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WEATHER

More storms to hit NRW after heavy rains flood streets and basements

As a thunderstorm with lightning and heavy rain swept through North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday evening, some streets and basements were flooded. More stormy weather is forecast for Wednesday.

More storms to hit NRW after heavy rains flood streets and basements
Rain clouds over Duisburg. Photo: DPA

As meteorologists at the German Weather Service (DWD) predicted, heavy storms hit areas of Germany on Tuesday, particularly the country’s most populous state NRW.

The Bergisches Land mountainous region and city and surrounding area of Siegen were hardest hit. Several roads and basements were reported as being flooded but no major damage was recorded, police said on Wednesday morning.

The fire brigade in Düsseldorf completed ten missions related to the heavy rains, many of them having to do with flooded basements, according to a spokesperson.

In Wuppertal, the fire brigade was called to operations more than 50 times, many of them due to flooded cellars, a spokesman said. Similarly, in Krefeld, the emergency services were repeatedly called out on missions due to flooded basements or loose roof tiles.

The DWD predict that NRW as well as parts of northern Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Thuringia could see more thunderstorms on Wednesday.

Heavy rain and lightning are expected to hit the northern half of NRW around noon. Wind speeds of up to 50 km/h are also forecast.

In the evening the weather is predicted to calm down and heading into Thursday the showers are expected to subside. Highs of between 15C and 19C are predicted and lows will hover between 6C and 10C.

But don’t put away your umbrellas just yet.

For Thursday, partly cloudy skies are forecast but the afternoon or the evening could see showers or even thunderstorms in and around the NRW region. Though it should remain mostly dry particularly in the southwest of the country.

And on Friday DWD meteorologists state that in varying regions of the north and central Germany, heavy showers and lightning could take place. Wind speeds will be moderate and the showers will gradually diminish heading into Saturday.

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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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