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(Not) Out of office Emails on the train? Swiss civil servants may soon count commute as work

A man working on his laptop on the train

As of January 1, time spent working during the commute can be "fully credited" as worktime with approval from a superior.

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

Federal civil servants who answer emails, make phone calls or read minutes on their way to or from the office will be able to count this as working time starting January 1.

An amendment to the directive covering mobile forms of work for the federal administration stipulates that workers will simply need approval from their direct superior in order to have time spent working on the train “fully credited”, the SonntagsZeitungexternal link newspaper reported.

Previously such work could be billed in exceptional cases only.

A spokesperson for the Federal Personnel Office who spoke to the SonntagsZeitung could not say what proportion of the 38,000-strong civil service currently are allowed to work during their commute or how many are expected to take advantage of the new rule.

According to labour law professor Thomas Geiser of the University of St. Gallen, reading emails outside the office should legally count as worktime.

“Making phone calls and [writing] emails in your free time for your job is work and not leisure time,” he told Swiss public television SRF.

The change follows a demand made by the four federal staff unions last year and comes at a time when digitalisation is making more flexible work arrangements possible both in the private and public sectors.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, nine out of ten workersexternal link in Switzerland – or four million people in total – regularly commuted to work in 2017, nearly a third of them by public transport. The average commute lasted half an hour.

(Not) Out of office Commuting will soon be counted as work too for some Swiss civil servants

Starting January 1, civil servants who answer emails or make calls on their way to or from the office will be able to credit the time as hours worked.

This content was published on December 30, 2019 5:36 PM

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