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Coronavirus: what does the national emergency mean for families?

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Due to coronavirus, classroom lessons are going to take place only on a limited basis from May 11, with many parents still working from home, and sports and music lessons canceled. Apart from the challenge of getting to grips with daily life in this situation, there are also legal issues.

The experts from AXA-ARAG have the answers to the most important questions concerning the coronavirus crisis in Switzerland and its effect on daily family life. 

What obligations do I have for arranging childcare? 

The current situation is exceptional. By law, you may only stay away from work for a limited period to look after your children. This is a paid absence. Your employer may extend this period in this special situation as a goodwill gesture,

but you are required to make alternative childcare arrangements. Whether and for how long employers are obliged to pay salaries is debatable, but under certain circumstances, parents are also entitled to an allowance from the AHV compensation fund. 

Do I have to take vacation if my child doesn’t go to school?

No. Instead, the case in question falls under inability to work through no fault of your own: Your employer must accept that you cannot come to work for a specified period. This is usually three days. Normally parents must endeavor to find another childcare solution as quickly as possible to prevent further absences. At the moment however, this is difficult or impossible due to the coronavirus crisis. But it is always advisable to negotiate with your employer to prevent any dispute. If you are unable to work for a lengthy period, you and your employer should look at solutions such as taking vacation or reducing overtime.  

My children’s daycare center and nursery have closed. But do I still have to pay?

We advise you to read the contracts first. Unless specified, you can assume that the contracts are suspended for the duration of the closure. This means that you do not have to pay anything either for the period in which your children cannot attend the care facilities due to the ordered closure.

As the nursery or daycare center cannot provide their services for a while due to the ordered closure, this may even be termination of contract. However, no compensation is due. We advise you to contact the nursery or   daycare center quickly to find an appropriate solution which should be put down in writing. For example, setting aside the obligation to pay for the duration of the closure or annulling the contract. 

Please note: If you decide not to send your child to the nursery or daycare center of your own volition due to the current situation, you must continue to pay. 

Can I keep my children at home if the school re-opens but I’m worried that they may become infected?

The legal situation is clear in this instance: Parents do not have the right to keep their children at home merely because they fear their children will contract the virus. Compulsory school attendance applies here. 

I’ve booked piano lessons for my child that now can’t take place. Will I get a refund for the tuition fees I’ve already paid?

From a legal point of view, if your child’s music teacher cancels lessons or is forced to do so by order of the authorities, he or she must refund any payments made. However, other rules may apply depending on the contract. 

Some music schools are currently offering remote lessons via online media such as Skype or FaceTime. These virtual music lessons are a good alternative to face-to-face lessons and ensure that music teachers don’t lose all their income in this crisis situation. Find out about existing replacement offers by contacting your music school directly and discuss the possibility of making up lessons already paid for at a later date. Find a solution together that works for both of you.

My son’s football club is no longer offering training, but I’ve already paid for the whole year. Who will bear the costs?

Training sessions in swimming, gymnastics or football clubs cannot take place at the moment due to coronavirus. You must assume that the football club does not have to reimburse membership fees.

An association is not a profit-based business. The membership fee is not linked to a specific service unless this is stated in the association’s statutes. You therefore cannot simply set aside the fees if certain services are canceled by the club for a specific period.

I can’t pay my rent any more. What now?

At present, the rules under tenancy law continue to apply as before: Your landlord can give you a warning about rent arrears if you as the tenant do not pay the rent. The payment period is 30 days. If you still don’t pay the rent within this period, your landlord can give you notice of termination at the end of the following month. Here too, a 30-day period also applies. This rule is also applicable if you only pay part of the rent.

If you are having difficulties paying the rent due to the coronavirus crisis, you should therefore get in touch with your landlord immediately and ask to pay by installments or to delay payment. If he or she agrees, you should have this arrangement put down in writing. 

If it nevertheless comes to termination, you can appeal to the arbitration office within 30 days. The formal requirements in Switzerland are very strict for landlords: It is therefore quite easy for a termination not to be served properly, thereby rendering it invalid. 

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