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Federal Court rejects foreign sex workers’ access to Covid funds

The Swiss Federal Court is located in Lausanne © Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

The Swiss Federal Court has rejected foreign sex workers’ access to compensation for lost pay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This content was published on June 25, 2021 - 16:31
Reuters/Keystone-SDA/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

Switzerland’s highest court said on FridayExternal link that temporary workers were barred from short-time work payouts because of their short stay in the country.

It denied a requested by a sex club operator from the northeastern canton of Thurgau, whose 30 workers were unable to work from March 17 to June 5, 2020, when the club closed as part of the Swiss government’s lockdown measures.

“For foreign sex workers who work as employees in a club and are registered in Switzerland under the [European short-term work scheme] there is no entitlement to short-time work compensation in connection with the coronavirus,” the Federal Court said in a statement.

The court was referring to rules allowing people from the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to work in Switzerland for a short time, in this case up to four months.

Reduced working hours

In Switzerland, when a company finds itself in difficulty, it can temporarily reduce the working hours of its staff. The employees then work at a lower percentage and the employer pays a lower salary which is supplemented by unemployment insurance. Last year the country extended this scheme.

But this type of compensation requires a minimum six months’ employment, the court said, adding that the relationship between the club and the sex workers did not fit the criteria of employment because the workers decided for themselves about “where, the type and to what extent” they provided their services.

The workers’ temporary stay also excluded them from pandemic-related unemployment insurance, the court said.

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