WEATHER: German flood zones at risk of further storms

Just a week after floods devastated several regions in western Germany, meteorologists are warning of further heavy rain and thunderstorms that could strike over the weekend.

WEATHER: German flood zones at risk of further storms
Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate could see further heavy rain over the weekend. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

Some regions could be hit by further heavy rainfall, said a meteorologist from the German Weather Service (DWD) on Thursday – though experts are still unsure where exactly these showers could strike.

As helpers and residents continue to clear up the wreckage left by last week’s storms, Rhineland-Palatinate – one of the areas worst affected by the floods – is bracing itself for further thunderstorms and rain showers over the weekend, along with neighbouring Saarland. 

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Why Germany faces tough questions over its disaster response

After a few days of sunshine, storms and heavy rain are also likely to threaten parts of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Saturday and Sunday, according to DWD. 

The rainclouds are forecast to arrive in Rhineland-Palatinate on Saturday, with localised rain-showers at noon that will spread across the region in the afternoon.

Local thunderstorms are also likely to appear on Sunday during the day, the meteorologists said.

On Friday, North Rhine-Westphalia is set to see a continuation of this week’s warm and sunny weather, with storm clouds gathering on Saturday.

The Eifel region, which was ravaged by flash floods on the 14th and 15th of July, will be the first area to be affected by the thunderstorms. These will spread across the state on both Saturday and Sunday. 

‘No all-clear’ for more extreme weather

On Thursday, the DWD spoke of the previous week’s catastrophe as an “event of the century”.

According to climate experts, an unusually large number of stations in the west all simultaneously broke weather records due to the sheer amount of rainfall. Within a few hours or days, regions experienced an average of 1.5 times the entire average rainfall for the whole of July. 

According to existing weather records, the most intense and heavy rainfall usually occurs between May and September in Germany – meaning it could still be too early to give the all-clear.

“It can be assumed that there will be more extreme weather events in 2021,” DWD confirmed.

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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?