Swiss labour law: If I miss work to get vaccinated, will I still get paid?
Switzerland has strict labour laws, but leaving the workplace to get your coronavirus shots is still a grey area.
Covid-19 vaccination programme is unprecedented in Switzerland — and elsewhere in the world, for that matter — so the legislation has not yet caught up with all the challenges involved in scheduling the jab, which is not always feasible outside of work hours.
Whether you will be paid for missed work may depend, in short term, on your employer, and in the longer term, on how the law handles this matter.
Under the current law, the employer is responsible for the “protection of health” of employees.
It is unclear, however, whether vaccination during employment hours falls under the 'health protection' category. But what is clear is that the legislation entitles workers to paid hours or days off in the event of medical emergency, a visit to a doctor, or other important health matters.
Even so, this rule seems to be open to interpretation.
Some large Swiss companies, including Swiss Post, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and Migros, ask employees to make an appointment for the vaccine outside of their working hours, according to a report by RTS public broadcaster.
“The time required for a vaccination is not ‘working time’, that is, it is not considered the same way as an appointment with a doctor or dentist", the Post’s spokesperson Laurent Savary told RTS.
However, according to labour law expert Rémy Wydler, this position has no legal basis.
Even though no article of law relates specifically to the current inoculation campaign. "the time devoted to vaccination can be considered as working time and therefore paid, because Covid is a health emergency and vaccination is in the public interest”.
The employer must also “consider the fact that appointments for the vaccination can be difficult to obtain ", and not always possible to schedule after work, he added.
For trade unions too, “it is obvious” that time taken off work to get the shot should be compensated, according to Dominique Gigon, head of Syndicom, a union that represents postal workers.
“The Post’s the message to its employees is catastrophic”, he said.
"Telling people who have worked every day, even during strict confinement, that they must be vaccinated outside of their work hours, is obviously very badly received ", Gigon added.
One way to solve this problem may be to offer shots in the workplace, which would make it unnecessary for employees to ‘waste’ time going off-site for their vaccinations.
This idea is being slowly implemented in some companies in the Swiss-German part of Switzerland, but it has not yet become widespread.
Interestingly, if you get your Covid vaccine at a medical practice, as is the case with the flu shot, then your absence would be considered as doctor's visit and paid.
By the same token, if you get your shot outside of work hours but then develop some side effects from the vaccine and don't feel well enough to go to work, your absence will be compensated by the employer as well.
In the meantime, find out what your company policy is on this matter. It may abide by the general spirit of the employment law in deeming vaccination, especially in the context of pandemic, on the same terms as other health emergencies.