How must the employer protect the health of employees?
The employer is legally obliged to protect the health of its employees. He must take all appropriate and necessary measures. He may use his right to issue instructions to protect the health of
employees. In addition, the Covid 19 Ordinance of the Federal Council makes it mandatory for particularly vulnerable persons (persons over 65 and persons with certain diseases such as high blood
pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory problems or cancer are considered particularly at risk) to be given the opportunity to work from home. If this is not possible,
these persons are granted leave of absence with continued pay.
Instructions must not harm the employee's fundamental/ personal rights. For example, forcing employees to be vaccinated would be illegal.
Can employees be absent from the workplace because they are afraid of being infected?
According to current information, employees cannot simply be absent from work because they are afraid of being infected, unless they belong to a risk group. However, it is possible to discuss
with the employer whether the employee can work from home. Depending on the situation it may also be possible to take holidays.
If an employee fears that he is contagious because he has symptoms or has been in contact with infected persons, he can stay at home and the employer is obliged to continue to pay the salary.
Does the employer still have to pay the salary if the employee falls ill with the coronavirus?
Yes, the employer is obliged to continue to pay salaries if the employee is diagnosed with coronavirus and the employee is absent due to his illness. A corresponding medical certificate must be
submitted to the employer within 5 days.
Does the employer have to continue salary payments, if its employees must stay home to take care of their children due to the current school closure?
Under normal circumstances, the obligation to continue salary payments is restricted to the time period required to organize another form of childcare and this period should not exceed three
days. Due to the extraordinary Covid-19 pandemic, Swiss federal government has introduced a compensation system for loss of earnings of parents who have to stop working to look after their
children due to school closures. The daily allowance to be paid corresponds to 80% of income, capped at a maximum of CHF 196 per day.
This compensation is subsidiary. This means that if the beneficiaries already receive benefits from another social or private insurance scheme (e.g. employees who are already in receipt of a
short-time work allowance) or continue to receive their wages, they are not entitled to such compensation. In the case of continued payment of wages, the employer is the entitled beneficiary.
Does the employer have to pay salaries if the company is shut down by order of the authorities?
There has so far been no definitive ruling by the Swiss federal supreme court on this issue. However, it is most likely that the court would rule that a company must continue salary payments
after being shut down by order of the authorities, as this scenario is a risk the employer must bear. To remedy the financial burden, the employer may require its employees to compensate for past
overtime, or the company may apply for “short-time work compensation” (“Kurzarbeit”) to the cantonal authorities to mitigate the effects.
Can an employer order its employees to stay at home and deduct the time from his holiday time?
Employers are in principle allowed to decide when employees may take holidays. This applies unless otherwise agreed. It is important that the employer nevertheless takes the needs and wishes of
its employees into account as far as possible. The announcement of holidays must be made sufficiently in advance, with a period of three months. This also applies in the current situation. If it
is decided at short notice that the employee must stay at home, this cannot be deducted from the holidays.
Please note that this article is written based on the current situation (01.04.2020) and the legal situation may change depending on the future measures of the government.