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HEALTH

Swiss workers face increased physical risks

More than half of employed people in Switzerland are exposed to physical risks in the workplace, ten percent more than five years previously, according to figures released by the Federal Statistics Office this week.

Swiss workers face increased physical risks
Physical and mental risks at work can lead to ill health. Photo: Christopher Meredith

The Swiss Health Survey 2012, which assessed the impact of employment on mental and physical well-being, found that 52 percent of working people between 15 and 64 years old were exposed to at least three physical risk factors such as carrying heavy loads (33 percent), loud noise (25 percent) and toxic products (22 percent).

The figure, which marks a ten percent rise on 2007, relates mostly to those working in agriculture (87 percent) and construction (79 percent), although physical risks were also found in the service industries, transport, commerce and health and social work.

These people were two and a half times more likely to report a generally bad state of physical health compared to those who were not exposed to such risks.

As for mental health, the number of people fearing they will lose their job had not increased since 2007, remaining at 13 percent.

Such people are twice as likely to report psychological distress than those who feel secure in their jobs, according to the survey.

The survey also found that 46 percent of employed people in 2012 spent three quarters of their time or more working under significant pressure, a known risk factor for mental distress.

A lack of autonomy at work, another factor contributing to psychological problems, was found to affect more women than men in 2012 (37 percent versus 29 percent).

The survey also found that 19 percent of women and 16 percent of men had suffered discrimination or violence at work in 2012, such as intimidation, harassment and verbal abuse.

A total of 11,157 Swiss residents took part in the survey, both employed and self-employed.

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HEALTH

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad
 

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