04 September 2020

FAQs: Covid 19 and quarantine

  • Articles
  • Legal
  • Employment / Immigration
  • Health / Life Sciences

The quarantine obligation related to the coronavirus creates challenges and raises questions for employers and employees both. We answer the most important questions concerning labour law.

Post no longer relevant due to relaxation of COVID measures, but still relevant for issues related to the past.


Q: An employee spends his summer vacations in a "risk area" and has to go into quarantine upon his return. Is he entitled to a salary during the quarantine?

A: In general, also for the questions hereafter the following applies: as long as the employee is able to do his work remotely from home, he is entitled to a salary. However, if the employee goes on a vacation to a "risk area" and cannot work from home, no salary needs to be paid. The employee may even have to expect sanctions. Similarly, the employee is not entitled to compensation for loss of income.

Q: Does this also apply to employees who go to a "risk area" due to an emergency, e.g. to visit a dying relative?

A: No, in this case the absence from work is due to personal circumstances of the employee and he is not at fault. Therefore, we consider the employer's risk that the salary is owed even during the quarantine to be high.

Q: Can an employer forbid an employee to go on vacation to a "risk area"?

A: The employer's right to give instructions only rarely extends to the private life of the employee. Under normal circumstances, the employer can therefore not forbid an employee to travel to a "risk area". However, the employee must be aware of the consequences if he does so. If the employer has good reasons and would urgently need the employee and therefore a quarantine would be very disadvantageous for him, in extreme cases even a termination without notice may be justified if the employee travels to a "risk area" anyhow - without having good reasons for doing so (booked vacations are not good reasons).

Q: An employee spends his summer vacation in a country which is not classified as a "risk area" by the FOPH. However, the employer wants to be safe and declares a quarantine on return. Is the employee entitled to a salary?

A: Yes, in such cases the employee is entitled to a salary because quarantine is not mandatory and ordered by the employer.

Q: An employee travels for vacations to a country which initially is not classified as a "risk area". During the stay this changes and the federal government classifies the country as a "risk area", so the employee has to be quarantined after his return. Is he entitled to a salary?

A: The answer to this question is controversial and only a court decision will clarify this. In our opinion, the risk in such cases lies with the employee and the employer is not obliged to continue to pay the salary.

Q: An employee must travel to a "risk area" for business. May the employer oblige the employee to do such a business trip?

A: An assessment of interests must be made. On the one hand, the interests of the employer must be considered: how important is this business trip, can it not be postponed, are video conferences possible? On the other side of the assessment of interests is the health of the employee. It must be considered whether the employee is particularly at risk, i.e. due to previous illnesses. Moreover, not every country/region on the federal risk list is equally affected. It also plays a role which activities are pending during the business trip and which tasks the employee has in general. A global answer is not possible. One thing is certain: during the quarantine after returning home, the employer owes the salary.

Q: Is an employer allowed to forbid employees to visit a club at weekends?

A: Again, the employer's right to pass directives only extends to the private life of the employee in very rare cases. In general, the same applies as for the question whether an employer may forbid vacations in a "risk country" (see above): under normal circumstances this is not possible.

Q: An employee visits a club at the weekend and it is verifiable that a person infected with Covid was present as well. He must be quarantined. Is he entitled to a salary?

A: The answer to this question is controversial. Often a distinction is made as to whether or not the employee has taken the necessary precautions despite visiting the club. In our opinion, however, even if the employee has acted cautiously, there is a high risk that no salary will be paid, as this risk is not carried by the employer, but by the employee.

Q: Can an employer give notice to an employee who has to be quarantined because of a club visit?

A: Yes. In Switzerland, the principle of freedom of termination applies. This means that an employer does not need a reason for giving notice to an employee. The termination simply must not be abusive. Whether it is, can only be determined in individual cases.