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EXPLAINED: What are the rules of Switzerland’s obligation to work from home?

After months of recommendations, the Swiss government made working from home mandatory. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules of Switzerland’s obligation to work from home?
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From Monday, January 18th, working from home will be mandatory in Switzerland. 

The new rules require everyone who can work from home to do so all across Switzerland. 

“From Monday, working from home will become compulsory… ” the government said.

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current coronavirus measures?

Prior to the announcement, only the canton of Thurgau has put in place such a requirement. 

The rule will stay in place until the end of February at this stage but can be extended.

Who must work from home? 

Put simply, anyone who can work from home is obligated to work from home under the new rules. 

So while bakers will still be permitted to go into the bakery, most office jobs will now be done from home. 

Where this would require a complex technical set up to be installed at home, workers will be permitted to head into the office. 

Government employees are included and must work from home if possible. 

‘Everyday goods’: Which shops can stay open Switzerland from Monday? 

What if it is impossible? 

If remote working is not an option, then masks will be mandatory inside buildings, as soon as several people are present in the same room, even if the safety distances of 1.5 metres can be respected. 

Anyone wanting not to wear a mask must obtain a medical certificate from a doctor. 

But I don’t want to – can I just say no?

No. Not only is the law set in stone from Monday, but it is unlikely to be susceptible to a legal challenge. 

Roger Rudolph, an expert in labour law at the University of Zurich, told 20 Minutes that suing your boss or the government was unlikely to get you very far. 

“The passing of the working from home obligation is based on a solid legal basis,” he said

Can I charge my boss for rent and electricity? 

Nice try, but no. 

While there will be some potential to deduct the money spent for tax – and your boss will need to provide for certain specialised equipment – you are still responsible for paying your rent and utilities. 

READ: Why is Switzerland set to extend coronavirus measures? 

What does the government say? 

In making the announcement, the Swiss government said that it was important that everyone showed solidarity in the fight against the virus – including reducing contact as much as possible. 

“If we want to reduce the number of contacts over the next few weeks, we have to do everything we can to make working from home really feasible,” Health Minister Alain Berset said. 

Swiss President Guy Parmelin called the home office obligation a “decisive element in the slowdown in the number of cases.”

Member comments

  1. People have to work from home and stores are closed. Still I see foreign cars everywhere. Wouldn’t it make sense to close borders as well.

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For members


Reader question: Are Brits in Switzerland still banned from donating blood?

For many years, people coming from the United Kingdom were banned from donating their blood in Switzerland. This is what the situation is right now.

Reader question: Are Brits in Switzerland still banned from donating blood?

The ‘blood ban’ that extended to British citizens or those of any nationality who had lived in the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), was implemented for safety purposes.

The reason was the so-called mad cow disease (BSE), which was particularly rampant in Great Britain in the 1980s and 1990s.

Many people contracted and even died from the cattle-borne condition known scientifically as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.

It is believed that one in 2,000 people in the UK is a carrier of the disease. 

While most of them got BSE from eating contaminated beef, “experience tells us that the disease could be transmitted from human to human via blood”, according to a BBC report.

As a result, a number of governments, including the Swiss, prohibited people from the UK to donate blood.

However, this rule is no longer in force in Switzerland.

According to Geneva’s university hospital (HUG), which is a member of the national blood transfusion network Blutspende and follows the same rules, only people who had lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996 for more than six months at a stretch still can’t donate blood.

This is a period when the BSE outbreak was at its worst in the UK.

If you had lived in Great Britain prior to or after that date, you can safely donate your blood.

Have there been any BSE cases in Switzerland?

About 465 cases had been reported in Switzerland between 1990 and 2020, with less than 20 deaths.

There are still isolated cases of BSE throughout Europe, but they are no longer a cause for as much concern as previously.

Can everyone donate blood in Switzerland?

Gay men are still not allowed to do so.

Under Swiss law, any man who has had sex with another man is prevented from donating blood for 12 months — the legislation was introduced during the the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, while the 12-month rule was introduced in 2017.

However, in March 2020, the National Council’s Commission for Social Security and Health said the rule was “no longer appropriate” and filed a motion to rescind it. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to clear way for gay and bisexual men to donate blood

Who else is prevented from donating blood?

According to Blutspende, these medical and other conditions disqualify people from donating blood in Switzerland:

  • Positive test for HIV (AIDS), syphilis, hepatitis C and hepatitis B
  • Prostitution
  • Past or present drug use by injection
  • Blood transfusion after 01.01.1980

These reasons could be a cause for deferral though not an outright ban:

  • Stay during the past six months in a region where malaria is endemic, without any health problem (in case of illness with fever, tell the doctor at the blood donation centre).
  • Suffering from a sexually transmitted disease during the past 12 months
  • Change of sexual partner during the past four months
  • Sexual intercourse with multiple partners during the past 12 months
  • Stay of six months or longer in the past 12 months in countries with a high HIV-prevalence

More information about blood donation in Switzerland can be found here.