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EMPLOYMENT

What can my Swiss employer still demand now Covid rules have been scrapped?

On February 17th, Switzerland woke up to the nearly-forgotten reality without Covid certificates and (almost) no masks. This is what your boss can and cannot require you to do now.

What can my Swiss employer still demand now Covid rules have been scrapped?
Some companies may still require their employees to wear masks. Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels

The Federal Council has lifted a large part of the health measures, including the Covid certificate requirement. The mask mandate is also scrapped, except for public transport and health establishments.

But be careful in interpreting these decisions: just because they are no longer compulsory doesn’t mean private entities, including private employers, are legally bound to enact them.

Switzerland: Can your employer ask if you are vaccinated?

What it does mean is that the company you work for can decide, out of concern for the health and safety of employees and customers, to maintain one or more measures on their premises.

That’s because employers in Switzerland have a legal obligation to make the workplace safe for their employees.

A ‘safe workplace’ lends itself to a broad interpretation, ranging from ensuring that potentially hazardous equipment is not defective, to requiring employees to wear a mask to protect their colleagues.

What about the Covid certificate?

Here things are not as clear-cut.

The employer has, in principle, the right to require it, but only in certain circumstances, according to Thomas Geiser, professor of labour law at the University of St. Gallen.

This could be the case if you work with people at risk — either other employees or customers — so basically the same circumstances under which your boss might order you to wear a mask.  

Q&A: Everything you need to know about Switzerland relaxing Covid measures

This leads to another question: if an employee refuses to submit the Covid certificate, will they be able to work from home instead?

Legally, “the employer can’t require that any member of the staff works from home”, Geiser told Blick newspaper in an interview.

However, a company can transfer unvaccinated employees to another location, where they are not in contact with other workers or customers. If relocation is not possible, the employer “must give an employee a deadline within which they should get vaccinated”, according to Daniella Lützelschwab, a representative of an employers’ association.

If he or she still refuses, the company can dismiss them, on the grounds that they don’t support the employer in implementing health protection measures in the workplace.

Can vaccination be part of the employment contract?

Immunisation has never been compulsory in Switzerland, even if there have been sporadic discussions about the legal feasibility of a vaccine mandate. However, they never went far and there is very little likelihood of the issue being revived now.

Nevertheless, a private company can require proof of Covid vaccination from its future employees as part of the aforementioned obligation to provide a safe workplace.

UPDATED: Can you be fired in Switzerland if you refuse the Covid-19 vaccine?

What about testing?

According to the Federal Council, “the general recommendation for repetitive testing in companies will no longer apply and its funding will end”.

But if an employee presents symptoms that are consistent with a Covid infection, then the employer has not only the right, but also the obligation, to require testing, which will remain free for symptomatic people.

Can an employer in Switzerland refuse to hire unvaccinated people?

A company can also set up screening in its facility as part if its duty to provide a safe working environment.

It cannot, however, order asymptomatic employees to get a test that they will have to pay for themselves.

Is there anything else an employer is not allowed to do?

The only thing your boss cannot do (which is unrelated to the pandemic but a general rule) is discriminate against an employee based on gender, origin, religion, or sexual preference — or even ask questions related to these areas.

These links provide more information about the employer-employee rights and obligations:

Can an employer in Switzerland ask about an employee’s ethnic background?
 

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HEALTH

Can children be vaccinated without parental consent in Switzerland?

A vaccine-skeptic parent in Aargau was forced by a court to vaccinate her child. Whether for Covid or otherwise, what are the rules in Switzerland?

Can children be vaccinated without parental consent in Switzerland?

In late February, a Swiss court handed down an order requiring a mother to vaccinate her child against several childhood diseases including diphtheria. tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and pneumococci.

The mother, a vaccination sceptic who believed all forms of vaccination constitute bodily harm, was engaged in a dispute with the child’s father, who wanted the child vaccinated. 

On the basis of consultations with the child’s doctor, the Chamber for the Protection of Children and Adults in the Aargau Supreme Court dismissed the mother’s complaint.

Child vaccinations could only be avoided on doctor’s advice, the court held, saying the studies and arguments the mother produced “lacked evidence”. 

The court held she faced up to CHF10,000 in fines if she refused to have her child vaccinated. 

What are the rules in Switzerland?  

Do parents need to consent for their children to be vaccinated?

No. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset confirmed to parliament that parental consent is not required in order for children to be vaccinated, whether for Covid or otherwise. 

While some parents, particularly those who are sceptical about vaccines, may be dismayed by the decision, the position is valid in Swiss law.

READ MORE: How to register for the coronavirus vaccine in your Swiss canton

Children aged 12 and over can decide whether they want to be vaccinated, while parents can be compelled with fines to vaccinate their children under that age. 

Berset said minors from the age of 12 and up were “largely capable of judgement” and therefore can make their own decisions with regard to vaccinations, provided they are mentally healthy and conscious.

Where a child from the age of 12 satisfies this standard “no parental or legal guardian consent is required”.

Parents are only allowed to have a say on whether their child gets vaccinated if the child is incapacitated or otherwise unable to make the decision.

“Only if a child or a young person is incapable of judgment do the owners of parental authority have to give consent to the vaccination,” concludes Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health.

 

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