Coronavirus: what are my rights?

Due to the current situation and the spread of the new coronavirus, more and more legal questions are arising for employees and working families: Here you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Covid certificate

On 17 February 2022, the certificate requirement was lifted in Switzerland. However, the certificate is required for travel activities outside of Switzerland depending on the regulations in these countries.

No pay? Not enough work?

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What should I do if I suspect I have coronavirus?

  • I think I am infected. What should I do?

    Call your physician and he / she will make an initial diagnosis and tell you what to do. You are not obliged to disclose medical diagnoses to your employer – however, if you are infected with coronavirus, we recommend you to inform your boss so he / she can take the necessary protective measures.

  • The physician is overworked, I am still without a medical certificate after 4 days. What now?

    Inform your boss – preferably in writing – that because of the special situation, you have unfortunately not yet obtained a medical certificate, but that you will provide one as soon as possible. Explain to your employer that the authorities recommend that, in the exceptional crisis situation, he should only request a doctor's certificate from the 5th day of absence from work – this is in order to prevent overloading the healthcare system.

  • Can my employer dismiss me because I am a person at especially high risk?

    Unfortunately, he can, in fact, give you notice. However, this dismissal is abusive. He will owe you compensation of up to 6 months' wages. You must protest against this in writing to your employer within the notice period.

  • I am leaving my job for fear of infection. What are the risks?

    If you are not instructed to do so by the authorities, you risk being accused of an unjustified refusal to work – you will then lose your entitlement to payment of your wages. What is more, your employer can dismiss you without notice after a warning, and even claim compensation of up to 25 percent of your monthly wages.

    However, if your fears are justified (for example, because your employer does not comply with his obligation to protect the health of the employees), you have the right to refuse to work. Your employer must then continue to pay you your wages. Before taking this step, though, point out to your boss that there is an irregularity and that he should rectify it quickly. It is best to do this in writing or in the presence of colleagues. If your boss fails to respond, you can then refuse to work. However, we recommend that you get together with work colleagues and / or involve your union, because if a dispute arises, your grievance would still have to be proven. You can also call in the Cantonal Labour Inspectorate, which may sanction your employer.

    Addresses of the Cantonal Labour Inspectorates (in German).

  • I have recovered from Covid-19, but according to the doctor I am still contagious and have to stay at home. Will the daily sickness benefit insurance continue to pay?

    Yes. As long as your doctor continues to issue a medical certificate and you are unable to work, you will continue to receive daily sickness benefit.

  • I am in self isolation. Am I entitled to compensation for loss of earnings?

    If you yourself are ill and are issued with a medical certificate, you are entitled to continued payment of wages or daily sickness benefit – as is usual in the case of illness – provided that your employer has taken out corresponding insurance for you.

    If you are not ill yourself but have been placed in quarantine by the authorities or by a doctor due to contact with a person who has tested positive, you are entitled to compensation for loss of earnings during the corona crisis. If you self-isolate without official instructions or a medical certificate, you are not entitled to compensation.

Protection of health in the company - what is your boss allowed to do?

  • So that fewer people are in the office at the same time, my boss has reduced working hours - and now wants to pay me less wages. Is that possible?

    No, he is not allowed to do that. Your boss does indeed have a duty to protect your health, but it is inacceptable to make you foot the bill for this. You retain your right to your current wages.

  • In our company, we continue to work at home on the orders of the boss. What needs to be considered?

    The Labour Code, which regulates health protection at the workplace, also applies to the home office.

    • Your boss must organize the work appropriately and provide the necessary working tools.
    • The provisions on working hours and rest periods also remain unchanged when working at home – it is essential that the boundary between work and leisure time is maintained.
    • Employees with childcare and similar responsibilities are entitled to special consideration for their needs in order to combine family and working life.

Childcare – staying at home, when and how?

  • What do I do if my child is sick and I have to stay at home?

    For children up to the age of 15, you can take at least 3 days off work at a time upon presentation of a medical certificate. Due to your legal obligation to look after your child, you may be able to take longer. However, only if the care of the child cannot be delegated because, for example, there is a serious illness that makes parental care necessary. The obligation to continue to pay wages based on Art. 324a OR applies. 

Company closure, short-time working, continued payment of wages

Unemployment – obligations towards ALK [Unemployment Insurance Fund] and RAV [Regional Employment Office]

  • My employer has registered short-time working – and has dismissed me anyway. Is he allowed to do that? Will I now only receive 80 percent of my wages during the notice period?

    Yes, he can – because unfortunately he is not prohibited from giving notice, even if short-time working has been registered. But your employer is no longer allowed to claim short-time working compensation for you, and he owes you your full wages during the period of notice.

  • I have a new job; now the boss wants to give me notice even before I start work.

    As soon as the employment contract has been accepted by both parties – in writing or verbally – it is valid and must be adhered to. If your new boss wants to give you notice even before you start your job, he can. However, he has to observe the notice period, and during this period he owes you 100 percent of your wages. Notice periods apply in accordance with the Swiss Code of Obligations, in so far as no CEC (Collective Employment Contract) is applicable or no other differing contractual notice periods have been agreed.

Fixed-term and temporary employees, working on call

  • I am employed for a fixed term on an hourly wage. Will my wages be paid if there are no assignments?

    In principle, yes, your employer owes you wages, even if he does not call on your services, regardless of whether you work for an hourly wage on a permanent or temporary basis. The only condition is that you have contractually stipulated working hours and that you do not work on call by the hour at your boss's discretion. Moreover, a contract can also be concluded verbally and even tacitly by corresponding behaviour (see work on call, below).

    If your working hours are regulated in this way, your wages are owed accordingly – even in the event of closure of the business. The right to make a claim for compensation for short-time working has not existed since September 1, 2020.

  • I am temporarily employed and my hirer company is closing down. Will I get paid?

    Yes, but not by the hirer company, but by the temporary employment agency that hired you under contract. This agency, and not the hirer company, must then also give notice of termination if necessary. In the case of permanent deployments, notice periods of 2 days (first 3 months) to 1 month (from the 7th month) apply. In the case of fixed-term deployments, the deployment contract is valid until the end date of the fixed term – the employee is entitled to receive wages until then.

  • I have been working on call, irregularly, on short notice. What will I get?

    If you have been working very irregularly and, like your boss, you were completely free to decide whether or not to carry out a deployment – then you are not entitled to a wage if your services are no longer called on.

    If, on the other hand, you have worked for a relatively constant amount of time over a lengthy period and you are no longer assigned work, you are entitled to a wage, because you could be confident that you could continue to work in this way. Your employer must give you notice of termination if he wishes to end your entitlement to wages – but you still have an entitlement to wages during the notice period.

    If your employer can unilaterally determine when you have to work, you are entitled to your average wage if your employer suddenly stops calling you to work. You are also entitled to your previous average wage during the notice period. Your average wage is your wage over the past 12 months, or possibly a shorter duration if the employment relationship has lasted for a shorter period of time.

  • Am I entitled to unemployment benefit when I work on call?

    Yes, if you have been employed in a company for at least 6 months on a permanent contract.

Overtime and holidays – what applies in times of corona?

  • Many colleagues are sick, and my boss is asking the rest to work overtime. Is he allowed to do that?

    If overtime is necessary for business reasons, you are obliged to work it as far as you are able to do so and it is reasonable. Urgent family obligations, for example, can make overtime unreasonable. Even in the case of the corona crisis, however, the employer must still comply with Labour Law (maximum working hours, rest periods).

  • My employer is demanding that we now compensate overtime - is that possible?

    In principle, you are not obliged to compensate overtime by free time, and your boss needs your consent for this anyway – unless it has been agreed in your employment contract or in the collective agreement that the employer can unilaterally order compensation.

    However, as an employee, you are exceptionally obliged to participate in overtime compensation if the overriding interests of the company so require. If your company has to close down or reduce work as a result of the corona crisis, this is likely to be the case, and overtime compensation is generally reasonable. (Art. 321 OR [Swiss Law of Obligations]).

  • I will soon be on holiday, but the trip is cancelled due to the pandemic situation. I want to postpone my holiday, but my boss refuses. Is he allowed to do that?

    Yes. Corona and the associated travel and leisure restrictions are not reason enough to thwart the purpose of the holiday. Ultimately, a court must decide in the event of a dispute. It would be different in the case of quarantine, necessary self-isolation or if you fall ill: Holidays cannot be counted here.

  • May I take holidays during short-time work?

    Yes, and you are still entitled to full wages for the holidays, as if there were no short-time working.

  • And if I take a holiday as an hourly-paid worker in short-time working, will I be paid any wages?

    If you receive an additional holiday allowance on top of your normal hourly wages, you will usually not receive any wages during your holidays. This also applies during short-time working, and you will not receive any short-time working compensation during your holidays, because you have been paid your wages for your holidays as a supplement to your hourly wage. For 4 weeks of vacation, the supplement is 8.33 percent.

  • If I am stuck during my vacation, will I receive my wages?

    It depends. If you are stuck in a place that is officially quarantined by the authorities, you are entitled to your wages. Without quarantine, however, you are not entitled to a wage – if you cannot return home from your vacation on time, you bear the risk yourself. This also applies, for example, if your airline no longer operates return flights to Switzerland until further notice.