rain will continue through Saturday in the western states and clouds will begin gathering over the previously clear east where it should remain dry nevertheless. Highs of -1C in the east and hilly areas and 9C in the Upper Rhine region are expected.

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast

Rain and sleet will continue to plague the west of the country during Saturday night, falling in higher areas as thick snow. In the east it should be cloudy but dry and in the south east, clear. That is where it will be especially chilly with lows of -7C. The west should have warmer highs of 4C.

Sunday should signal a much drier day for the eastern states and around the Alps but sadly for those in the west hoping to celebrate St. Patrick’s day outside, will still be rainy and cloudy. Temperatures could begin to pick up, with highs of 9C in the south west and 3C in the north.

Snow will probably begin falling again on Sunday night in the north east. Western states will be drizzly and cloudy with temperatures as high of 4C. More realistic are highs of 0C for the whole country and lows of -3C.

Heavy cloud cover will dominate most of Germany come Monday, with possible snow in the north. DWD has forecast highs of 10C in the west and 2C in the north east.

DPA/The Local/jcw

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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?