Germany braces for first heatwave of year with temperatures up to 36C forecast

Germany is bracing itself for the first heatwave this year, with temperatures expected to spike in many parts of the country to 36C by Friday.

Germany braces for first heatwave of year with temperatures up to 36C forecast
The sun rose on Monday morning over Hildesheim, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

On Monday the weather is set to stay sunny and dry, with the mercury in the mid to high 20Cs around Germany.

In the west, along the Rhine, Moselle and Saar, temperatures will exceed the 30C mark in the late afternoon.

“The first heatwave of the year is upon us,” wrote the German Weather Service (DWD) in their daily report.

On Tuesday, a few clouds and somewhat cooler air are to be expected in the wake of low pressure air front dubbed “Robert”, according to the German Weather Service (DWD).

Yet the mercury will vary widely around the country, ranging from 17C along the North Sea to 32C on the Upper Rhine. Most of the rest of the Bundesrepublik will hover around a comfortable 25C, before temperatures spike everywhere mid-week.

Up to 36C possible

From Wednesday, the strong weather fronts “Yona” and “Zoe” will bring in warm air masses.

Temperatures are expected to rise to about 30C in central and southern Germany, and “along the rivers in southern and western Germany, people will really break a sweat at 32 to 34C,” wrote DWD.

This tweet from DWD shows where in the country temperatures will be the highest from Tuesday through Friday.

Also at night, temperatures of 20C are expected as Germany experiences its first humid “tropical nights.”

From Thursday, temperatures will drop again from the west, while it will remain hot in the east of the country until Friday. In Berlin and neighbouring Brandenburg, the mercury could reach up to 36C.

Partly heavy thunderstorms are to be expected

Due to a low-pressure air front, stretching from the Netherlands to southern France, partly heavy thunderstorms and very humid air are to be expected from Thursday.

In the early hours of Friday, muggy air could bring heavy thunderstorms including heavy rain, hail and squalls. These thunderstorms will bring a small “cooling effect” to the west on Friday, and cause the heat to shift to the east of Germany, wrote DWD.

There, up to 36C is possible, but there will not be a “monster heat” with up to 40C, said DWD.

This will then help the temperatures settle back into a “normal range” around the country at the start of next week, meaning it will be comfortably in the mid-20s, said DWD.

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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?