The coronavirus has reached Switzerland – should I still go to work?

What does the coronavirus mean for employees? What are the obligations and rights? What happens if a trip is canceled? MyRight provides answers.

The answer in detail

Read the impact of the latest developments in our legal tip Corona: The latest federal decisions and their effects

Updated on 08.04.2020

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly. The Federal Office of Public Health states that, as for other flu epidemics, it is important to take the right precautions. It lists well-known measures such as washing your hands regularly and sneezing and coughing into your elbow or a tissue. But what are employers obliged to do, and what rights do employees have? What happens if your trip has to be canceled due to the virus? What about delayed deliveries from China?

Does my employer have a duty of care?

Yes, employers in the areas affected are obliged to take suitable and appropriate measures to protect their employees and to prevent any contagion or spreading of the virus. Specific actions include providing hand sanitizer or hygiene masks at the workplace. Employees returning home from China or another region with cases of the coronavirus can also be required to work from home for two weeks and to observe whether any symptoms of the illness appear.

Can I, as an employee, refuse to go on a business trip?

If the FDFA has not issued any travel restrictions for the region in which the business appointment is taking place, there is no sufficient reason to refuse to travel there.

I would like to stay at home because I'm worried about catching the virus. Can I do that?

If the authorities have not issued any instructions to this effect, employees are not entitled to stay at home. If you stay away from work and refuse to return despite being asked to do so by your employer, you run the risk of summary dismissal. However, if you have concrete, objective reasons for being worried about infection at your specific place of work, this may be an exception. In this instance, we recommend that you inform your employer clearly of the reasons for your refusal to work and demand protective measures.

Am I allowed to stay away from work for fear of being infectious?

Yes. In this instance, phone the doctor and then get examined. Submit a medical certificate to your employer. The procedure is the same as for other illnesses.

Is my employer liable if I become infected at work?

Possibly. Due to their duty of care, your employer is obliged to take all measures that are necessary based on experience, are applicable according to the latest state of technology and are appropriate for the company’s circumstances to prevent infection at work, for example. A check must be carried out on a case by case basis to ascertain whether this duty of care is being adequately fulfilled and may provide grounds for liability.

An employee in our company is ill with the virus and our place of work has been placed under quarantine. What does that mean for me as an employee?

You are still obliged to offer to work by working from home, for instance, or at another site. Flexible types of work may mitigate the situation here. If you cannot do your work outside of your quarantined place of work, your employer must continue to pay you, as it bears business risk even in the absence of fault (see Art. 324 Swiss Code of Obligations (SCO)).

I am ill with the pandemic virus and can no longer do my work. Will I still be paid?

Yes, there is normally an entitlement to an obligation to continued salary payments.

What happens if I am in quarantine and therefore cannot come to work?

If you have to go into quarantine, whether prescribed by a doctor or by the authorities, you are entitled to daily benefits from the income replacement insurance (EO). A daily allowance amounts to 80% of your salary, up to a maximum of 196 francs per day of employment (holidays are excluded). As a salaried employee, you must apply for this compensation yourself to the compensation office.

My child is ill with flu. The doctor has prescribed two weeks off sick and bed rest. As my child is very weak, I should stay home and look after them. But do I still have to go to work? Will I still be paid?

If you have a medical certificate, the employer is obliged to grant a parent the time required to look after sick children of up to three days per illness. However, under certain circumstances, you can also be released from work for longer if this is justified for medical reasons This is also deemed to be inability to work through no fault of your own (see also Art. 324a SCO) with obligation to continued salary payments for a limited period. Nonetheless, parents must make every effort to prevent further absences by making suitable arrangements, such as alternating childcare.

Can I work from home in order to protect myself?

If it is operationally possible to work from a home office, you can ask your employer and discuss the options.

Can the company insist that I work from home?

If there is a corresponding clause in your employment contract, the company can require you to work from home. This may also be justified in order to protect employees from the coronavirus if there is a high chance of infection.

Am I entitled to be paid if I am unable to travel back from my vacation because of the virus?

In this case your employer is not obliged to pay you for the additional absence.

I wanted to take spring break at Easter and travel to Italy. Due to the current situation, I cannot travel as planned. Therefore I do not want to take my planned holidays after all. Does my employer have to cancel the holidays?

No. In principle, the purpose of the holidays, namely rest, is also guaranteed at home. There is no entitlement to travel during the holidays. The holidays already granted can therefore only be taken with the employer's consent.

Do I have to take vacation if my child has to stay home by order of the authorities, such as closure of schools and nurseries in the canton?

No. This is a case of you being unable to work through no fault of your own (see statutory duty to look after your children under Art. 276 Swiss Civil Code (SCC)) with an obligation to continued salary payments for a limited period under Art. 324a SCO. Nonetheless, parents must make every effort to prevent further absences by making suitable arrangements, such as alternating childcare.

Because orders are outstanding or there is a lack of raw materials, it is no longer possible for all staff to be employed at the place of business. Can my employer ask me to work somewhere else, such as in another branch?

The contractually agreed place of work cannot simply be relocated based on an instruction from the employer. Nonetheless, if there is an urgent operational need, you must accept having to temporarily work at another place of work. However, consideration must be given here to the employee’s personal situation.

My employer has sent me home as a precaution. Will this be deducted from my pay?

No, your employer is obliged to pay you.

My flight was cancelled due to an official prohibition (e.g. entry ban). What are my rights from the flight reservation?

You are entitled to a refund (or a rebooking) if the airline cancels the flight due to the ban. This does not apply if you cancel the flight yourself. If it is not clear whether the flight will be operated, we recommend that you contact the airline. Please note: There is no right to claim damages or other compensation from the airline or a third party. The entry ban imposed by the authorities is beyond the control of the parties and could not have been averted by the airline or third party provider even with the utmost care. The same applies to event providers or car rental companies in the destination. These may invoke the cancellation provisions in accordance with the applicable contract. The associated cost risk in the event of an officially imposed entry ban is borne by you as the traveller.

My package tour was cancelled due to an official prohibition (e.g. entry ban). What are my rights under the travel contract?

A package tour is defined as the pre-defined combination of at least two of the following services if this combination is offered at a total price and lasts longer than 24 hours or includes an overnight stay

  • transport (for example, flight or train)
  • accommodation (for example hotel or youth hostel)
  • other tourist services not ancillary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant proportion of the total (e.g. excursions to holiday destinations)

Package travel under Swiss law is governed by the Package Travel Act (PRG). Accordingly, you as a customer have the following options

  • participation in another equivalent or higher quality package tour, if the organiser or retailer can offer you such a tour or
  • participation in another inferior package and reimbursement of the difference in price or
  • refund of all amounts paid by you as soon as possible.

There are some opinions that consider the PRG inapplicable in case of a package tour cancellation due to force majeure. According to these, Art. 119 OR is relevant, which means that contractual agreements would be valid.

I ordered some products from China but they haven't arrived. What can I do?

If an order from the restricted area in China (or another country) is delayed, the debtor is not liable for the delay due to force majeure. This rule only applies if there is also a corresponding contractual basis for the distributor. If the distributor is unable to deliver on time, you should cancel the order if possible, or change to another supplier. Any additional costs must be borne by the distributor.