Chemical giant BASF to slash 3,000 jobs in Germany

Massive German chemical company BASF said Thursday it would slash 6,000 jobs worldwide by 2021, as the company slims down its organization in pursuit of fatter margins.

Chemical giant BASF to slash 3,000 jobs in Germany
BASF's headquarters in Ludwigshafen. Photo: DPA

“BASF expects a reduction of a total of around 6,000 positions worldwide until the end of 2021” out of 122,000 employees, the company said in a statement, saying the layoffs would save around 300 million annually.

Around 3,000 of those jobs will be in Germany at its headquarters in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, a city in Rhineland-Palatinate in west Germany.

The move is part of a broader “excellence programme” aimed at boosting profits by €2 billion per year.

The cuts come amid news Thursday that auto giant Ford would slash 12,000 jobs throughout Europe, with nearly half of them in Germany.

Centralize services

BASF executives aim to “develop our organization to work more effectively and efficiently,” chief executive Martin Brudermüller said.

The firm said it would centralize many services common to its different divisions, like engineering, procurement, human resources, finance and logistics, as well as create a 1,000-strong “corporate centre” to support executives.

As part of the restructuring, bosses and worker representatives at BASF's headquarters in Ludwigshafen agreed to bring forward negotiations on a new site agreement to early 2020 — well ahead of the current jobs and investment deal's expiry date of December next year.

The group has long trailed a reorganization after a tricky 2018 and early 2019 that have seen trade conflicts and one-off factors weigh on profits.

Last year it also gobbled up billions of euros' worth of agrichemical business from Bayer as part of the other company's takeover of US-based Monsanto.

Bayer, a worldwide pharmaceutical and chemical giant, also announced in April that it would be slashing 4,500 jobs in Germany, or one-third of its total cuts worldwide, in order to tighten its finances.

SEE ALSO: Bayer to cut 4,500 jobs in Germany

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Reader question: Is it ever legally 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 legally 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?