Car market slowdown ‘threatens jobs’ at Germany’s Bosch

A global car market expected to slow this year and the continuing aftershocks of a sector-wide diesel cheating scandal will hit jobs at Germany-based Bosch, the world's biggest component supplier.

Car market slowdown 'threatens jobs' at Germany's Bosch
Bosch's headquarters in Gerlingen, 9 kilometres west of Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

“Of course, we have to react to falling demand,” chief executive Volkmar Denner told Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday when asked about possible job cuts.

Expected by analysts to contract this year, the global car market is developing “much more weakly than we still thought a year ago,” Denner said.

SEE ALSO: Five things to know about Germany's Dieselgate scandal 

“This isn't just a short-term dip that will quickly be recovered,” he added.

Reduced demand for diesel-fuelled vehicles “is hitting us particularly hard,” said Denner.

About 50,000 of the 410,000 jobs at Bosch worldwide are dependent on the diesel industry, reported FAZ. In Germany, the figure is a full 15,000.

Last year, Bosch cut 600 jobs in this sector by not extending fixed-term contracts or by sending associates on part-time early retirement.

Customers in Germany and abroad have turned away from the fuel since Volkswagen's 2015 admission to cheating regulatory emissions tests on 11 million vehicles worldwide, while investigations have spread to other carmakers in Germany's flagship industry.

SEE ALSO: Germany slaps Bosch with huge fine over Dieselgate role

Meeting tough targets

Many potential buyers have been deterred by already-implemented or proposed
bans for some diesels from city centres, as municipalities try to reduce levels of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the air.

Meanwhile manufacturers themselves are ramping up alternatives, like hybrid and battery-electric vehicles, to meet tough new EU carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions targets set to bite from next year.

SEE ALSO: Late to the party, German carmakers join race against Tesla

Over the full year, the company expects revenue at the same level as 2018, when sales reached €77.9 billion, rather than the slight increase it had previously predicted.

And “we won't be able to maintain the high level of profitability we had last year,” Denner said.

The company said early this year it expected a profit margin of below six percent, rather than last year's seven percent.

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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?