Coronavirus: Will Switzerland introduce a working from home obligation?

Switzerland’s Health Minister has proposed a working from home obligation. If approved, the measure will apply until January 20th.

Coronavirus: Will Switzerland introduce a working from home obligation?
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has put forward a proposal to oblige people to work from home in Switzerland, if their work allows them to do it. There is however no guarantee the measure will be approved due to some political opposition. 

According to a draft plan viewed by Swiss tabloid Blick, all employees in the country should “fulfil their work obligations as far as possible from home”. 

Switzerland set to tighten coronavirus measures until Christmas: reports 

The law compels employers to take “the appropriate organisational and technical measures” in order to let their employees work from home. 

According to Berset, “working from home is no longer just a recommendation of the BAG, but there is now an obligation to work from home, as far as this is operationally possible.”

If approved, the rule would come into effect immediately and stay in place until January 20th, with the ultimate goal of reducing infection rates in the lead up to Christmas and New Year. 

‘Goes too far’?

Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis has opposed the measure, saying it “goes too far” and feared it would open “up possible claims – either against the employer or against the federal government”.

“It would be fatal to impose additional costs on companies in the current situation,” said Cassis. 

Blick reports that Berset sought to implement a similar measure in October, however his efforts were defeated. 

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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