Impact of the pandemic
Due to the mutation of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has taken more stringent measures, which will come into force on Monday, 18.1.2021. For the time being, they will apply until the end of February. In summary, they mean that all shops for non-daily goods will have to close in Switzerland, home offices will become compulsory and only a maximum of five people - including children - will be allowed to attend private events. But what do these measures mean in detail - especially for employees and employers?
What does the home office obligation mean in concrete terms?
From 18 January 2021, employers are obliged to arrange home office wherever this is possible due to the nature of the activity and can be implemented with a reasonable amount of effort.
Does my employer have to pay for rent and electricity costs?
The Federal Council has excluded a claim for reimbursement of electricity, internet or rental costs in the ordinance, as the home office obligation will be temporary. Expenses that are necessary for the performance of work (e.g. postage costs, printer cartridges, paper) must be paid by your employer.
Do I always have to be available for my supervisor in the home office?
Also at home, the contractually agreed working hours still apply and you have the right for breaks. However, we advise you to discuss the hours of presence with your employer. It may also be worthwhile to agree on how quickly you respond to e-mails.
Employers also have a duty of care towards their employees. If, for example, the presence of children makes it impossible to work undisturbed at certain times, you can expect your employer to make some concessions.
Stricter obligation to wear a mask
From 18 January 2021, a stricter mask requirement will apply to protect employees in all places where it is not possible to work in a home office. If more than one person is present in an indoor area (for example in offices or in vehicles), a general mask obligation will apply - even if the distances can be observed.
Do I have to wear the mask in the office even when I am sitting at my desk?
Yes, from 18.1.2021, if you are not sitting alone in an office, you must also wear a mask at your desk. A large distance between workplaces in the same room is no longer sufficient.
What consequences can I expect if I refuse to wear a protective mask?
If you violate the obligation to wear a protective mask, you can be fined up to CHF 10,000 according to the law of Epidemics. If you are negligent, you can be fined up to a maximum of CHF 5,000. In the workplace, you can be given a warning or dismissed. In the worst case, you may even be dismissed without notice after a warning.
I panic when I wear a mask. Who can issue me a mask dispensation?
People who cannot wear masks for special reasons (mainly medical) must provide evidence of this. The new regulation specifies who can issue a certificate for a mask dispensation for medical reasons. You can go to a doctor, a dentist, a pharmacist or a psychotherapist. A certificate may only be issued if this is indicated for the person concerned. Accordingly, it requires an individual examination.
I belong to the group of particularly vulnerable persons. Do I still have to come to work if home office is not possible?
Special measures apply to protect workers at risk. For this purpose, as was already the case in spring 2020, the right to home office or equivalent protection at the workplace or leave of absence for particularly vulnerable persons applies. In professions or workplaces where the protection provisions cannot be implemented, this means that in the worst case you can no longer work in your profession and have to take leave. The loss of earnings is covered by the social insurance EO.
Persons at particular risk include newly pregnant women and persons at risk who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. Persons over the age of 65 are no longer included in this group.
In a widely respected ruling, the Federal Tribunal has decided that an employer must pay a share of the rent for an apartment to an employee with a home office obligation.
What does this mean for all those who work in a home office because of the current situation?
Due to the current situation, my employer has asked me to work from home and not to come to the office. Can I ask my employer to pay part of my rent? In this case it is an exceptional situation and not a permanent situation. The employer is concerned about your health and the Swiss government has recommended that you work from home wherever possible. In this case, however, it is not explicitly a home office requirement for which the employer is responsible. In principle, there is no obligation on the part of the employer to pay compensation in this case. The situation is different if your employer permanently offers you no or no suitable workplace and you have to set it up at home in order to be able to perform your business tasks. In this case, your employer is liable to reimburse you for the work infrastructure at home that is necessary for the performance of your work. The respective compensation must be examined on a case-by-case basis.
So the Federal Tribunal's decision does not apply to all of them?
No, not all employees who work from home during the Corona lockdown can expect additional compensation. If you work from home at your own request, but are not explicitly obliged to work from home, you cannot make a claim. In this case, there is a workplace available for you in the company in addition to the "Corona home office" and you work from home only temporarily.
My holidays booked at the travel agency are cancelled. What should I do?
On 6.5.2020, Parliament decided in an extraordinary session that refunds to customers need only be made once travel agencies or tour operators have received the money already paid for by the airlines and hotels. What consequences does this decision have for you and your planned trip? We recommend that you wait until the tour operator cancels your trip so that you can then apply for a refund of the travel costs already paid. We do not recommend that you cancel your trip yourself. This may result in cancellation costs that will be charged to you. If the tour operator cancels your trip, you will have to be patient with the Parliament's decision on reimbursement. The travel agency can now wait until October of this year before reimbursing the costs you have already paid. Some tour operators issue vouchers as an alternative to payment, which you can redeem on a later trip.