Mile-long traffic jams, empty commuter trains and packed outdoor swimming pools – it's clear that the vacation period has reached its peak. From a legal perspective, the topic of vacations results in heated discussions time and again. Below we have listed five misconceptions.
1. Employees decide when they take their vacations
Going on vacation when you want is actually more of a privilege than a right. As a general rule, it's the employers who decide when annual leave can be taken. However, employers are required to listen to their employees and accommodate their wishes as far as possible. Particularly employees with families should be permitted to take their vacations during school holidays. Notice of vacations must also be given as soon as possible so employees are able to schedule them in. A notice period of three months is considered appropriate nowadays.
2. If you're sick you can't take your annual leave
It's possible for someone to become sick during their vacation. Some will think: "At least I'll get my vacation time back if I'm sick." This isn't always the case, however. Vacations are there to recuperate and relax. If employees are not able to recuperate during their vacation due to illness, this is not a reason to cut their holiday entitlement short. But the ability to recuperate is assessed differently than the ability to work. If the illness involves being confined to bed and making regular trips to the doctor, this certainly rules out a proper vacation. However, a minor cough is not a sufficient reason to claim back vacation time.
3. Vacations may never be cut short
This assumption is wrong. If employees are absent from work for a full month through their own fault, their holiday entitlement may be reduced by a twelfth. This includes an inability to work due to drinking excessively the night before or doing a dare that lands the employee in hospital, for example. If employees are unable to work through no fault of their own, such as due to an illness or accident, the entitlement may only be reduced following the second full month of absence. Those who are pregnant are protected from their entitlement being reduced for two full months. This does not take maternity leave into account.
4. An employer is not allowed to disturb employees during their vacation
Occupational medicine physicians recommend completely switching off during vacation time and leaving laptops and business phones at home, saying nothing should disturb the recuperation process. Employers should only contact their employees in an emergency. It is therefore crucial that vacation times are planned well. In urgent, exceptional cases, employees may be called back from their vacations. In such cases, however, the employer is required to reimburse the employee for any damages incurred (costs, e.g. due to telephone calls, reduced vacation value).
5. Employees have the right to go home when the temperature exceeds 30°C
This year's summer has clearly shown us that extremely hot summers are happening more and more frequently. It was hard to ignore employee requests to go home. In Switzerland, however, there is no legal right to leave work early due to excessive temperatures. Employers merely have the general obligation to protect the health of their employees. During periods of high temperatures, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs recommends providing employees with enough water, adapting break arrangements and starting work earlier in the day, for example. The only exception is for those who are pregnant. In such cases, working indoors in temperatures above 28°C is already considered dangerous, and as such they are permitted to refuse to work.