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 working families: What applies if my child is sick? Can my employer force me into isolation (quarantine)? Do I still earn my full salary? Here you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

No pay? Not enough work?

Tell your employer what your rights are! Unia is providing you with Word letter templates here for you to download and customise.

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Questions and answers are being continually updated (in line with the measures and decisions currently being taken by the Authorities)

Who is at risk? What should I do if I suspect I have coronavirus?

  • Do I belong to the risk group?

    If you are 65 or older, then yes. Likewise, if you have pre-existing conditions such as chronic lung and respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. You also belong to the risk group if you are undergoing treatment that weakens the immune system. Pregnant women are also considered to be at especially high risk. (Art. 10b, Covid-19 Regulation 2)

    Federal Office of Public Health FOPH: New coronavirus: People at especially high risk

  • 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.

  • My General Practitioner is too busy, and I have still not obtained a certificate after 4 days – what should I do 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 belong to the risk group?

    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 the official protective measures), 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 been placed under quarantine. What compensation am I entitled to?

    Only those who are employed or self-employed and have compulsory AHV insurance at the time of the interruption of work are entitled to compensation. Age does not matter. In order to be able to claim compensation for loss of earnings, the quarantine must be ordered by a doctor or by the authorities; if in doubt, call your doctor. Your claims must then be made by you as an affected person.

    For the application form for loss of earnings compensation and further information.

  • I have recovered from Covid-19, but according to the doctor I am still contagious and I 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?

  • Can your employer order the workforce to be checked to see whether they have a fever?

    Yes. In view of the corona crisis, such a measure is indeed appropriate and proportionate. Your employer is obliged to take the necessary health protection measures - temperature monitoring is currently one of them (Labour Law Regulation 3, ArGV3).

  • Can my boss assign me to another place of work or to another activity?

    In principle, yes, but... - In exceptional cases, such as the corona crisis, your employer is allowed to ask you temporarily to do different work or to work at another place. However, this right of instruction is limited: the new work or the new place must be reasonable and may not violate your personal rights – which must always be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

    For example, if your boss assigns you a distant place of work that is not compatible with your family responsibilities, you could refuse the new place of work. However, try to reach an amicable agreement by discussing the matter.

  • 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. Instead, make your employer aware of the possibility of applying for short-time working as compensation for the reduced number of working hours.

  • Our company has now switched over to working at home. What needs to be considered?

    In times of a pandemic, working at home is strongly recommended wherever this is operationally possible. The Labour Code, which regulates health protection at the workplace, also applies to the home office. Your boss must organise 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.

  • My company is not complying with the measures required by the authorities. What should I do?

    Your employer is obliged to take all necessary measures to protect the health of employees. If your employer violates his duty of care, you and any colleagues who are also affected should notify your boss in writing of this irregularity and set a short deadline within which remedial action must be taken. Threaten to stop working otherwise. If the situation does not improve within the set deadline, employees can refuse to work, and your boss must continue to pay their wages. However, refusing to work is a relatively difficult measure, so it is advisable to contact the Cantonal Labour Inspectorate and seek advice from the union before taking any such action.

Childcare – staying at home, when and how?

  • How and where do I apply for compensation if I have to look after children?

    Anyone who is employed or self-employed as well as insured under AHV is entitled to compensation at the time of the interruption of gainful work. The claim must be made using the "Registration for corona loss of earnings compensation" form. The compensation must be registered with the responsible AHV compensation fund by the caring parent. If both parents are caring for the child, they can both register. However, the fund only pays one allowance because it is assumed that one person is usually needed for childcare, while the other person can work instead.

    The compensation fund transfers the compensation directly to the person who is entitled to it. If the employer continues to pay wages, the compensation will be paid to him. The right to compensation expires as soon as you have found a childcare solution or the measures to combat the coronavirus have been lifted. For self-employed persons, the entitlement ends when 30 daily allowances have been paid.

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

    You can take at least three days off work on presentation of a medical certificate, and, because of your legal obligation to take care of your child, even longer. However, you are obliged find another solution quickly, i. e., to organise third party child care. As long as third party child care has not been organised, your employer must continue to pay your wages for at least 3 days, and if necessary, a few days longer - assuming you do what is necessary to find third party child care as soon as possible (Article 324a OR [Swiss Law of Obligations]).

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

  • My company is closed as a result of the corona crisis. Will I receive my wages?

    Yes. If your employer has voluntarily decided to close the company, he is obliged to continue paying your wages. Likewise, if the company has to close due to an official decision, this falls under the operational and economic risk. However, your employer could register for short-time working.

    As of September 1, 2020, the Federal Council has decided to limit the right to compensation for reduced working hours.

  • What are the age limits for entitlement to short-time working compensation?

    Entitlement begins with the completion of compulsory schooling. The upper age limit is when you reach the normal AHV retirement age; the entitlement ends as soon as unemployment contributions are no longer paid, i. e. in the month following the 64th or 65th birthday respectively.

  • Does my boss need my consent for short-time working? Can I refuse?

    With short-time working, you will also only receive 80 percent of your previous wages. It is therefore essential that you give your consent so that your boss can register short-time working for you (Art. 33 para. 1, Art. 34 para. 1 AVIG [Unemployment Insurance Act]).

    You are entitled to refuse short-time working and insist on full pay. However, you will run the risk of your boss dismissing you for financial reasons. The pay gap of 20 percent resulting from short-time work is a painful burden for many employees - the trade union Unia is campaigning for full wage compensation.

  • I am on sick leave and my company is registering short-time working. Will I now get 100 percent of my wages (sick leave) or only 80 percent (reduced working hours)?

    In the event of illness, you are entitled to continued payment of your wages under the Swiss Law of Obligations or to daily sickness benefits, provided your employer has taken out appropriate insurance. Your employment contract or possibly the collective agreement will tell you what applies in your case.

    The continued payment of wages lasts for 3 weeks in the first year of service, after which your entitlement depends on a scale (which can be obtained from the Labour Court). In the case of total incapacity to work, 100 percent of the wages are owed. Daily sickness benefit insurance, for its part, usually pays 80 percent of the wages in the event of total incapacity to work, but for up to 720 days and not just for a few weeks as required under the Swiss Code of Obligations.

    You cannot be on sick leave and entitled to short-time working at the same time - if you are sick, you will not receive any short-time working allowance.

    Please note: There is no entitlement to continued payment of wages under the Swiss Code of Obligations for the first 3 months during the first year of service in permanent employment contracts, and in fixed-term employment contracts lasting less than 3 months.

    The Federal Council has decided to return to restricted claims to compensation for reduced working hours as of September 1, 2020.

  • Where can I find more detailed information on short-time working?

    You can find more information on loss of work related to the corona crisis on on the Unia unemployment fund website and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) website).

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.

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. In addition, the Federal Council has decided in the corona crisis that employees like you are now also entitled to compensation for short-time working.

  • 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 your employer terminates your employment contract.

    You also have a certain entitlement to unemployment benefit if your employment contract has not been terminated, but your services are no longer called on by your boss. In this case, there may be a creditable loss of working hours which entitles you to unemployment benefit. The prerequisite is that the employment relationship has lasted at least 6 months, and that you were regularly called on to work. The monthly deviations may not exceed 10 % or 20 %, depending on the length of your employment. In any case, you should register with the RAV [Regional Employment Office].

  • I have been working on call, but have no more assignments, so I am worried about my wages. What should I do?

    If, as an on-call worker, you no longer have assignments placed with you by your boss, we suggest the following procedure: first of all, make your boss aware that he is obliged to continue paying your wages if the conditions for this are met (see above). In addition, offer to continue to work for your boss, preferably in writing. Then inform your employer that he can also claim short-time working for you if the conditions are met (see above). If your boss refuses to register you for short-time working, then sign up at the Regional Employment Office (RAV) for unemployment benefit.

Overtime and holidays - what applies in times of corona?

  • 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]).

    However, if the company can claim short-time working due to the corona crisis, this reason does not apply.

  • Do I have to inform my boss if I have been in a risk area or have had contact with infected persons?

    Yes. You are obliged to inform your employer so that he can take the necessary protective measures (Art. 321a OR [Swiss Code of Obligations], duty of loyalty).

  • 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), with the exception of specific key areas such as hospitals, where the Swiss Federal Council has temporarily suspended maximum working hours and rest periods.

  • I will soon be on holiday, but the trip is cancelled, and the situation is not good in Switzerland either. 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 in a risk area 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.

Commute to work and public transport, business trips, cross-border commuters

  • Is my boss allowed to request business trips to risk areas? Is it possible to refuse?

    If your employment contract states that you have to travel on business and your boss asks you to do so, you must always comply with this - as long as the authorities have not issued a travel warning for the destination area. If there is a travel warning from the Department of Foreign Affairs (EDA), you can refuse to go on the business trip. Likewise, if you have health problems that are likely to worsen in the risk area; your employer is obliged to protect his employees (Art. 328 OR [Swiss Law of Obligations]).

    Quarantine obligation for those entering Switzerland (official list):