Switzerland: Can your employer ask if you are vaccinated?
While vaccination is voluntary in Switzerland - even on the basis of your profession - can your employer ask you if you are vaccinated?
Countries around the globe, including some of Switzerland's neighbours, have put in place compulsory vaccination rules for people in certain professions.
This has not taken place in Switzerland, with employees having the right to refuse to be vaccinated in most cases.
But what about simply asking if you have had the vaccine - and to prove it?
Can your boss ask you to prove your vaccination status in Switzerland?
As it currently stands, this is a bit of a legal grey area - although it will in part depend on your employer and the type of work you do.
According to official government advice, "your employer is only allowed to ask if you have been vaccinated if you are in specific situations where a vaccination may be required as part of your work".
As we covered in our article on whether your boss can require you to have the jab, there are a lot of underlying factors.
For instance, state-run or public establishments in Switzerland can’t decide to hire only those who have been vaccinated or fire those who haven't, as this would be against the law.
However, private companies have a bit more leeway in this area.
They “can make a distinction between vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees, especially for those who pose a security risk through frequent contact with other people”, said Daniella Lützelschwab, a representative of an employers’ association.
Lützelschwab added that a company could decide to transfer unvaccinated employees to another location, where they are not in contact with other workers.
However, if relocation is not possible, the employer “must give an employee a deadline within which they should get vaccinated”.
If he or she still refuses, the company can dismiss them, on the grounds that they don’t support the employer in implementing health protection measures in the workplace.
Therefore, in this case, your employer would also be allowed to ask you to prove your vaccination status. This could be through showing your Covid certificate.
How common is this in Switzerland?
Swiss media reports that some companies in Switzerland are already putting this question to their employees.
Severin Schwan, the CEO of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, told the Tages-Anzeiger that he is in favour of this practice, because knowing who has had the shots “would allow vaccinated employees to work without having to wear a mask in the workplace”.
Other Swiss firms also ask their staff to present vaccination certificates.
At Hamilton, a company that manufactures respirators and laboratory robots in Bonaduz (GR), department heads are responsible for verifying the certificates. Vaccinated employees are exempt from protective measures, while those who are not, must continue to wear a mask and respect safety distances, according to the Tages-Anzeiger.
The newspaper reported that similar practices also exist in small companies which employ just a few people.
“Vaccinated people can move around freely without a mask, unlike unvaccinated people who must wear them at all times. But there is no need to check the certificates: everyone knows each other and knows who received their two doses”.
What do trade associations and unions say about this practice?
The Swiss Employers’ Association and Swissmem, the umbrella group for the machinery industry, both support the right of employers to ask for Covid certificates if the number of infections in the workplace increases. They justify this move as a way to avoid further shutdowns.
However, Hans-Ulrich Bigler, president of the Arts and Crafts Union (USAM), argues that treating vaccinated and vaccinated workers differently “would create tension among employees, which would be completely counterproductive for the company and the work climate”.
Even though nobody in Switzerland can be forced to be vaccinated against their will, several MPs are saying employees in certain industries should only be allowed to work if they can prove that they have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid.
Among them are healthcare workers, teachers, daycare employees, and others whose jobs bring them in close contact with the public.
Some deputies have even suggested drastic measures to encourage employees to get the shot.
MP Jürg Grossen says unvaccinated workers in hospitals, elderly care homes and daycare centres “should wear stickers that show whether they have been vaccinated or not".
A number of politicians don’t see an ethical problem in this approach.
"An extensive certificate requirement doesn’t discriminate against unvaccinated people. Rather, it is a necessary act of solidarity”, said deputy Lorenz Hess.