NEWS: Switzerland and employer-mandated COVID-19 vaccination

It has been a couple of months since we did a piece with COVID-19 news from Switzerland, especially regarding public vaccination proof requirements, but given that the global pandemic is nowhere near over, and that the watch industry is continuing to make plans for events, we thought we’d do a quick update on some things.

Since the end of June 2021 the number of new reported infections has been rising in Switzerland to around 3,000 per day, in large part because of the Delta variant. As is the case in the rest of the world, it is affecting a younger age cohort than earlier variants.

The Federal Office of Public Health announced 2,565 newly reported cases on 21 August 2021, with a seven day average of 2,443, a +59% increase on the previous week.

Over 500 people are currently hospitalised and around 70% of intensive beds are occupied, with 14% by COVID-19 patients. The government has said that it is too soon to lift the remaining restrictions and that it will re-evaluate the situation in September.

Vaccination is not compulsory either federally or at a cantonal level (the latter have not announced mandatory vaccination for any workers) and the pace has slowed down (just over 50% of the population is fully vaccinated), so the Swiss government is ramping up efforts to try and increase vaccination levels, including the possibility of ceasing payment for COVID testing for unvaccinated people attending events for which a negative test/ proof of vaccination/ COVID certificate is required. As we mentioned in our earlier post, this certificate is for Swiss residents who have been vaccinated, had a recent negative PCR test, or who have recovered from COVID-19.

Since June 26, masks have not been required outdoors, and of relevance to watches, large events of over 10,000 have been permitted if those in attendance can show a COVID-19 certificate.

To date, there have been over 10,300 COVID-19 related deaths in Switzerland. As well as trying to increase vaccination rates, the discussion has now turned to, as it has in the rest of the world, whether Swiss law (Labour Act, Epidemics Act etc) permits employers to mandate vaccination for employees.

There is also the issue of the legislative requirements employers are subject to with respect to taking measures to protect the health of employees both in a broad sense and specific to COVID-19. Employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace, but in current circumstances, it is even more critical that they can prove compliance with recommendations from the Federal Office of Health as well as any mandated measures.

The vaccination obligation in the Epidemics Act doesn’t allow for coercion, but employers can require specific groups of workers to get vaccinated (although they cannot be forced to do so). Which groups and enforcement are obviously another matter.

Under the Swiss Epidemics Act cantons also have the right to impose mandatory vaccination if it is in the interest of public health, but only within the context of application to certain groups e.g. healthcare workers. The Act also gives the federal government the power to mandate vaccination with the agreement of individual cantons. As mentioned, the same Act also states that vaccination cannot be coerced.

Add to this the question of whether private employers can mandate vaccination under broader employment law as a form of ‘instruction’.

There’s obviously also the topic of workplace testing.

Some companies, including pharmaceutical, Google, and banks, have announced that there will be vaccination requirements for employees in the form of compulsory vaccination or disclosure of vaccination status.

There are opponents to the national COVID-19 certificate, in sufficient numbers that there will have to be a referendum on it – a consortium of opponents have collected more than the 50,000 minimum signatures (186,000) required to force the vote.

If the signatures are validated by the Federal Chancellery, the referendum will take place on November 28.

The opponents claim that the certificate is discriminatory against those who are unvaccinated and that it is unconstitutional to enforce such a requirement on Swiss citizens and to make it the basis on which they are able to do or participate in, many activities.

As we noted before, Switzerland does have vaccination requirements for many wishing to visit from another country, so it is important to check entry requirements before you plan any trip.

Categories: Baselworld 2022, Industry news, Watch shows, watches, Watches & Wonders Geneva 2022, Watchmaking

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