Switzerland: Can your employer prevent you from attending nightclubs or travelling abroad?

With restrictions snapping back into place across Switzerland, we spoke with a legal expert to find out whether or not your boss can take action if you attend a nightclub, protest or if you travel to a ‘high risk’ area.

Switzerland: Can your employer prevent you from attending nightclubs or travelling abroad?
Your employer can't prevent you from hitting the club. Photo by Jerome Govender from Pexels

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.

READ: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's new compulsory mask requirement 

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.

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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