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Heatwave in Germany: Row breaks out over topless sunbathing in Munich

As the mercury rises in Germany a dispute over whether women should be allowed to sunbathe topless has flared in Munich.

Heatwave in Germany: Row breaks out over topless sunbathing in Munich
Bathers enjoy the Isar river in Munich. Photo: DPA

Many people are flocking to lakes and swimming pools to cool down in the soaring temperatures.

But in the south of Germany, a heated row has broken out over topless sunbathing. 

It was sparked after a security guard had ordered a group of women who were sunbathing topless on the banks of the Isar river at the weekend to put their bikini tops back on.

But the move apparently backfired, according to the Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, which quoted another sunbather as saying that she and others took their bikini tops off “out of solidarity”.

SEE ALSO: 'Durchzug is not harmful!': Red Cross tells Germans to leave their fans on and windows open

DPA

With debate over the incident heating up, the Green party brought the issue to Munich's city council.

“For me, it's incomprehensible if men can lie in the sun topless but not women,” said the Greens' Dominik Krause, among the initiators of the council debate.

An urgent motion was introduced in a city council meeting Wednesday, reading “the bathing costume statutes of the state capital Munich will be amended to the effect that bathing costumes must completely cover the primary sex organs” – to allow topless bathing.

According to local media, being nude in public as part of the practice of FKK – Freikörperkultur, an informal movement that translates to free body culture, is only permitted in six designated areas in Munich, such as the famous Englischer Garten.

Heatwave across the country

The heat was also causing problems in the rest of the country. As The Local reported, drivers have been urged to slow down on the Autobahn in case roads buckle in the heat. 

On the north coast, sweltering temperatures bent railway tracks out of shape on a popular tourist route near Rostock on the Baltic Sea and an official said a track-laying company were trying to fix the damage.

Meanwhile, in Brandenburg a man was stopped by the police while riding his moped completely naked. 

As contributions and queries poured in over whether the man flouted any rules, police clarified that it was not illegal to go around nude in public, but only so long as no one files a complaint.

SEE ALSO: Photo of the Day: The naked moped rider stopped by German police

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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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