Companies must pay share of rent for employees working from home

Whether an employee did or did not rent an additional room or a larger apartment to work from home was also irrelevant according to the court’s ruling. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

German-language paper Tages-Anzeiger reports that Switzerland’s top court has ruled that employers are required to contribute to employees’ rent payments if they are expected to work from home.

Tages-Anzeiger/jdp

According to the paper, the federal court decision, which has not been made public, concerns an accounting firm that had let an employee work from home.

The company argued that they had not reached an agreement with the employee ahead of time and therefore was not obligated to cover part of his rent. The court rejected this argument and added that the employee could even request rent compensation retroactively after leaving the company.

Whether an employee did or did not rent an additional room or a larger apartment to work from home was also irrelevant according to the court’s ruling. The judges estimated a monthly compensation of CHF150 ($154) for the employee’s rent to be justified.

This is the first time Switzerland’s highest court has dealt with the topic of rent allowances for employees working from home. Thomas Geiser, a professor of labor law at the University of St Gallen, told the paper that the verdict is not surprising as the “law obliges employers to reimburse their employees for all expenses incurred to carry out their work”.

Geiser points out that the decision applies to employees who work from home upon the employer’s request. However, employees that work from home on their own behest may not receive rental compensation.

For some trade union representatives this leaves out some workers, who may not be contractually obliged to work from home but may be driven to do so because of a range of reasons. Luca Cirigliano, General Secretary of the Swiss Confederation of Trade Unions, told the paper that companies often use flexible workstations in order to save money on office rent.

It is extremely unfair as well as illegal for employers to pass costs on to employees in this way, Cirigliano told the paper.

The decision comes during an unprecedented increase in working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some employers are exploring whether to extend flexible work arrangements and make “home office” a mainstay for some employees.


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