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Holidays and cash: What ‘vaccination bonuses’ are Swiss companies giving their employees?

Holidays and cash: What 'vaccination bonuses' are Swiss companies giving their employees?
Some companies offer perks for getting vaccinated. Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP
Employers in Switzerland can’t force their workers to get inoculated, but some are offering lucrative perks.

Vaccination is not compulsory in Switzerland. With the vaccination rate lagging behind that of most comparable countries, some companies have decided the carrot is better than the stick when encouraging their workers to get the jab.  

Given that Covid-related illness and absence can cost companies considerable amounts of money, several are getting on the front foot to make sure their workers – and their livelihoods – are protected. 

UPDATED: Can you be fired in Switzerland if you refuse the Covid-19 vaccine?

These vaccination enticements range from time off to money.

What bonuses are Swiss companies giving their employees to get the jab?

For instance, Swiss fashion retailer Tally Weijl is giving its employees two days off: one day to get the shot and another as a reward.

“It is very important to us that our employees protect our customers and themselves as well as possible against the coronavirus through a vaccination,” said company’s CEO Beat Grüring. Tally Weijl employs 635 people across Switzerland.

Some companies opt for monetary rewards.

The 200-franc bonus is on the table — literally and figuratively — until the end of October for the employees of Swiss Casinos, a group that operates casinos in Zurich, St. Gallen, and Schaffhausen.

“We have experienced a lockdown twice in the last two years and had to close the company,” said managing director Marc Baumann.

“We definitely want to prevent that” from happening again, he added.

The Utz industrial group from Aargau will also give 200 francs to any employees who get the second shot by September 20th.

A letter sent from Utz’s management to the 250 employees noted that “it is very important to achieve a high vaccination rate in the company — this protects our employees from infection and keeps the production up and running”.

And Carsten Diekmann, the head of the Utz Group in Switzerland, pointed out that vaccinating as many employees as possible is not only a smart health decision, but it also makes business sense.

“The more employees are vaccinated, the less likely it is that large numbers will fall ill or have to be quarantined.”

Does the bonus strategy make sense for companies?

Yes, according to Rudolf Minsch, chief economist at Economiesuisse, an umbrella organisation for Swiss businesses.

“It can be extremely costly for a company to have its employees in quarantine. That is why many companies have a great interest in their workforce being vaccinated”, he said.

The compensation scheme comes as a relatively low vaccination rate in Switzerland — lower than across the EU — sparks worries among health officials as hospital ICU units are on the verge of being overcrowded.

READ MORE: Why does Switzerland have the most Covid-related ICU patients in Europe?

Just as some employers use the bonus system to entice people to get jabbed, two Swiss cities have adopted an innovative approach to get reluctant residents to roll up their sleeves.

As part of its inoculation campaign, Zurich will administer vaccines in a tramway, on a line usually taken by a train collecting bulky waste in the city.

And in order to get young people to get their shots, Lausanne sent a mobile unit on the weekend of September 3rd and 4th to the city’s Flon district, one of the favourite nighttime hangouts of young people.

Municipal authorities said 120 people got vaccinated during that time.

READ MORE: Jab nightclubs and vaccine trams: How Swiss cities innovate to get people vaccinated


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