Employees in Switzerland generally have to provide a medical certificate if they are off work for more than two days, although this timeframe is not specified by law. Some employers want a certificate from the first day you are absent while others will not require you to provide a certificate for minor illnesses.
Getting a medical certificate in Switzerland generally means visiting a doctor’s surgery and paying a fee – around 65 Swiss francs (€57) in Zurich, according to Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger.
Employees are responsible for paying that cost.
But German firm AU-Schein.de is now offering (German-speaking) workers in Switzerland these certificates via WhatsApp for just €9.
To obtain a certificate, people simply have to answer a series of questions from a virtual doctor about their symptoms. If their replies suggest they are ill, a medical certificate is provided via WhatsApp.
A sample medical certificate provided by German firm AU-Schein.
At present, the service is limited to people with common colds and patients are given a maximum of three days away from work. But the plan is to extend the offer to other illnesses.
To stop people abusing the system, individual users can, in theory, only access the service twice a year. But it is up to users to declare this is the case.
News of the service hasn’t gone down well with the Swiss medical establishment.
The head of e-health with the Swiss Medical Association (FMH) warned the service did not meet “quality standards” and that there were data protection issues involved.
Meanwhile, Swiss Employers Confederation spokesperson Daniella Lützelschwab said that employers generally have a great deal of trust in employees when it comes to absences because of minor health issues.
But she said the WhatsApp model could jeopardise this relationship of trust, with medical certificates provided in this way not necessarily meeting the needs of employers.
In cases where employers have sufficient grounds to question a doctor’s certificate provided by a member of staff, they can send that person to another doctor.
However, doctors are bound by professional confidentially. This means any doctor’s certificate you provide to your Swiss employer only needs to specify your fitness to work, and not what illness or condition your may be suffering from.