COVID-19 News

Since the initial protective measures relaxation on May 11, 2020, subsequent lifting of the lockdown and end of the extraordinary situation on June 20, 2020, further developments concerning COVID-19 have shown diverging trends. Questions related to these trends primarily concern the entry to and stay in Switzerland, and for arrivals from designated high-risk countries in particular, the potential labor law implications. We will keep you updated on the latest developments.

 

News

17/4/2020 - Insolvency prevention measures – COVID-19 Deferments

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17/4/2020 - Insolvency prevention measures – COVID-19 Deferments

The Federal Council has decided to provide further relief to debtors under financial distress due to the corona crisis through the COVID-19 Deferments program. This program introduces a facilitated application process for time-limited deferments.

COVID-19 Deferments can be applied for by sole proprietorships, partnerships and legal entities and granted for a period of up to 3 months. In order to qualify, applicants may not have been over-indebted as of December 31, 2019 or must document subordination to the full extent of over-indebtedness.

Applications must credibly represent and, to the highest degree possible, show proof of the respective company’s current finances and assets.

Applications will be adjudicated by the applicable probate courts on an immediate-processing basis.

Upon request, the probate court may consider extending a COVID-19 Deferment for up to 3 months.

By submitting a COVID-19 Deferment application for a legal entity, its directors fulfill their legal obligation to report over-indebtedness.

COVID-19 Deferments are not available to public companies as well as enterprises that exceeded two of the following criteria in 2019: CHF 20 million in total assets, CHF 40 million in revenues and an annual average of 250 full-time employees.

 

17/4/2020 - Insolvency prevention measures – notification of over-indebtedness: Temporary relaxation of reporting requirements

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17/4/2020 - Insolvency prevention measures – notification of over-indebtedness: Temporary relaxation of reporting requirements

The Federal Council has decided that over-indebtedness reporting requirements shall be temporarily waived for corporations that have become over-indebted due to the coronavirus crisis and that cumulatively fulfill the following criteria:

  • The corporation was not over-indebted as of December 31, 2019.
  • There are prospects that the issue of over-indebtedness can be resolved by December 31, 2020.
  • The board of directors must justify and document its decision in writing.
  • The interim balance and profit and loss statements do not need to be audited.
When all the above conditions have been fulfilled, the auditors’ obligation to submit over-indebtedness notification to the court is waived as well.
 

This temporary relaxation of reporting requirements applies to LLCs, cooperatives and foundations as well. It does however not apply to financial services firms as per the federal Collective Investment Schemes Act and corporations subject to the federal Banking Law.

 

2/4/2020 - Social security contribution and tax payment deferrals

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2/4/2020 - Social security contribution and tax payment deferrals

A temporary, interest-free payment deferral of social security contributions (AHV/IV/EO/ALV) can be granted. Businesses, if payroll has significantly decreased, further have the option of having the payment amount of regular AHV/IV/EO/ALV contributions adjusted. The same applies to self-employed workers whose revenues have substantially fallen. Applications for payment deferrals and reduction of regular contribution payment amounts will be reviewed and processed by AHV Compensation Fund offices.

Businesses shall have the possibility to extend payment terms for certain taxes without incurring default interest. For this purpose, the interest rate for value added tax, customs duties, special exise taxes and incentive taxes has been lowered to 0.0%, effective March 21 through December 31, 2020. No default interest will be assessed during this period. The same provision shall apply to direct federal taxes effective March 1 through December 31, 2020.

 
Immigration Alerts

8/7/2020 - Switzerland / Work Authorization and Admission for EU/EFTA and Third-Country Nationals

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8/7/2020 - Switzerland / Work Authorization and Admission for EU/EFTA and Third-Country Nationals

1. EU/EFTA nationals

Free movement of persons rights have been entirely reinstated for EU/EFTA nationals and their dependents (regardless of the dependents’ nationalities). Thereby, all Swiss entry restrictions imposed on EU/EFTA nationals and their dependents have been lifted. Swiss border crossings have been reopened accordingly.

EU/EFTA nationals planning to take up gainful activity in Switzerland are again able to:

  • use the online notification procedure, as before.
  • apply for a residence and work permit in Switzerland based on a Swiss employment contract with a company located in Switzerland, as before.
  • apply for a work permit in Switzerland based on an assignment.

2. Third-country nationals

As of 6 July 2020, the Federal Council has lifted the entry restrictions on third-country nationals for stays subject to authorization in Switzerland, with or without gainful activity.

Stays subject to authorization, with gainful activity:

New work permit applications can again be filed with the competent labor market authority, regardless of the business sector, so long that the Swiss National Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (FNIA) requirements are met. In addition to these requirements, authorities will have to verify whether the planned work can commence (e.g. availability of travel options, expected status of the Swiss host company’s operations, etc.).

Please click the link below to read the full alert.

8 July 2020 - Immigration Switzerland / Work Authorization and Admission for EU/EFTA and Third-Country Nationals (73.80 Kb .pdf)

 
Immigration Alerts

26/6/2020 - Switzerland / Removal of Restrictions for Third-Country foreign workers

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26/6/2020 - Switzerland / Removal of Restrictions for Third-Country foreign workers

Effective July 6, 2020, the Swiss Federal Government will lift all COVID-19-related restrictions on the admission of foreign workers from third countries.

The Swiss cantons will accordingly start processing initial work permit applications for third-country nationals again beginning July 6, 2020. Please note that initial applications can in principle only be submitted from July 6 onwards.

It should further be noted that, depending on how the pandemic develops in a given third country, it is still possible that entry restrictions, as part of public health safety measures, can be introduced for persons entering from the third country in question.

For the time being, third-country nationals are still not allowed to enter Switzerland for short stays of less than 90 days. This restriction applies to, for example, short stays for purpose of tourism, attending courses, medical treatment, and non-urgent business meetings.

 
Immigration Alerts

17/6/2020 - Switzerland / Removal of Entry Restrictions for Schengen Area

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17/6/2020 - Switzerland / Removal of Entry Restrictions for Schengen Area

Swiss federal authorities have removed the Schengen states from the list of high-risk countries per Annex 1 of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 as of 15 June 2020. The rights of free movement have been entirely reinstated for EU/EFTA nationals, including their dependents (regardless of the nationality of the dependents). Thereby all restrictions imposed on EU/EFTA nationals and their dependents entering Switzerland from the Schengen Area have been lifted. The ports of entry have been reopened accordingly.

Consequently, EU/EFTA nationals from the Schengen Area planning to take up gainful activity in Switzerland, can now

  • use the online notification procedure as before.
  • apply for a residence and work permit in Switzerland as before, if they have a Swiss employment contract with a company located in Switzerland.

All non-Schengen countries remain designated as high-risk countries and subject to entry restrictions.

Please click the link below to read the full alert. 

17 June 2020 - Immigration Switzerland / Removal of entry restrictions for Schengen Area (79.37 Kb .pdf)

 
Immigration Alerts

11/6/2020 - Switzerland / Further Easing of Work Permit Filing Restrictions

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11/6/2020 - Switzerland / Further Easing of Work Permit Filing Restrictions

Swiss immigration authorities have expanded the list of categories under which initial work permit applications for third country nationals can currently be filed. Provided that the usual Swiss Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA) requirements are also met, such applications can at present be filed under the following categories:

1) Urgent Economic Need: as outlined our June 5, 2020 Alert, the following requirements must be fulfilled cumulatively:

(i) There is no possibility to postpone the scheduled work or project; and

(ii) The tasks in questions cannot be completed remotely from abroad; and

(iii) The foreign specialist’s services are of vital imporance to the company in Switzerland.

2) Activities in the Public Interest: Activities that affect the availability of essential goods and services, especially in the fields of medical and nursing care, food, energy, logistics, information and communication technology.

3) Education Sector: This category refers to applications for teachers at international schools, private schools or public schools and educational institutions.

4) Applications for specialists needed to carry out urgent service work on essential infrastructure (e.g. nuclear power plant maintenance) or  of vital importance to Switzerland as related to the healthcare sector.

5) The work permit application was approved before 19 March 2020 (i.e. LMA and SEM pre-approval have been issued), but the visa or residence permit assurance could not be issued due to COVID-19-related restrictions and work may actually be taken up.

6) The work permit application was filed before 19 March 2020, the usual conditions are met and work may actually be taken up.

In addition, confirmation that the employee will be able to travel to and start working at the Swiss location must also be provided.

11 June 2020 - Immigration Switzerland / Further Relaxation of Work Permit Filing Restrictions (83.57 Kb .pdf)

 
Immigration Alerts

5/6/2020 - Switzerland / Easing of Work Permit Filing Restrictions

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5/6/2020 - Switzerland / Easing of Work Permit Filing Restrictions

The Swiss Federal Government is further relaxing work permit filing restrictions for applicants from third countries in particular. Please note that more detailed information as relating to EU/EFTA nationals will follow.

As of Monday, 8 June 2020, work permit applications for third country nationals can be filed again, if, in addition to the usual requirements set forth by the Swiss Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA), the following conditions are met:

(i) Existence of an urgent economic need, i.e. the concerned Swiss client from an economic perspective urgently requires the applicant’s specialized skills in order to avoid financial losses or the loss of jobs in Switzerland

(ii) There is no possibility to postpone the scheduled work or project

(iii) The tasks in questions cannot be completed remotely from abroad

(iv) Proof (e.g. copy of airline ticket) that it is currently possible for the applicant to travel to Switzerland

Please note that a letter from the Swiss host company is in principle required in order to demonstrate that an urgent economic need exists, that postponement of the work is not possible and that the tasks in question must be completed in Switzerland (points i, ii, iii above).

Kindly note that in accordance with the additional requirements above, it is essential to carefully identify the employees who need to work in Switzerland at a Swiss client’s site/office and to provide strong justification along with the application in any case.

 
Immigration Alerts

12/5/2020 - Switzerland / Gradual Relaxation of Entry Restrictions

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12/5/2020 - Switzerland / Gradual Relaxation of Entry Restrictions

1. Granting of visas

The issue of Schengen visas and national visas continues in principle to be suspended until 15 June 2020. Exceptions are possible for some special cases (see below).

2. Entry to Switzerland

The Swiss federal government's decision to impose entry restrictions on all non-Schengen States and on all Schengen States save for the Principality of Liechtenstein remains in force. Therefore, Swiss border authorities will continue to refuse entry to Switzerland to individuals coming from a non-Schengen or even a Schengen State unless they:
  • are Swiss national; or
  • have a travel document and Swiss residence permit, cross-border commuter G permit) or a visa issued for purpose of attending professional consultations as a health care specialist or of making an official visit of vital importance; or
  • have a travel document and a Swiss visa or Swiss residence permit assurance; or
  • have rights under the Agreement of the Free Movement of Persons, have work-related reasons for entering Switzerland and can provide a confirmation of notification. Free movement rights are still limited and all activities are subject to the notification obligation from the first day; or
  • are transporting goods for commercial purposes and can provide a bill of lading for the goods; or
  • are only transiting through Switzerland with the intention of going directly to another country that they are permitted to enter; or
  • are in an emergency situation or are newly considered as being in an emergency situation (e.g. EU/EFTA nationals with a Swiss employment contract signed before 25 March 2020 and Swiss lease agreement effective 1 April 2020 or earlier) or who need to enter to carry out urgent service work on vital infrastructure; or
  • are health care specialsts needing to enter for important professional reasons.

12 May 2020 - Immigration Switzerland / Gradual Relaxation of Entry Restrictions (111.58 Kb .pdf)

 
Immigration Alerts

15/4/2020 - Switzerland / Current Status of Restrictions

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15/4/2020 - Switzerland / Current Status of Restrictions

The extraordinary situation in Switzerland has been extended to April 26 2020. Most public establishments continue to be closed and only essential businesses remain open (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, post offices, train and gas station, public administration offices, medical practices and hospitals).

Public and private events and gatherings of more than 5 persons currently are still prohibited. In gatherings of 5 or less persons meet, personal distance of 2 meters must be maintained. For breach of this rule, persons may be fined up to CHF 100.

All public transportation in Switzerland continues to operate in reduced mode.

Further updates can also be found at Federal Office of Public Health’s website:

https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/massnahmen-des-bundes.html

To read the full immigration alert, please click to open the PDF below.

15 April 2020 - Immigration Switzerland / Current status of COVID-19 restrictions (385.20 Kb .pdf)

 
Immigration Alerts

30/3/2020 - Switzerland / Withdrawn Initial Cases

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30/3/2020 - Switzerland / Withdrawn Initial Cases

As noted in our previous alert email, the following restrictions have been implemented by Swiss government authorities:

  • Swiss consular posts will not issue new entry visas (neither Schengen nor national visas) for non-EU/EFTA nationals until 15 June 2020. Exceptions might be granted only in very exceptional cases (e.g. medical specialists).
  • Cantonal labor market authorities will put already filed initial work permit applications on hold temporarily and will contact applicants to determine whether a hold or withdrawal is called for. Work permit extension applications are not affected by this.
  • The cantonal labour market authorities do not accept any initial work permit applications anymore. Exceptions can be made for specialists in the medical sector whose activity is very important for Switzerland.

In recent practice, some cantonal authorities frequently do not ask whether initial applications should be put on hold or withdrawn. They now rather inform applicants that their application has been cancelled and can be filed again after current restrictions have been lifted.

 
Immigration Alerts

19/3/2020 - Switzerland / Initial Cases, Entry Visa Issuance

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19/3/2020 - Switzerland / Initial Cases, Entry Visa Issuance

In further response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Swiss Federal Council, on March 18, took the following new measures:

  • In addition to the already implemented travel restrictions, entry into Switzerland is now also restricted for travelers from Spain and all non-EU/EFTA countries.
  • Air traffic from the above-mentioned countries is now restricted.
  • Swiss representations abroad will not issue entry visas (neither Schengen nor national visas) to non-EU/EFTA nationals until 15 June 2020. Exceptions might be granted only in very exceptional cases (e.g. for medical specialists).
According to the new Directive of the State Secretary for Migration (SEM), the follwoing new measures, among others, will be implemented:
 
  • Cantonal labor market authorities will put already filed initial work permit applications on hold temporarily and will contact concerned applicants in order to decide whether a hold or a withdrawal is called for. Work permit extension applications are not affected by this measure.
  • Cantonal labor market authorities will not accept new initial work permit applications as of March 17. Exceptions can be made for medical specialists with skills of importance to Switzerland.
 
Immigration Alerts

17/3/2020 - Switzerland / Extraordinary Situation Declared

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17/3/2020 - Switzerland / Extraordinary Situation Declared

With regards to federal government measures taken as part of the Extraordinary Situation and its impact on daily life in Switzerland, please see the Federal Office of Public Health website at:

https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/massnahmen-des-bundes.html

Most public establishments are closed: Shops and market, restaurant establishments, bars, discotheques, night clubs, erotic establishment, entertainment and leisure establishment (e.g. museum, casino, theaters, swimming pools, sport and fitness centers, zoos,…) and establishments with personal services involving physical contact (e.g. hairdressers, barbers, cosmetic studios). Only the necessary stores remain at the moment open like, groceries stores, some take-away establishments and meal delivery services, pharmacies and drug stores, banks and post offices, train and gas stations, hotels, public administration, medical practices and hospitals. Public and private events are currently also prohibited. All public transport in Switzerland will be reduced significantly.

Travelling to and from Switzerland

Entry into Switzerland:

As of 17 March 2020, presumably till 19 April 2020, there is currently no general ban but all Swiss borders are controlled. However, at present, Italy, Germany, Austria and France are designated high-risk countries. People from high-risk countries and areas will be refused entry into Switzerland. Exceptions are possible for certain individuals.

To read the full immigration alert, please click to open the PDF below.

17 March 2020 - Immigration Switzerland / "EXTRAORDINARY SITUATION" in Switzerland (293.84 Kb .pdf)

 
Immigration Alerts

11/3/2020 - Switzerland / Coronavirus COVID-19

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11/3/2020 - Switzerland / Coronavirus COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, the Federal Council has categorized the situation in Switzerland as special in terms of the Epidemics Act. This enables the Federal Council to issue special measures concerning individuals as well as the whole population. The Cantons can issue additional measures and recommendations. As the situation is evolving rapidly, measures and recommendations may change at any time. The latest updates can be found at Federal Office of Public Health’s website:

https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov.html

To read the full immigration alert, please click to open the PDF below.

11 March 2020 - Immigration Switzerland / Coronavirus COVID-19 (305.62 Kb .pdf)

 

FAQ

21/7/2020 - Is the employer obligated to pay wages to an employee who is quarantined for 10 days following personal travel?

As per the Federal Council’s COVID-19 ordinance provisions concerning international travel, persons who enter Switzerland and who visited a destination designated as an area with increased risk of COVID-19 infection at any time during the 14 days prior to entry are obligated to immediately go into and complete a 10-day quarantine.

Should completion of such a mandatory quarantine following personal travel delay an employee’s scheduled return to work, the employee will not be entitled to continued wage payments for the duration of the quarantine. The employee will be entitled to continued wage payments only if he/she can work remotely from home while completing the quarantine.

20/7/2020 - Is the employer obligated to pay wages to an employee who has fallen sick with COVID-19?

In principle, the same rules apply as with other illnesses: The employee’s inability to work must be proven by a medical certificate and the employer is subject to the obligation of continued payment of wages in case the employee is unable to work through no fault of his own.

Should the employee however contract the virus while traveling privately to a destination designated as an area with increased risk of infection as per the Federal Council’s COVID-19 ordinance provisions concerning international travel, the employee may under certain circumstances be at fault for his/her inability to work and the employer can then accordingly refuse to continue payment of wages.

28/4/2020 - Given the current situation, is it necessary to prepare a patient decree?

By way of a patient decree, a person can establish advance directives regarding the use of medical treatments in a situation where the person is no longer capable of judgement. The patient decree may also designate a health-care proxy who is authorized to make decisions on the person’s behalf in such a situation. Unmarried persons with a life partner can additionally provide authorization for the attending doctors and caregivers to disclose information subject to doctor-patient confidentiality and on the patient’s condition to the life partner.

The Swiss Intensive Care Medicine Society points out the current importance of a patient decree for persons with increased health risks. This is to help ensure that intensive care units do not provide life-sustaining treatments to patients who may not wish to receive them. Therefore, persons with increased health risks are advised to specify whether life-sustaining treatments, such as use of a ventilator, should be administered in case of serious illness.

Given the current situation, the advice to consider the questions surrounding serious illness and the preparation of advance medical directives through a patient decree applies beyond persons with increased health risks. Persons who already have a patient decree in place should carefully review and determine if any amendments are necessary, as their intended directives may, with regards to a serious infectious disease such as COVID-19, deviate from existing directives concerning the treatment of other diseases or not be sufficiently covered in the current decree. Should the existing directives concerning other types of illnesses not fully align with the patient’s wishes regarding infectious disease treatments, an additional provision may be added to the patient decree, e.g. declining the use of a ventilator in case of infection by the COVID-19 virus.

The patient decree must be completed in writing (it does not have to be hand-written), dated and signed. When preparing a patient decree, consulting with the primary care physician on specific medical questions may prove helpful. The original patient decree should be safely kept at home and copies provided to immediate family members. The existence of a patient decree, and its place of storage can be inscribed on the person’s health insurance card.

23/4/2020 - What are the board of directors’ obligations in case of current or impending over-indebtedness caused by COVID-19?

The board of director’s obligations remain unchanged per Article 725 Par. 1 and 2 Code of Obligations.

If over-indebtedness was ascertained after December 31, 2019, the requirement to notify the applicable court is waived under the following conditions:

  1. The corporation was not over-indebted as of December 31, 2019. A corporation is considered as over-indebted as of December 31, 2019, if it was not obligated to notify the applicable court based only on the subordination of a sufficient number of creditor claims. The reason for this being that the subordination of creditor claims does not involve restructuring measures.
  2. There is a realistic prospect that over-indebtedness can be remedied by December 31, 2020. The board of directors must, using the most comprehensive data available, assess the corporations economic and financial positions and, based on this assessment, be able to develop a positive prognosis.

It is important that the board of directors documents and justifies its decision in writing. This is usually done in the form of detailed minutes of the board of directors meeting. The documentation based on which the board of directors reached its decision is to be included with the meeting minutes. Evidence that the corporation was not over-indebted as of December 31, 2019 may be provided in the form of the annual financial statements for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2019. If December 31, 2019 was not the end date of the corporation’s last fiscal year, the preparation of interim financial statements for the date of December 31, 2019 is recommended. Supporting the prognosis on remedying over-indebtedness by December 31, 2020 relies heavily on financial planning documents (e.g. liquidity plans, interim going concern and liquidation value statements, etc.) and can be supplemented with other suitable documentation. Interim financial statements as listed here do not need to be audited.

Failure by the board of directors to meet these documentation obligations would constitute negligence and board members could be held personally liable for any resulting damages.

As an alternative option, the board of directors can apply to the responsible probate court for a COVID-19 Deferment of up to 3 months. This application fulfills the board of directors’ legal obligation to report over-indebtedness. Applications must credibly represent and, to the highest degree possible, show proof of the respective company’s current finances and assets. The prerequisite that the corporation was not over-indebted as of December 31, 2019 applies here as well. For purpose of COVID-19 Deferment applications, corporations are not considered to be over-indebted if subordination of creditor claims to the full extent of over-indebtedness can be shown.

2/4/2020 - Which occupational safety and health obligations specific to COVID-19 are employers subject to?

Per article 6 of the Labor Act, the employer is obligated to avoid any adverse health effects to his employees in the workplace. The employer must therefore take all protective measures that are reasonable within the context of the given business, i.e. that the business can sustain in the prevailing economic and technical environment. Due to the drastic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the employer is additionally obligated to ensure implementation of and adherence to Federal Council and Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) ordinances in the workplace. This serves the protection of the employees’, as well as of other business stakeholders’ (e.g. clients’) health.

The FOPH and State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) have published a bulletin summarizing the guidelines regarding occupation safety and health obligations. The bulletin is available (at the time of writing in German, French and Italian only) through this link.

We recommend allowing employees to work from home whenever possible, and to reduce the number of employees physically present at the workplace such that adherence to federal hygiene and social distancing guidelines is possible. By allowing employees to forgo the use of public transportation, employers further fulfill their fiduciary duty.

If you have any further labor law concerns, questions about conducting your general meeting, or require any other type of legal guidance, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or online at any time.

mail@suterhowald.ch

Phone: +41 (0)44 630 48 11

by moxi