We spoke with Geneva-based lawyer Renuka Cavadini from Page & Partners to discuss your rights at work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the start of July, several outbreaks in nightclubs across Switzerland has cast doubt on the course of action taken by the government in relaxing the coronavirus lockdown measures.
As reported by Swiss media outlet 20 Minutes on July 7th, some employees in Switzerland are concerned that their boss might take action if they attend a nightclub, go to a protest or take a vacation to an area deemed ‘high risk’.
With the newly implemented compulsory mask requirement as well as mandatory quarantines, we also wanted to know if a boss can legitimately dismiss someone for failing to wear a mask.
But can your boss actually prevent you from engaging in ‘risky’ activities in your private life?
The Local Switzerland: Is it possible for your employer to take action against you in Switzerland if you go to a nightclub or if you refuse to wear a mask?
Renuka Cavadini from Page & Partners: Your employer cannot tell you how to spend your free time.
The wearing of a mask at work is only required if the type of profession you have (e.g. beautician, hairdresser) requires the compulsory wearing of a mask or if your employer has imposed it to comply with the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health.
If you do not wear a mask in public transport you will not get fired.
The National Corona Task force has recommended avoiding nightclubs as a source of infection. However, the employer has no right to tell the employee what to do in his/her free time.
In order for an employer to be able to terminate an employee for fault because of Covid contamination in a nightclub, it would have to be proved by the employer that the employee was negligent and got contaminated in a nightclub and not in a restaurant or in public transport.
Moreover, the sharing of the list of participants of a nightclub with the employers of the clients would be a violation of data protection.
Forbidding the employee from attending a protest would clearly be contrary to Swiss law.
Can your boss tell you where to holiday? Photo by Erica Zhao from Pexels
What about if you plan to travel to a high risk region like Sweden or Serbia? Can they fire you? Or can your employer tell you to avoid nightclubs or travel?
The employer cannot prevent you from travelling on your vacation, but if you travel and cannot make it back to work at the end of your vacation days, (borders close, quarantine etc) the employer does not need to continue paying your salary.
Whether the employer can fire you for not retuning to work on time or not needs to be determined on a case by case basis…
Cavadini also elaborated the question of what happens if you are forced to quarantine on your return to Switzerland.
Practically this means that depending on the situation of the pandemic, the quarantine rule within countries can change during the summer holidays.
If you are an employee and are unable to return to Switzerland or are put in quarantine on your return, preventing you from returning to work, your absence will not be excused.
The employer will therefore be entitled to not pay your salary during these days of absence.