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WORKING IN GERMANY

Editor of Germany’s Bild sacked over affair at work

German press group Axel Springer said it had removed the chief editor at tabloid-style daily Bild, Julian Reichelt, over a relationship with a colleague at the country's top-selling newspaper.

Bild's former chief editor Julian Reichelt during a live broadcast. He has been removed from his position after newspaper investigations.
Bild's former chief editor Julian Reichelt during a live broadcast. He has been removed from his position after newspaper investigations. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Reichelt “did not clearly separate his private and work lives and did not tell the board the truth about it,” Axel Springer said in a statement on Monday, citing information gained “as a result of press investigations in recent days”.

An internal investigation in spring looked into allegations the 41-year-old had promoted interns with whom he had had affairs and then sidelined or fired them.

Although Reichelt stepped aside during the inquiry, he was reinstated in March alongside a female editor.

“Julian Reichelt admitted to mixing professional and private relationships but denied the aforementioned accusations and swore to this under oath,” Springer said at the time.

READ ALSO: Bild editor steps down temporarily over allegations of affairs with employees

It was not immediately clear which new allegations prompted the company to sack Reichelt, one of Germany’s most controversial media figures who tacked Bild hard to the right on some issues.

But a New York Times story published Sunday appears to have pushed Springer into action.

In recent years, parent company Springer has expanded internationally, first with news site Business Insider and this summer buying all of US-based Politico.

The NYT reported that Reichelt had promoted a young woman journalist into a senior position following a relationship between them.

Reichelt said in 2016: “If they find out that I’m having an affair with a trainee, I’ll lose my job,” the NYT reported, citing testimony the woman gave Springer’s internal inquiry.

The editor’s chair at Bild will now go to Johannes Boie, until now editor-in-chief of Springer’s conservative weekly broadsheet Welt Am Sonntag.

Founded in 1952, Bild bet on a mixture of human-interest stories, sports and celebrity news to become Germany’s top-selling paper, and still prints two million copies per day.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever legally 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 legally 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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