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Germany: Heat-free leave (Hitzefrei) – employee rights and employer obligations

Germany: High temperature can be dangerous to health, which is why the German labour code requires employers to take care of their employees by giving the heat-free leave – Hitzefrei.

The first heat wave hit Germany in 2021. In the days coming up to it many federal states have been subject to warnings by the German meteorological service.

Many employees in some professions need more care than others, for example construction and office workers, are also entitled to time off during the heat (German: Hitzefrei). Here’s what the heat-free right looks like in practice.

1. Work in a room where the temperature exceeds 35 degrees Celsius is prohibited in Germany . This means that the employee is entitled to time off. The employerwho does not want employees to leave the workplace due to the heat must ensure a reduction in temperature through air conditioning or ventilation fans for the employees.

2. Should the temperature in the work place exceeds 35 degrees, the employee may go to the employer and request a time off.

Take note that an employee is not allowed to voluntarily leave the workplace.

3. You are only free for a few hours. According to German law, the heat-free period does not have to apply to the entire working day but only for selected workers. The employer is allowed to change the working hours, for example, to ensure that the employee works is done only during the mornings or only in the afternoon.

4. In the case of those working on a construction site, the employer is obliged to arrange the working time and breaks in such a way as to protect the employee against work during peak heat hours. In addition, it must provide free drinks and protection from the sun e.g. appropriate clothing, hats and sunglasses.

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5. Teachers and students are granted heat-related time off, usually if the temperature in classrooms exceeds 27 degrees. It should be noted that this is not a federal law and it depends on the federal state. It is up to the state authorities or school heads to decide whether or not school is to be cancelled due to heat.

6. There are cases where heat leave is available even when the temperature in the workplace exceeds 26 degrees Celsius . The employer is obliged to inquire about the health and well-being of his employees. For pregnant women, nursing mothers, or persons performing extremely hard work can even be dangerous temperatures below 30 degrees.

7.  If the temperature in the room rises to 30 degrees Celsius , the employee is not yet entitled to time off, but the employer must already take specific action. They include, among others introducing flexible working hours , attempting to cool the rooms where one works, permission to wear airy clothes.

8. The employer may be fined EUR 5,000 for breaking the rules on working on hot days .


Note: This study is informative. The editors of make every effort to ensure that all published articles are reliable and credible. However, they do not constitute binding interpretations of legal regulations.

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