New Ways of Working

Explore and keep track of key legal and compliance considerations for multinational employers as new ways of working become increasingly embedded as the pandemic begins to recede. Learn more about the response taken in specific countries or build your own report to compare approaches taken around the world.

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01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

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Switzerland

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Swiss labour law, in particular the Swiss Code of Obligations, does not contain any specific rules regarding remote working. Remote working is governed by the general rules of labour law and, in particular, by the will of the parties to the employment contract (ie, employers and employees).

However, the Federal Act on the Statutory Principles for Federal Council Ordinances on combating the Covid-19 Epidemic (covid-19 Act) provided the Federal Council with a legal basis to implement remote working, should the need arise. The Federal Council made use of this provision and made remote working mandatory from 18 January 2021 to 26 June 2021 and again from 20 December 2021 onwards. In theory, mandatory remote working is set to end on 24 January 2022, but this measure could be extended if the Federal Council deems it necessary.

The remote-working obligation concerns all workers, provided that remote working was possible and did not lead to exorbitant costs. Employers are responsible for making sure that appropriate organisational and technical measures were in place.

Additionally, even between 26 June 2021 and 20 December 2021, when remote working was no longer obligatory, but rather merely recommended, an exception existed for employees at risk, including pregnant individuals and persons who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

It also should be noted that on 10 June 2021, a motion was introduced in Parliament that would enact provisions covering remote working (eg, definitions, scope and issues related to health and safety and work and rest periods); this motion has been sent to committee for an initial review.

In conclusion, except for the Federal Council's decree requiring remote working between January and June 2021 and from 20 December 2021 onwards, no specific legal provisions govern remote working in Switzerland. 

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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United States

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Yes, many states have passed laws that recognise remote-working arrangements. This includes laws concerning employee reimbursement of costs relating to remote work, workers’ compensation, tax, timekeeping and meal breaks, data privacy, and providing accommodation.  Because companies may be legally considered to be employers or “co-employers” of consultants and contractors, these rules may also apply to non-employees.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

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Switzerland

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Employers are required to respect the general Swiss data protection principles and rules. In particular, the Swiss Code of Obligations (SCO) states that the Federal Act on Data Protection (FADP) applies to the handling of employer personal data. The term "personal data" is defined as any information relating to an identified or identifiable person (individuals and companies).

Employers must ensure the security of the data they process. They must take appropriate organisational and technical measures to protect personal data against unauthorised processing or access, such as accidental or unauthorised destruction, loss, technical errors, falsification, theft, unlawful use, alteration, copying or any other undue processing. Moreover, employers also must control access and operations undertaken by employees.

One particularity of remote working is that employees' workstation and business data are located off sites. Meaning that third parties potentially could access this data.

To prevent data protection breaches, employers must institute appropriate technical and organisational measures and raise employee's awareness of data protection risks. These measures may include securing information systems, setting up authorisations and limiting access to concerned employees, and using a VPN. In addition, employees also should be made aware of the risks and procedures through in-house training and user manuals for the IT and security systems.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

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Data privacy rules vary from state to state. Remote work, in particular, raises issues where employers have less control over the working environment and employees are potentially accessing sensitive information in their home that they share with others.  Employers should ensure that employees working remotely can demonstrate that their location provides sufficient privacy, security, and safety to secure the confidentiality of the employee’s work, company information and materials.  Additionally, health-related data must be protected and employers should be required to protect trade secrets and other confidential data. Employers must also maintain reasonable security measures to protect sensitive personally identifying information. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

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Switzerland

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According to Swiss legislation, control or surveillance systems that are primarily intended to monitor the behaviour of employees are prohibited if they are detrimental to the health or well-being of employees. Health is understood in its broad sense and also includes mental health. There are no strict limits as to what surveillance is, but measures must always be proportional.

The European Court of Human Rights, whose Convention has been ratified by Switzerland, has laid down seven guiding principles for contracting states concerning legal surveillance of employees. These principles relate to information, the scope of surveillance, legitimacy of the reasons for surveillance, use of the least intrusive means, the consequences of surveillance, guarantees offered to employees and the principle of trust.

As an example, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which is the highest judicial authority in Switzerland, has ruled that it is unlawful for employers to install spyware without employees' knowledge to check whether they are using the internet for private purposes. In that case, the court held that the system was capable of exerting control over employees' behaviour, which is prohibited. It also held that the surveillance was disproportionate since the employer simply could have blocked access to certain websites.

The above-mentioned principles must also be complied with when it comes to remote working, which does not differ fundamentally from onsite working.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

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Monitoring and surveillance laws vary from state to state, and there are also, potentially, tort and criminal laws regarding invasion of privacy that must be considered where the employee has an expectation of privacy.  While audio or key-stroke monitoring may be minimally intrusive, video surveillance is almost always problematic. Some states require only one-party consent for audio monitoring, but others require that all the parties to a conversation consent to such monitoring.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

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Switzerland

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The SCO distinguishes between work equipment or materials and work expenses.

Work equipment and materials, such as phones or laptops, must be provided by employers when they are necessary to carry out the work. However, contracting parties can decide among themselves that employees will provide the work equipment or materials. In such a case, employees are entitled to an appropriate allowance, unless otherwise agreed upon. Work expenses, such as electricity, rent, a telephone or internet plan, generally must be borne by the employer, provided they are necessary to carry out the work. It is not possible to derogate from this rule to the detriment of employees, and employers cannot pass some or all of the costs to employees.

There are several possibilities when it comes to passing costs along to remote workers; employers can provide work equipment and materials or employees can use their own private devices. Instruments and materials that are used for both private and professional purposes are not deemed necessary, since it is considered that employees would have acquired these instruments or materials in any case, even if they are used professionally. This reasoning also applies to private furniture, at least when the exercise of the professional activity does not require the purchase of additional furniture.

Regarding expenses, (eg, rent for private office space or extra rooms), a distinction should be made between three cases: (i) forced remote working for the employee and the employer due to external circumstances (eg, covid-19); (ii) remote working imposed by the employer on the employee (eg, because there are no offices available for the employee); and (iii) remote working agreed upon between the employer and the employee for reasons of personal convenience.

In the first case, which usually occurs when there are extraordinary and unforeseeable circumstances, such as the covid-19 pandemic, the employer must reimburse the employee for expenses incurred to carry out work from home (eg, extra costs for business telephone calls). However, the employer does not have to pay employees’ fixed costs such as rent, internet or a private telephone package.

In the second case, expenses incurred to carry out work from home and which the employee usually does not incur must be borne by the employer. This opinion was followed by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which ruled in 2019 that an employer had to pay a portion of an employee's rent because it did not provide the employee with a workspace. This solution also should apply to remote working carried out at the request of the employer.

In the third case (when working from home is the employee's choice), the employer has the right to waive, in writing, compensation for expenses related to remote working, as the remote working costs result from the employee's choice and are not imposed by circumstances or by the employer.

In conclusion, the question of equipment and materials, as well as the question of expenses, depends on the will of the contracting parties and on the situation in which remote working is carried out. Therefore, a case-by-case examination is necessary to determine who bears remote-working expenses.

During the mandatory remote-working period decreed by the Swiss Federal Council from 18 January to 26 June 2021, employees were not entitled to any reimbursement of expenses, since mandatory remote working was a temporary injunction from the authorities. However, as the decree did not contain any provisions covering work equipment and materials, the general provisions of the SCO applied.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

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There is a patchwork of various state laws, either by judicial decision or statute, affecting expense reimbursement, particularly in instances involving mandatory remote work as opposed to remote work requested by the employee. Ascertaining expense reimbursement obligations is one of the most challenging aspects of implementing a compliant teleworking arrangement. Some states do not require reimbursement of work equipment, internet, etc, while others, such as California, do require reimbursement of “all necessary expenditures.”

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

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Switzerland

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Remote working has labour, social security and tax law repercussions for employees whose contractual place of work is Switzerland, but are resident in and work remotely from an EU border country. Issues related to remote working from outside the EU are not discussed.

First, regarding labour law, remote working creates a second place where employees carry out their activity. In the event of a dispute, the Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters provides that employees may initiate proceedings in the state where their employer has their residence or seat, or in the state where they habitually carry out that work. According to EU case law, an employee's residence can be considered their habitual place of work if they carry out 60% or more of their professional activity there. This criterion only can be excluded if it is shown that based on qualitative criteria, another place is the centre of employees' activities. Swiss case law is less specific than EU case law and only refers to the place where the centre of the activity is located.

Furthermore, remote working also can have repercussions on the law applicable to the contract. European Regulation 593/2008 on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I) indicates that the contract is governed by the law chosen by the parties. However, if a case is brought before a court in the EU, this legislation provides that the choice of the parties cannot override the mandatory employee protection rules applicable in the state where the employee habitually work. Therefore, there is a risk that the law applicable to the contract (eg, Swiss law) could be replaced by the law of the state in which an employee lives.

Second, concerning social security law, employees are usually subject to the social security system of the place where the activity is carried out.  Thus, if employees carry out the entirety of their activity in Switzerland, they are subject to Swiss social security. Conversely, if they perform their entire activity in the EU, they are subject to the social security system of that state. According to European Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems, if the activity is carried out in multiple states (eg, partly at the employer's Swiss offices and partly in their state of residence), employees are subject to the social security system of the state in which they reside if they carry out a substantial part (25% or more) of their activity there. Otherwise, employees are subject to the Swiss social security system.

Third, remote working also can have an impact on tax law. In general, taxation in Switzerland is based on residence. However, a person who has neither their residence nor a habitual abode in Switzerland nevertheless may be taxed based on an economic connection with Switzerland, such as the exercise of a gainful activity. Thus, employees who carry out their entire professional activity at home by working from home (outside Switzerland) would have to pay taxes in that state, as a condition for carrying out gainful activity in Switzerland is a physical presence in Switzerland. Employees who carry out part of their work abroad are taxed proportionally in Switzerland and the other states.

The covid-19 pandemic led to some derogations from the above principles. 

In terms of labour law, the widespread remote working connected to the covid-19 crisis is considered to be temporary and thus does not provide a basis for an employee’s state of residence to be considered their usual place of work. Consequently, employees who carry out a substantial part, or even all, of their professional activity by working from home due to covid-19 are not deemed to be habitually working from home within the meaning of the EU regulation, provided that this situation remains temporary.

In terms of social security law, the applicable system is not affected by covid-19-related restrictions. Switzerland has agreed with neighbouring countries that an increase in the time spent by employees of a Swiss company in their state of residence due to the increase in remote working shall have no impact on social security. A flexible application of social security rules has been agreed upon with Germany, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein and is effective until 30 June 2022. For France, this is effective until at least 31 March 2022. For other states, in principle, this also will apply until 30 June 2022.

In terms of tax law, Switzerland also has agreed with certain neighbouring countries that an increase in the time spent by employees of a Swiss company in the territory of their state of residency due to the increase in remote working shall have no tax impact. The agreement with France was signed on 13 May 2020, and the agreement with Germany was signed on 11 June 2020. These agreements remain in force until at least 31 March 2022. The agreement with Italy, dated from June 2020, is still in force and is tacitly extended on a month-to-month basis provided that neither country terminates it.

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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United States

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Employees who cross state borders trigger a host of risks for their employer. The obligations of the jurisdiction where the work is performed will generally prevail (depending upon duration).  For example, state law, and even municipal law, control employers’ leave obligations (such as time off to vote, paid family leave, or paid sick leave).  With paid sick leave, this can become very complicated, as each law has different tracking, recordkeeping and accrual requirements. In addition, state withholdings and income tax, as well as insurance (workers compensation), must be considered.  Local ordinances often also control wage-and-hour issues such as how and when an employee must be paid, pay-statement requirements, whether an exemption applies or overtime must be paid, and other nuanced areas such as required employer policies, or notices relating to wages or unemployment insurance.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

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Switzerland

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The payment of salary constitutes one of the employers' main obligations under an employment contract. This obligation exists even in the case of remote working and, therefore, it is not possible to reduce salary due to remote working.

Regarding benefits, a distinction must be made between different types. For example, it could be considered that employers who provide a car or a transport pass to employees could waive this benefit or reduce it proportionally if employees carry out all, or part, of their professional activity from home. However, if employees are paid meal allowances, it may be more difficult to justify removing this benefit, although the situation is less clear in situations in which employers provides employees with free meals.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

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Most jurisdictions in the US have at-will employment, so that with appropriate advance notice, salaries and benefits of at-will employees can be reduced without issue (ie, assuming no contract and the pay does not fall below the threshold for minimum wage or to maintain any particular exemption).  However, as with any workplace policy, the law mandates that selection for wage reduction be without regard to protected status such as race, age or disability. Thus, there may be an exposure to risk of claims to the extent that those who work remotely are seeking an accommodation or there is a potential for disparate impact.  Thus, employers should ensure that there is no "disparate impact" on any protected status that is required to work remotely.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

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Switzerland

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Generally speaking, employers must take measures to protect the health of employees. However, in principle, they are not entitled to require employees to be vaccinated, unless there is an overriding interest based on the principle of proportionality.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has stated that an employer can require employees to be vaccinated under specific circumstances, such as when there is an elevated risk of contamination that cannot be mitigated via other protection measures. Further, the employer must weigh the different interests (ie, the employee's private life versus the covid risk) for each individual case. Moreover, the SECO has stated that a company may not impose a general vaccination obligation.

If vaccination can be mandatory and if an employee refuses to be vaccinated, their employer could terminate the employment contract. That decision must be proportionate and must be based on the specific circumstances of the case.

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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United States

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Federal anti-discrimination laws don't prohibit employers from requiring all employees who physically enter the workplace to be vaccinated for covid-19, accommodations must be made for those with religious objections or a disability.  Another option is to consider having employees show vaccination proof or submit to weekly covid-19 testing, wear masks, and keep physically distant from other workers and visitors.  Employers can also encourage and incentivise employees to get vaccinated by offering prizes, developing vaccination education campaigns, offering vaccinations on-site, covering any costs that might be associated with getting the vaccine, or providing paid time off for employees to get the vaccine and recover from any potential side effects. However, state lawmakers have introduced dozens of legislative proposals to make it harder for employers to require that employees get a covid-19 vaccine.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

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Switzerland

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Except in the abovementioned exceptional cases, employers prohibiting unvaccinated employees from working would be obliged to pay these employees their full salary, even though they did not perform their work.

Employers who have opted to implement measures requiring employees to present a covid certificate should use the Covid Certificate Check application to verify whether employees have a valid covid certificate. The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) has said that employers should avoid keeping a list of employees with a valid covid certificate, or otherwise storing such data, as the employer could be considered to be processing sensitive personal data and thus subject to the rules set forth in the Swiss Data Protection Act (DPA). 

Further, the covid certificate can be presented for verification by the Covid Certificate Check application in either its original version or the "light version". With the original version, it is possible to see whether the employee was vaccinated, recovered from covid or received a test; the "light version" only shows whether the employee has a valid covid certificate. The FDPIC recommends the use of the "light version" in workplaces, as less personal data is visible.

Moreover, this information may not be used for purposes other than determining appropriate workplace protective measures and implementing a testing plan.

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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United States

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While federal anti-discrimination laws don't prohibit employers from requiring all employees who physically enter the workplace to be vaccinated for covid-19, accommodations must be made for those with religious objections or a disability through alternative measures. Those can include getting tested weekly or working remotely.  In addition, state law is rapidly evolving in this area and we have seen a steady increase in worker lawsuits that are filed on the basis that treating unvaccinated people differently is discriminatory or unlawful. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

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Switzerland

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No. However, with cases of covid-19 on the rise, the question of whether people working in specific fields, such as the health sector, should be required to be vaccinated is hotly debated.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

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Yes, this includes the healthcare industry, as well as some federal and municipal agencies.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

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Switzerland

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Employers cannot access employee data related to vaccination status, and the processing of such data is not permitted.

Regarding the protection of other data, employers and employees based in Switzerland are subject to the FADP. Under that Act, personal data is any information relating to an identified or identifiable person. Health-related data is considered to be "sensitive personal data" and is subject to specific protections. Medical data, therefore, would be subject to the requirements for processing sensitive personal data.

Several principles guide the processing of data. The principle of lawfulness of processing states that personal data only can be processed lawfully. This means that such action requires a justifiable reason, which could be the consent of the subject, a predominant public or private interest or a legal provision. In the context of employment relationships, the validity of employees' consent as a justification is often called into question, given the unequal relationship inherent in any employment contract (thus preventing the employee from consenting freely).

According to the principle of good faith, it is not permitted to collect personal data without the knowledge and consent of the person concerned. Anyone who deceives that person is in violation of the principle of good faith. The collection of personal data and the purposes of the processing must be recognisable to the subject.

According to the principle of proportionality, only data necessary and suitable for the set purpose may be processed. In addition, according to the principle of purpose, data collected may only be processed for the purposes that were communicated at the time of collection, that arise from the circumstances or that are provided for by law. Finally, the principle of accuracy implies that the processor of personal data must ensure the data is accurate and, if necessary, correct data that is no longer accurate.

In addition, under certain circumstances, EU General Data Protection Regulation also may apply to Swiss companies. However, its general requirements and principles are similar to those of the FADP.

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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United States

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With limited exceptions, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to keep confidential any medical information they learn about any applicant or employee. Medical information includes not only a diagnosis or treatment, but also the fact that an individual has requested or is receiving a reasonable accommodation. In addition, employers must maintain reasonable security measures to protect sensitive personally identifying information.  Specific data privacy rules vary state by state.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

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Switzerland

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In general, employers must take necessary measures to protect the life, health and safety and personal integrity of employees. They must avoid demanding excessive effort from employees and may not burden them with work that could damage their health. Therefore, they have to organise workflow in such a way as to not overwork employees. They also have communication and training obligations, in particular, informing employees and instructing them on risk-prevention measures. Employers generally must ensure that employees' workplaces are properly designed, taking into account equipment, buildings and the working environment.

These measures also apply to remote working and employers are not relieved of their obligation to protect employees' health and safety when work is performed offsite. In the case of remote working at the employer's request, employers have to ensure that employees are provided with the necessary equipment to comply with these conditions or if necessary offer financial compensation for employees to make the necessary arrangements themselves. In any case, employers should ensure that employees are made aware of the health risks involved with remote working, in particular concerning the workplace layout working hours and rest periods.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

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The OSHA governs the relationship between employers and employees with respect to workplace health and safety, and provides employer mandates regarding possible hazards in the traditional workplace. The key issues in work from home safety revolves around ergonomics. But the law recognises that employers have limited direction and control over the employee’s residence or other remote locations such as coffee shops, public libraries and so forth.  Nevertheless, employers have in many instances required employees to commit to keeping a safe workplace in their home and wherever they may work.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

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Switzerland

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When remote working first was decreed on 18 January 2021, employers had to act quickly to implement the remote-working obligation, while also protecting the health and safety of employees.

Thus, employers had to think differently about how to raise awareness among employees, especially concerning working hours and rest periods. Employers also had to ensure that employees were provided with adequate equipment and materials, such as a suitable office chair that was safe for their backs or a workroom that met the safety and hygiene standards set by the FOPH. In addition, the authorities also issued guidelines for employees.

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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United States

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With covid-19, the focus has shifted from workplace injury to workplace illness. Thus, the obligations have been expanded in that employers have had to think about exposures both inside and outside the workplace, and establishing safety protocols to help prevent employees from bringing the hazard into the workplace. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

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Switzerland

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In contrast to other legal systems, Swiss legislation does not recognise the concept of "mobile workers". Therefore, mobile workers are considered to be employees without a fixed place of work (ie, those who work in several different locations or who travel in the course of their work). "Workers based primarily at home" are employees who do not necessarily have a workplace provided by their employers, but who are mainly in one place, (ie, their home).

Swiss law does not contain different regulations for these two categories of workers.

However, in practice, employers' recommendations will differ based on the worker's situation.  It can be assumed that when employees do not have a fixed place of work, employers will have to take this into account more in their recommendations, since the employee has fewer possibilities for an "appropriate" workstation. Also, employers will have to be more attentive to the working hours of a "mobile worker". 

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

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Yes.  Employees who as part of their job travel, visit customers and clients, and go from place to place, may be exposed to health and safety conditions that are beyond their employer’s control.  Nevertheless, employers need to take reasonable steps to keep their employees safe, even when they are outside the brick-and-mortar workplace.  The employer’s obligations to ensure their workers’ safety follows them as they travel for work, and, to the extent feasible, employers need to anticipate and mitigate against potential risks. On the other hand, employees who work from home are less likely to be exposed to these kinds of hazards, and the employer’s responsibility for the safety of employees who work from home is far less than for mobile workers or, of course, on-site workers. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

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Switzerland

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Employers are responsible for the health and well-being of employees, including their mental health. However, Swiss law does not provide a general definition of the protection of mental health. In any case, employers cannot be indifferent to the mental health of their employees. They have a duty to help, to reduce tensions, resolve relational conflicts, prevent harassment and protect employees from rumours and bullying. Wherever possible, employers must accommodate employees whose mental health is at risk so that they can continue to work, (eg, by moving the employees' workplace).

These obligations also apply to remote working.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

  • at Littler
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  • at Littler

This is not an area that has been a priority in the United States, particularly if the employees are remote. However, this will likely be a developing area in the future that employers will have to consider in light of the changes being brought about by the pandemic.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

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Switzerland

  • at Lenz & Staehelin

Regarding wages, authorities have extended the use of pre-existing "reduced working hour allowances". This measure is intended to avoid dismissals following a brief but unavoidable absence from work. According to the system now in place, under certain conditions, employers have the right to (fully or partially) reduce the working hours of their employees and apply for allowances for reduced working-hour allowances. Those allowances cover up to 80% of wages related to the reduced hours. The hours effectively worked still are fully remunerated by the employer.

The Swiss Federal Council has decided to keep in place a procedure for a simplified calculation of the allowances for reduced working-hour allowances until 31 December 2022.

In addition, employees infected by covid-19 and unable to work due to illness are entitled to the payment of their salary under the same conditions as for any other illness-related incapacity. In particular, the salary would not be paid if an employee voluntarily travels to an area at risk or disregarded basic rules of caution and hygiene. If employees are stranded abroad because the authorities ordered a quarantine or return flights were cancelled, employers may refuse to pay their salary.

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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United States

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

The pandemic has caused many companies to have to re-evaluate employee salaries and wages, and to make staffing changes. Where required by collective-bargaining agreements, these changes have resulted in bargaining with unions.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

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Switzerland

  • at Lenz & Staehelin

Under pressure from unions, the Council restored protection for vulnerable individuals. These vulnerable employees now have the right to work from home. If employees are not able to carry out their work from home, employers may give them other tasks that can be carried out at home. If no tasks can be performed at home, these employees are released from their obligation to work and the employer must pay them their full salary. This protection is still in place at the time that this article was written.

In addition, the main employers' organisations in French-speaking Switzerland set up a remote-working agreement template in October 2020. This template was considered "insufficient" by the trade unions, because they were not consulted during its development. However, it is often used.

In February 2021, the Federal Personnel Association launched a petition demanding the right to work from home for people employed by the Swiss Federal Administration.

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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United States

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

Unions are criticising company responses (especially the lack of paid leave, sufficient staffing, and a process to address employee safety concerns) in recent organising efforts. The best thing non-union employers can do to avoid union drives of this nature is to be transparent. Employers should develop and communicate a covid-19 response that is compliant with state or federal mandates and “best practice” recommendations, be as flexible as is reasonably possible in balancing the interests of employees and the business, and regularly update employees.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

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Switzerland

  • at Lenz & Staehelin

In general, there is no obligation to consult with unions if employers want to introduce remote working in the company.

If employers are planning to introduce forced remote working on a long-term basis, the implementation of this change would require a termination-modification (ie, a termination of the contract coupled with a new job offer).

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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United States

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

Unionised employers may unilaterally implement a policy requiring employees to work from home if the applicable collective bargaining agreement contains language granting the employer the right to implement such a requirement. Unilateral action also would be permissible if a local, state or federal law mandates working remotely for certain classifications for employees. Even in that case, however, the employer would still have an obligation to bargain over any discretionary aspects of the policy, such as:

  • classes of employees subject to remote work (unless specified by the order);
  • frequency and timing;
  • consequences of an employee’s refusal; and
  • where the remote work will be performed.

Other provisions in a collective bargaining agreement may cede control over the situation to the employer. For example, the CBA may include a “management-rights provision” which permits the employer to operate and manage the workplace, require standards of performance, implement improved operational methods and procedures, or promulgate rules, regulations and personnel policies.  Even if the clause does not explicitly address the issue of working from home, it may be argued that the union has waived its right to bargain over the matter. 

Employers with union-represented employees need to carefully review existing collective-bargaining agreements to determine whether there is sufficient management rights language that would permit an employer to mandate working from home as a condition of employment.

Furthermore, to the extent an employer seeks to avoid a bargaining obligation by claiming that working from home is consistent with a local, state, or federal law or regulation, it will need to show that it is actually mandated by the law to require this.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021