Health

Coronavirus: Do I have to keep going to work or am I allowed to stay home?

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Even if coronavirus spreads quickly, you cannot simply work from home. What rights and obligations do you have as an employee, will you still be paid in an emergency and can you refuse to go on a business trip? We asked the lawyers at myright.ch. 

I’m worried about picking up the virus at work. Am I allowed to stay home? 

No. If the authorities have not issued any instructions to this effect, you as an employee are not entitled to stay home. In this instance, this is an unjustified refusal to work without any entitlement to continued payment of salary. If you have any concerns, speak directly to your employer. 

When can I refuse to go to work?

Only if you can justify refusal in concrete and objective terms, such as if your employer is not complying with hygiene regulations or is not taking  measures to protect staff.  In this instance, inform your employer clearly of the reasons for your refusal to work and demand protective measures. If your refusal is justified, the employer has an obligation to continue making salary payments. But be aware that there could be a risk of summary dismissal if your refusal continues without a valid reason. 

What is the situation with working from home? 

If it is possible for you to work from home from an operational perspective, you can ask your employer and discuss the possibility of you doing so. 

I don’t feel well and am worried that I could infect others. Am I allowed to stay away from work?

Yes. In this instance, get examined by a doctor and submit a medical certificate. The procedure here is the same as for other  illnesses.

Is the employer liable if I became  infected at work?

Possibly. Due to their duty of care, employers are 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, for example, infection at work.  A check must be carried out on a case by case basis to ascertain whether this duty of care was adequately fulfilled   and may provide grounds for liability.

My child is ill. Do I still have to work and will I still be paid? 

If you have a medical certificate, every employer is obliged to give a parent up to three days per illness to look after their sick child.  However, under certain circumstances, you can also be released from work  if this is justified for medical reasons.  Nonetheless, parents must make every effort to  prevent further absences and, for example, organize childcare.

The Federal Council has closed schools and nurseries: Can I stay home if I have school-age children? 

In this instance, you are unable to work through no fault of your own. You have a statutory duty to look after your children and your employer has a duty to continue paying your salary for a limited period. Nonetheless, parents must make every effort to prevent further absences by making suitable arrangements. However, parents can now apply for an allowance from the AHV compensation fund. 

What are the exact details of this allowance for parents and who is entitled to it? 

Parents with children under twelve who have to take leave because their childcare arrangement is no longer in place can claim an allowance if, at the time of taking leave, they were:

  • covered by mandatory insurance with AHV (i.e. they live or work in Switzerland) and
  • in paid employment or working on a self-employed basis.

Please note: The need for care must be due to measures implemented to fight coronavirus (closure of schools, daycare centers, nurseries or the fact that childcare is no longer possible, as care is provided by a person at increased risk, such as those over 65 years of age or people with chronic respiratory diseases etc.). 

Further questions and answers on school closures can be found at myright.ch.

Our company is discussing whether some staff should be temporarily relocated to other places of work due to coronavirus. Do I have to accept a relocation?

Your employer cannot normally just relocate you to another place of work if the place of work has been contractually agreed.  Nonetheless,  if there is an urgent operational need, you must temporarily work at another place of work. However, consideration must be given here to the personal situation of affected employees  . 

 

Can I rely on my employer protecting me against coronavirus? 

Employers have a duty of care which means that they must take suitable and proportionate measures to protect their employees against infection or transmission. In specific terms, they may provide hand sanitizers or face masks at work, for example. 

Can I refuse to go on a business trip?

As an employee, you should first check whether a travel restriction has been imposed by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) on the region to which you are supposed to travel. If so, you may normally refuse to go on the trip.

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What if the situation in my residential area is declared a restricted area?

If you live in a declared restricted area, you are not allowed to leave it to go to work. In this instance, there is a justified reason for you staying away from work. The same also applies if your place of work is located in a restricted area.  Working from home would need to be considered. 

What happens if my place of work is placed under quarantine?

If it is established that people in the company have flu, the cantonal medical officer will assess the situation and take appropriate measures. These may also be health measures, such as quarantine or closure of a business.

Employees are obliged to offer to work. Here too,  flexible types of work, such as home office, may mitigate the situation.  If you cannot accept the work, then this is normally  a failure by the employer.  Employers are obliged to continue paying salaries,  as they bear business risk, even in the absence of fault. 

What happens if I myself have to stay in quarantine and can’t go to work? 

Employees who are ordered to stay in quarantine by a doctor or the authorities are entitled to daily benefits under loss of earnings insurance (EO). Daily benefits amount to 80% of salary, subject to a maximum of CHF 196 per working day (excluding vacation). Employees must themselves apply to the compensation office for this allowance.

Can my boss require me to work from home?

If there is a corresponding clause in your employment contract, the company can require you to work from home. If there is an acute risk of infection, this may also make sense to protect you as an employee against coronavirus.

If your employer is partly responsible for spreading the virus, they must continue to pay salaries.


Will I continue to be paid if the company where I work has to be closed by order of the authorities due to a virus risk?

Cases need to be checked individually to determine the type of risk behind the reason for canceling work activities. Depending on the situation, there may or may not be a obligation to continue making salary payments. A check should also be made as to whether the employer has taken out loss of earnings insurance for this type of event.

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

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

If there is a pandemic, can my company decide to close for a holiday shutdown or cancel any vacation already agreed?

No, this is not normally possible, although by law, employers can determine when vacation is taken. When doing so however, they must  listen to employees and take their wishes into account. As an employee, you are also entitled to early allocation of  vacation (generally three months in advance). The same applies to a ban on vacation:  however, the postponement of vacation already agreed is only justified on  serious grounds. If there is an urgent and unforeseen operating requirement, you must nonetheless accept a  change to when you take your vacation. However, your employer must compensate you for any  losses incurred.

If a flu vaccination against coronavirus is available soon: Can my employer force me to have a vaccination?

No, there is no compulsory vaccination in Switzerland.  A mandatory vaccination by  order of the employer should not be  enforceable either in the event of a pandemic.

Rights and obligations of unemployed people in connection with coronavirus

As an unemployed person, can I be allocated a job during the pandemic ?

Yes, provided the work is reasonable and the employer also fulfills its  employee protection obligations.

Do I have to  make an effort to look for work during the pandemic?

Yes.

Do I still have to register in person with the local municipality or with the Regional Employment Office (REO) if I become unemployed?

Yes. However, you can register by telephone rather than in person .

I have resigned from my job for fear of catching coronavirus.  Can I claim unemployment benefit ? And should I expect a penalty?

Yes, you can claim unemployment benefit if you  are willing and able to accept work. There is a penalty if the risk is not deemed to exist.

I resigned from my job because I am  no longer being paid as I stayed away from work. Will I get unemployment benefit as usual?

Yes, you can claim unemployment benefit if you are  willing and able to accept work.  If, while you were off work, you had to carry out an  obligation under family law, the employer  must continue to pay you. This means that the  employer has acted incorrectly, hence you should not expect any penalty.

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