Updated on 06.04.2020

Covid-19: Understanding Reduced Working Hours (RWH-RHT) and Compensation for Short-time Work (CSW-APG)

The sanitary crisis that we are experiencing has led to a drastic drop in the volume of activity for numerous companies, and even their complete closure, forcing them to put their employees on partial or full unemployment. Faced with this exceptional situation arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, companies may request indemnities. As regards RWH (RHT) and CSW (APG), we would like to help you understand them better.

[Warning to readers] As the times we are living in are totally unprecedented, it is possible that certain information given here will be modified in accordance with measures taken by the authorities to answer the economic crisis. They will therefore be updated on a regular basis.

Reduced Working Hours (RWH) and Covid-19

What is RWH?

The Reduction of Working Hours (RWH) is a temporary reduction or a complete interruption of the company’s activity due either to a decision on the part of the authorities or for economic reasons.
The RWH engenders the right to compensation over a certain time span (max. 12 months; the decision framework is valid for 6 months in the case of Covid-19*) which is covered by unemployment insurance (AC).
Therefore, 80% of the payroll costs are taken into consideration for employees whose normal working hours are reduced. The goal is to halt redundancies due to decreased activity.
* If the reduction in working hours is greater than 85%, the measure is valid for a maximum of 4 months.

What conditions must the employer fulfil?

The employer must fulfil the following conditions:
  1. The reduction must be due to economic reasons
  2. The loss of work is not due to corporate risk
  3. The loss must be at least 10% of the total hours normally worked in the company – an average of the whole company
  4. The reduction must be temporary
  5. The employment contract has not been cancelled
  6. The working hours must be controllable (a record kept of the hours worked)

Who is entitled to daily indemnities (IJ) for reduced working hours (RWH-RHT)?

The “classic” beneficiaries, mentioned in Art. 31 LACI, are the employees:
  • Whose normal working hours have been reduced or suspended
  • Who have the obligation to contribute to the UI (AC) or have not yet reached the minimum age for contributing to the AVS
  • Whose employment has not been terminated
Cross-border employees are also covered by this measure.
Within the framework of the exceptional measures taken by the Confederation due to Covid-19, new categories of employees are eligible to receive indemnities:
  • Apprentices under the age of 18 years, even if they have not yet reached the minimum age for contributing to the AVS.
  • Business leaders: those who determine or have considerable influence over the decisions taken by the employer. N.B. for these persons, the RWH shall be calculated on the basis of a determining flat-rate monthly wage of a maximum of 3320 francs for full-time employment.
  • Employees with a fixed-term contract and temporary employees (on assignment for a temporary employment agency)

Which categories are excluded from the RWH (RHT) procedure?

The RWH is not valid for:
  • Employees whose employment contracts have been terminated
  • Employees absent with a medical certificate (who are covered by loss of earnings insurance)
  • Employees who have reached retirement age (64/65 years old)
  • Employees who do not accept the reduction in working hours
  • Employees on maternity leave
  • Employees on holiday
  • Employees without a childcare solution: Cf. following § “Allowance for loss of earnings and Covid-19”
  • Employees with an on-call contract

Can staff members eligible for RWH refuse to accept the daily RWH indemnities?

Each of the eligible employees has the right to refuse the indemnities when RWH occurs; the employer must then continue to pay the employee their full salary. However, this entails an increased risk of future loss of employment for this employee.

Is the company obligated to make up the salary to 100%?

There is no obligation for a company to make up the RWH indemnities to 100% (meaning an additional 20%), however it has the right to do so. This has no influence on the unemployment insurance’s decision.

Must the employer provide proof of the employee’s agreement?

Those employees touched by the RWH measure must be informed and give their agreement with the introduction of reduced working hours. An RWH attestation or an e-mail confirming the employee’s agreement may be good practice.

What about social security payments?

Although the daily indemnities for RWH cover 80% of the salary, all the social security contributions remain due on 100% of the salary.

Which hours must be reported?

Within the framework of Covid-19, it is mandatory to report the hours actually worked.

Why is accounting for the hours actually worked compulsory?

A control of the hours worked is required to be able to prove the reduction of hours per employee to the SECO [State Secretariat for Economic Affairs] to justify the daily indemnities for RWH.

Does the period of RWH entail a right to vacation days?

The compensatory allowance scheme for the reduction of working hours does not give rise to a suspension of the employment contract. The right to vacation days therefore continues during the period that the company receives indemnities for RWH.
N.B.: If an employee takes vacation days during the period in which their company receives indemnities for RWH, it will not receive indemnities for these vacation days. During this vacation time, the employee receives their full salary, as though the compensatory allowance scheme for RHT was not in place.

How should RWT (RHT) be declared and a request for indemnities submitted?

In order to provide simple and rapid support for employers who are encountering difficulties due to the novel coronavirus, the SECO has simplified the administrative steps linked to the notification of reduced working hours in relation to the coronavirus. A guide and the necessary forms are available by clicking on the following link (in French).
Please note: The Federal Council has abolished the notice and waiting periods.

Some points to verify

  • Correctly establish to causal connection between Covid-19 and the impact on the company in the notification
  • Make no mistakes in the calculation bases
  • It is compulsory to maintain an accounting of all the hours worked by each employee
  • Send the request for reimbursement within a period of 3 months maximum, without which no indemnities may be claimed

Allowance for loss of income and Covid-19

Who is eligible for the loss of income for sickness allowance?

Beneficiaries eligible for loss of income allowance are:
  • The parents of children under the age of 12 who must give up their gainful employment because their children’s care can no longer be assumed by a third party (for further details, cf. the following question)
  • Those who are placed in quarantine and must therefore give up their gainful employment (for further details, cf. the following question)
  • Those who are self-employed and who suffer a loss of revenue (closure of their company or a ban on events ordered by the Federal Council).
  • Employees who receive compensation for reduced working hours are not eligible to receive this allowance in addition.

Does an employee who must take care of their child also qualify for a loss of earnings allowance?

An employee who must assume the care of their child below the age of 12 years may, in principle, be eligible for loss of income indemnities if they fulfil the 2 following conditions:
  1. They have no other solution for the care of their child: care by a third party (nursery, schools, grandparents who are over 65 years old and considered vulnerable, etc.) is no longer possible or authorized.
  2. Teleworking is not possible: being able to work from home does not engender a loss of income a priori. If there is a loss of income, it must be proved by a written attestation from the employer, for example.
Indemnities shall also continue to be received during school holidays.

What are the procedures for people in quarantine?

Employees who are quarantined must contact their employer and declare themselves sick.
Please note: an employee quarantined by a doctor is eligible for daily indemnities, limited to 10 days.
Those who are sick or given permission to stay at home by their employer due to their vulnerability are not eligible for an allowance as, in this case, the employer must continue to pay their salary.

How are loss of income allowances calculated?

The indemnities are defined on the basis of the system of allowances for loss of income and paid in the form of daily indemnities. They correspond to 80% of the salary and are capped at 196 francs per day.

To which entity should the request for CSW (APG) be made?

The allowance is not paid automatically. Those eligible must make the request themselves to the competent AVS compensation fund, who will then pay the allowance directly to the individual.

The obligations of employers/employees and Covid-19

What measures must be taken by the employees?

Employees must inform their employer if they have been close to someone who has Covid-19 or if they experience symptoms of the virus (a flu-like state, cough, fever). In any of these cases the employees must stay at home (self-isolation as recommended by the OFSP).

What measures must be taken by the employer?

The employer must respect and pass on to their employees and customers the recommendations of the authorities (Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP), Federal Council, the State Council of the Canton involved) as regards hygiene, social distancing, the closure of establishments, etc.

Do those employees who stay at home because they are experiencing symptoms of the virus have the right to a salary?

Yes, according to the rules applicable in case of sickness. In the case of Covid-19, the authorities encourage employers to be flexible and require a medical certificate only after 5 to 10 days of absence. The Cantons of Vaud and Geneva require that a medical certificate should not be requested prior to the 10th day of absence.

Swiss Risk & Care, an expert RH broker at your side

In this time of pandemic with its important social, economic and financial impacts, we are at your side to help you and advise you on human resources. Our Caredesk, Payroll and Absences experts are teleworking and can therefore ensure the continuity of our services. They are at your disposal to answer any questions you may have.
Contact our experts by e-mail at: rhinfo@swissriskcare.ch