Coronavirus: What the gradual easing means for employers

On April 16, the Federal Council announced the gradual easing of the measures put in place to combat coronavirus. The curve has flattened, but COVID-19 continues to have a strong impact on society and the economy and the number of cases continues to rise. The Confederation is proposing an easing of the measures in three stages for the moment. But what does the easing of measures look like and what does it mean for the world of work and especially for employees at high risk?

The stages of the corona easing process

From April 27, DIY stores, hairdressers' shops and other shops offering personal services can reopen. In addition, hospitals can resume normal activity and outpatient medical practices can also reopen. From May 11, other shops and compulsory schools should then be able to reopen. Secondary schools, libraries, museums and zoos are expected to reopen on June 8. Developing a hygiene and safety concept that protects employees and customers is a basic prerequisite for reopening. Restaurants will remain closed for the time being and no major events will be held. However, depending on how the situation develops and on the state of the health system, the measures may become more strict again and the specific dates may change.

Measures in everyday office life

For now, the easing of measures will not change anything for the conventional everyday office routine. Wherever possible, people should work from home. On the one hand, this will relieve the still limited public traffic, on the other hand it will reduce the number of contacts. Until further easing of the situation follows, video conferences and working from home are therefore still the order of the day. If this is not possible, hygiene and safety measures will continue to apply: Wash your hands frequently, sneeze and cough in the crook of your arm or in a tissue, do not shake hands, keep a distance of two meters and do not meet more than four people. For the time being, the Federal Council does not require masks, as the masks do not provide sufficient protection against infection and the health system is dependent on the medical material. However, the Federal Council will decide on the compulsory wearing of masks in individual professions and will communicate accordingly. Travel abroad is also still not possible for the moment, as the borders remain closed.

Risk groups: Rights and duties of people at especially high risk

The Federal Council explicitly calls for employees to be protected when the measures are eased. People at high risk continue to require special protection due to the increased risk of a possible corona infection. The risk group includes people over 65 years of age and people with previous illnesses (high blood pressure, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, immunodeficiency diseases/therapies, cardiovascular diseases and cancer).

People at high risk are particularly encouraged to stay at home and avoid contact with others. They have a duty to inform the employer personally about the risk. Employers can ask for a medical certificate, but they are encouraged to show goodwill. They should also allow employees who are particularly at risk to work from home and are obliged to inform their employees about the protective measures. If working from home is not possible, the employer must ensure that people at especially high risk are able to comply with the protective measures. If neither of these is possible, employees who belong to the risk group are entitled to paid leave.

Further information on this can be found in the provisions of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) under the relevant section:

Summary and tips:

  • From April 27, DIY stores, hairdressers, personal service businesses and outpatient medical practices can reopen. Employers in the relevant sectors should develop a plan for the protection of employees and customers or patients right now and start implementing it.
  • From May 11, this is expected to apply to other businesses.
  • Until further notice, offices will work from home, using video conferencing and online tools.
  • In the event of exceptions, hygiene and protective measures will continue to count.
  • There is still no obligation to wear masks. Occupation-specific regulations are being examined.
  • People at especially high risk should inform their employers about the risk and must be given appropriate protection or paid leave.
  • Stay at home and avoid contact so that normality can return as soon as possible.

Disclaimer: The information refers to the measures concerning COVID-19 communicated by the Federal Council on 16.04.2020. Regularly review the measures communicated by the Confederation and follow them. If you have medical concerns, contact medical professionals and get legal advice if labor law issues arise.

Author: Doris Fink