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Switzerland: Considerations for human resource functions, responding to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Switzerland: Considerations human resource functions

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak this week was classified as a pandemic, and following that, there are increasing reports of companies implementing "split-operations,” mandatory home office for everyone or flexible work time models.


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Human resource professionals in Switzerland are confronted with a variety of questions about the organization’s rights and obligations in relation to its employees. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees and thus are legally obliged to take all necessary and appropriate measures to safeguard their employees’ health. To achieve this, the employer has an extended right to give instructions to employees. In considering these instructions, some of the more pressing questions are the following:

  • What general obligations do employers have to observe in relation to the virus and their workforce?
  • Does the employer need a pandemic plan?
  • Can employees be asked to work from home?
  • What if an employee does not show up at work because he / she is afraid of getting the virus on the commute or at work?
  • What happens if an employee has to look after children because schools / daycare centers are closed down by the authorities?
  • What if an employee is unable to return from vacation on time due to cancelled flights?
  • What happens if employees are under quarantine and therefore cannot come to work?
  • What happens if an employee becomes infected with the virus?
  • Can the employer impose travel restrictions?
  • Can employees be asked to take vacation, and can the employer close down the premises for a few weeks?
  • Can employees be asked to work overtime?
  • Can employers introduce short-time working and ask for compensation (Kurzarbeitsentschädigung) due to COVID-19?

Read a March 2020 report prepared by the KPMG member firm in Switzerland

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