Reader question: Will my Swiss employer pay for energy costs when I work from home?
With energy prices in Switzerland going up, and set to increase even further, working from home this winter could become quite expensive. We explore whether your employer has to contribute to the costs.
In September, the government confirmed that Swiss electricity prices will rise sharply in 2023.
“A typical household will pay 26.95 centimes per kilowatt hour, which corresponds to an increase of 27 percent”, authorities said. “However, the differences can be much greater at the local level”.
Indeed, one provider in western Switzerland, Romandie Energie, called the upcoming increases “historical”, with tariffs for parts of Vaud, for instance, rising “by between 49 percent for the vast majority of our household customers, and 61 percent for customers with specific modes of consumption” — meaning those who use a lot of energy.
Substantial increases — between 42 and 46 percent — will also hit Basel residents, as well as those living in Zug (39 percent).
In other parts of the country, hikes will be more in line with the government’s announcement: about 22 percent in Geneva, and 26 percent in Zurich and Lausanne.
All this adds up to higher costs for homeowners and tenants alike, and is sure to impact anyone working from home: not only because premises must be heated, but energy must also be used to power up computers and mobile phones.
Will your employer shoulder all (or at least some) of these costs, or must you pay yourself?
It all depends on who you work for.
To answer this question, Swiss media asked several big companies — Coop, Migros, ABB, SBB, Swisscom, Roche, and Novartis — how they will deal with home office situations.
All said they have no plans to pay for this expense.
This is how one company, Novartis, explained this decision: “In principle, all Novartis employees in Switzerland have access to a fully equipped and heated workplace at one of our locations. Nobody is obliged to work from home if they don't want to”.
in other words, unlike during the Covid pandemic, when Switzerland introduced a home-working obligation for most employees, teleworking is now voluntary.
However, if you work for the federal administration, you will catch a break: you will be entitled to an annual lump sum to compensate for increased electricity consumption, along with some other additional costs — but only if there is no office available on site.
And “should the electricity costs rise sharply and the flat rate no longer cover the expenses incurred, the amount of the flat rate would be checked," a spokesperson for the government said.
What does the law say?
In principle, Swiss legislation requires that employers contribute to energy and other costs incurred by their home-working employees only if the company doesn’t provide a permanent workspace.
If, however, there is an office for you to work at but you choose to tele-work instead, your employer is not liable to cover any of your costs.