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WEATHER

Germany struck by snow and frost as wintry temperatures return

Winter seems to have returned to Germany on the first day of April as several regions in Germany were hit by snow.

Snow in Lower Saxony
A man walked on a snowy street lined with cherry blossom trees in Laatzen, Lower Saxony, on April 1st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

According to the German Weather Serivce (DWD), both high and lower-altitude regions saw heavy snow, with parts of the motorway in North Rhine-Westphalia needing to be de-iced.

On Friday afternoon, more snowfall was expected in central and southern Germany, particularly in the regions surrounding the Alps. In the northern half of the country, temperatures in the low single-digits and windstorms were forecast.

Slippery roads are also possible again due to the snow and ice. A spokesperson for the German Weather Service told DPA that people in the coldest areas should drive with caution. 

In Baden-Württemberg, fresh snow fell in the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps on Friday morning and is set to continue into the weekend.

According to DWD, up to 10 centimetres of snow may fall over the course of the day, particularly in the northeast of Baden-Württemberg at higher elevations. 

People in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia can also expect a wintry Friday, with snowfall at times.

The first day of the weekend looks set to bring even more snow to the south, with up to 10 inches of snowfall at higher altitudes. The cold spell is likely to retreat during the night, however, with the winter wonderland becoming a little more springlike over the course of Sunday.

READ ALSO: Germany to see return of winter weather

For those desperate for a return to clear blue skies and balmy temperatures, meteorologists have some bad news.

“Will it be spring-like again? No,” says DWD’s Tobias Reinartz. “Although it will become somewhat milder again (which is no real feat), it will mostly remain cool for April in the coming week.

“It will also be stormy and very unstable with some sleet now and then. All in all, the weather will be more autumnal than spring-like.”

DWD has also warned that the return of wintry temperatures after several weeks of warmth and sunshine could pose a problem for gardeners whose plants are already in bloom.

Frost damage is a particular risk for plants close to the ground, with the potential to damage crops of strawberries and other fruits. 

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READER QUESTIONS

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?

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