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Everything your company needs to know to tackle the Covid-19 crisis
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Everything your company needs to know to tackle the Covid-19 crisis

Last update on August 10, 2020

 

The various measures implemented by the Confederation, the cantons, the compensation funds, the banks and other stakeholders come from all sides. They can have a direct impact on helping your company fight this coronavirus crisis. Let’s have a look at the various initiatives.

Summary :

Compensation in the event of loss of work related to coronavirus
          - Reduction of working hours (RHT)
          - Social charges payment and Human Resources
          - Loss of earnings for the self-employed and the employees who took care of their children

Teleworking cross-border employees

Support for companies with liquidity needs
         - Request a cash advance
         - Tax deadlines and deferrals in Geneva

Foundations
Entrepreneurial solidarity
Other measures to keep in mind
Recovery
Some tips from Synergix
The best resources to answer other questions you may have

 

FER has published this infographic on 14 April 2020 (last update on July 7, 2020) which summarizes the rights and obligations of entrepreneurs in Geneva in this specific period:

 

Compensation in the event of loss of work related to coronavirus

Reduction of working hours (RHT):

By authorizing the employer to temporarily reduce the working time defined by a contract, this measure allows the entitled worker to receive a compensation. The aim is to preserve jobs and avoid layoff.

Previously applicable only to specific populations, the Confederation recently extended the RHT to fixed-term contracts, apprentices, temporary workers, entrepreneurs and their spouses. The period during which a reduction of working hours can be authorized - which is currently 3 months - has been increased to 6 months, in order to reduce the number of requests and speed up the process.

To check your rights, you can consult the SECO website.

On April 23, the government improved the support to job-creating entrepreneurs and approved the proposal to supplement RHT up to the APG ceiling (CHF 5,880 .-). To apply to the cantonal employment office, you must fill in the form here.

 

SECO has simplified the request and today, the process consists of:

  • Fill in the RHT notice form (716.300) and submit your request to the competent Cantonal Employment Office (this form is identical for all cantons);
  • For Geneva, send the file by email to rht@etat.ge.ch;
  • Contrary to what is indicated in this form, the Commercial Register form and the RHT approval form to be validated by the employees exceptionally do not need to be sent; in this case a written confirmation from the employer that all employees affected by RHT agree is enough;
  • If the company can explain that the work losses are due to the appearance of coronavirus (beware, the reference to coronavirus is not sufficient, there must be a causal link between the appearance of covid-19 and the loss of work) when answering questions 9a, 10b, 11a and 11c; therefore it is not necessary to answer the other questions from 9 to 12 in the form;
  • There is no longer a waiting period and it is no longer imperative for the employees to use their overtime balance to benefit from RHT.

 

Update on 8 April 2020:

  • The Federal Council has canceled the maximum duration of the RHT compensation in the event of loss of work by 85% during the extraordinary situation, in order to relieve the companies and avoid the financial threat related to a limitation.

 

  • During this extraordinary situation, the RHT will be calculated according to a summary procedure (no more counting per employee) in order to discharge the cantonal authorities and accelerate the payments of allowances.

For more information on this subject: read the official report from the Federal Council

For more information on how to fill in the RHT request, you can consult the memorandum published by the FER which is based on a concrete example.

 

If the request is accepted by the competent cantonal authority, the employer must pay the allowance on the usual pay day and continue to pay all social charges. (For more details on this, check the brochure "Obligation to contribute to compensation in the event of RHT" published by the AVS / AI).

Each month the employer must assert his right by attaching the additional forms and documents requested by the unemployment fund. RHT allowances will then be paid to the employer.

 

For more details on RHT:

Beware: if your company does not yet meet the obligation to record working time and has requested RHT, it is crucial to set it up as soon as possible. The records will be essential for your claims.

 

The measures relating to the right of necessity will end on August 31, 2020, at the end of the period of application of the COVID 19 unemployment insurance ordinance. Please note, the extraordinary right to RHT for people whose position is comparable to that of an employer, for their spouses or partners and for apprentices is deleted at the end of May 2020. The notice period of 10 days is also reintroduced (if RHT has already been approved, no new request to file, if the authorization should expire, it will be extended to a maximum of 6 months).

On June 11, a new memorandum on the request form and statement of compensation in the event of Covid-19 RHT was published by the FER.

-> On July 1, the Federal Council extended the possibility of using RHT to 18 months and fixed the waiting period at 1 day per counting period from September 1, from which the consideration of overtime prior to RHT will be also restored. This ordinance applies until December 31, 2021. Subject to the specifics mentioned, the usual RHT provisions will apply again from September 1.

 

Beware: all RHT Covid-19 authorizations will automatically expire on August 31, 2020, even if the deadlines previously granted land after this date.

If your company wishes to continue to benefit from RHT services from September 1, a new request must be made to the competent authority before August 22, 2020 to avoid an interruption in the compensation periods (notice periods of 10 days). The process must be repeated every 3 months and you need to justify in detail the reasons for the temporary loss of work (it is likely that the authorities will be stricter in examining the files).

 

Social charges payment and Human Resources

The Social charges cantonal office (OCAS) is willing to be flexible towards its affiliates. If your company is having difficulty paying its dues, you can contact the OCAS to request a payment delay and the modification of your ordinary installments.

The Federal Council decided to temporarily allow employers to use, for the payment of employees' LPP contributions, the contribution reserves that they have built. The employer continues to deduct normally the share of contributions from the employees' salaries and the pension fund credits all contributions in favor of the latter.
Moreover, the obligation to advertise vacancies has been temporarily removed.

The obligation to advertise vacancies will be reactivated from June 6, 2020

 

Loss of earnings for the self-employed and the employees who took care of their children

Regarding the self-employed who have suffered a loss of income due to the related measures taken by the Federal Council and the employees who have had to interrupt their professional activity to take care of their children (up to 12 years) and who do not receive their salary accordingly, the extraordinary loss of earnings allowance can cover the compensation. For more information, visit the OCAS website.

 

Update on 16 April 2020:

The Federal Council has decided to extend the right to the COVID-19 loss of earnings allowance to self-employed persons indirectly affected by official measures. All independents professionals who declared an annual salary between CHF 10,000 .- and CHF 90,000 .- to the AVS will be compensated by the APG (at 80% of the salary declared to the AVS), retroactively, from 17 March 2020 at the earliest, for a maximum of 60 days (with a possible renewal). The request needs to be made via the online form of the compensation fund.

To find out more, discover the very complete BDO publication published on June 15, 2020: APG COVID 19 - helping the self-employed during the crisis.

=> On June 19, the Federal Council specified the deadlines relating to the right to allowance. The COVID-19 loss of earnings order is valid for six months, until September 16, 2020. No retroactive calculation can be filed after this date and all requests must be made before September 16.

On July 1, the Federal Council published a press release in which they asked people entering Switzerland from certain regions to quarantine 10 days. They specify that in this situation the right to loss of earnings allowance does not apply. In the event that a person goes into solitary confinement after having received an alert from the SwissCovid application, the right to loss of earnings allowance applies only if the quarantine has been ordered by a doctor.

FER has published this new table to easily understand who can get RHT or not, according to the new decisions of the Federal Council:

 

Teleworking cross-border employees

The OFAS confirmed that the occasional teleworking period linked to coronavirus does not change the status of the related cross-border workers.

At the end of April, the OFAS recalled: "With regard to teleworking for cross-border workers, we have not set a time limit on flexibility when the 25% of working time exercised in the state of domicile has exceeded because of Covid-19. We will continue to be flexible when someone is forced to work in their state of domicile because of Covid-19. "

 

If you have legal questions about teleworking, you can consult this article published by lexing.ch on its legal aspects.

An amicable agreement was signed on May 14 between Switzerland and France indicating that the tax agreements continue to apply as long as the exceptional measures are in force. Its effects will cease when the two States have ended their health regulations restricting or discouraging the movement of people.

Border controls with France, Austria and Germany will stop on June 15, 2020.

 

The Federal Council decided to put an end to the extraordinary situation from June 19 and to stop most of the measures against coronavirus from June 22, including the recommendation of remote working. The flexible application of the rules of liability to taxation applies until December 31, 2020 for Germany and until August 31, 2020 for France and Austria.

 

=> Modification of the installments of contributions, suspension of summons or suspension of payment of contributions, on April 28, PwC published an article on the financing of social insurance by the employer, explaining the regulatory requirements of the "Covid-19 Ordinance occupational pensions "and the OFAS directive.

 

3D ECO Coronavirus : Quels remèdes pour les entreprises ?

 

Support for companies with liquidity needs during this drop in activity linked to Covid-19

Request a cash advance

The Fondation d’aides aux entreprises (FAE) supports companies hit hard by coronavirus by offering them a cash advance in the form of a direct loan, interest-free, without loan guarantee and in principle reimbursable over seven years.

To request a cash advance from the FAE click here.

 

Some banks provide liquidity in the form of rapid transitional credits and / or allow the suspension of variable:

The list of banks that grant COVID-19 loans is available here. This website has been created to request a bridging loan quickly: covid19.easygov.swiss

On 13 April 2020, RTS highlighted some of the subtleties behind the credits guaranteed by the Confederation, including a 0% rate valid only for credits below CHF 500,000 .- and guaranteed only the first year, as well as credits granted in different ways depending on the banks (loans or extended authorized overdraft limit).

On May 4, 2020, the Federal Council announced that the liquidity aid for start-ups is operational. All the indications concerning the procedure are published on covid19.easygov.swiss

In the event that your company does not meet any of the criteria enabling it to be compensated by the RHT, the APG or a joint guarantee, Wilhelm Avocats highlights a solution based on the article 63 LEp.

 

Measures to prevent bankruptcies (update on 16 April 2020)

In order to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and to mitigate the consequences of the crisis, the Federal Council adopted an ordinance allowing a transitional exemption from the obligation to notify the judge in the event of immediate bankruptcy (for companies whose situation was healthy at the end of 2019) and implementing a COVID-19 limited report (3-month report which can be extended by an additional 3-month period) which could be required in a non-bureaucratic manner.

 

Tax deadlines and deferrals in Geneva

  • Additional time is allowed (May 31, 2020) for filing the tax declaration;
  • No interest will be claimed on the ICC and IFD in 2020;
  • An additional deadline has also been validated (May 31, 2020) for filing the source tax rectification;
  • You can adapt your installment payments to your situation without any formality and without default interest;
  • The USPI and the Geneva Real Estate Board concluded an agreement on 8 April 2020 in order to set up a voluntary assistance program for the attention of the owner who wishes to support their commercial, independent or very small business tenant. The main eligibility criterion is based on a rent which must not exceed CHF 3,500.- per month, charges not included, provided that there was no formal notice for payment of rent before 17 March 2020. The tenant must address the request to the owner by filling in the form available on the website of the State of Geneva.

On April 30, in Geneva, the total or partial exemption from commercial rent for businesses was renewed for the month of May and extended to lease contracts of up to CHF 10,000 .- per month.

Foundations

Clarifications from the Federal Council for foundations and associations during a pandemic (Covid-19): In response to a request from the umbrella association proFonds, the Federal Council confirmed that the measures to support businesses could also apply to foundations and associations. The Federal Council is thus taking a position on the applicability of RHTs, payment facilities for social security contributions and taxes / VAT and access to bridging loans. Relative information and other resources are available on the proFonds website.
Federal surveillance of foundations has announced that due to the coronavirus epidemic, the deadline for the submission of the annual report for 2019 is exceptionally extended to September 30, 2020, instead of June 30, 2020; it is not necessary to file an extension request. This exceptional extension does not concern previous annual management reports, including that of 2018.

 

Entrepreneurial solidarity

It is wonderful to see that true solidarity has developed at all levels in our country. Many initiatives are emerging to give a boost to local businesses, including:

  • Ensemble 19, toutdebons.ch and Soutien aux commerçants de la Riviera offer to support local business, in particular those who have had to close, by buying their products or services in the form of gift vouchers, to be used upon their reopening. Thus, the money raised allows these businesses to pay their various costs during this period of restrictive measures;
  • Insurance companies La Vaudoise and Groupe Mutuel have teamed up with Qoqa to launch the DirecQt platform to support small producers, retailers and other businesses who cannot do their jobs. If you are in this situation and part of the local economic, you can fill in this form. On the DirecQt site, internet users will be able to buy enhanced coupons that will allow them to benefit from 10% and the merchant to receive 20%. For example if a customer buys a 90.- voucher from a chocolate artisan, it has a value of 100.- and the artisan gets 120.-;
  • The Lausanne-based instagrammer Whitney Toyloy, set up the operation " Coup de pouce de Whitney " with the aim of helping self-employed and small French-speaking business by giving them visibility on her Instagram account (11,3 k followers);
  • Iabsis launched the solidarity platform covid-heros.ch to support the self-employed and small businesses, on which internet users can sign up for a pre-order and send a "little extra" to help them;
  • Do you have an idea for an invention? To support SMEs and start-ups in Switzerland, the IPI is carrying out assisted patent searches and assisted patent analyses free of charge from 1 April to 31 May 2020. In addition, they are supporting applicants and rights holders where possible if they are threatened with procedural disadvantages due to the new coronavirus.

 

Other measures to keep in mind:

 

Recovery:

Depending on the sector of activity, some companies can resume on April 27 and others on May 11, provided that the activity-specific protection plan is put in place. Checks are already underway. To view the protection plan linked to your company, visit backtowork.easygov.swiss

You can also consult the fact sheet and the checklist for occupational health protection made available to employers by SECO.

As of June 6, measures to combat the coronavirus will be greatly relaxed. The Federal Council decided to no longer consider the situation as extraordinary within the meaning of the law on epidemics from June 19, 2020.

 

Some tips from Synergix:

  • If you are active abroad, there is a good chance that your VAT statements are in a credit position and that the Administration owes you money. By returning your statement at the end of the period (1st April 2020 for January - March) rather than at the end of the legal deadline, you may receive the money owed to you more quickly. The reimbursement occurring around 60 days later, anticipating it can make a difference in your company's cash flow;
  • Your income is likely to decrease compared to your last taxation, therefore you can adapt the amount of your installments according to the new expected profit / capital;
  • A legal entity based in Geneva must do it via correspondence and for a private indivdual here;
  • If your cash requirements are significant, it may be possible to extend the payment or the deadlines for some services, on request, without interest (for example: VAT, IFD, SIG).

 

The best resources to answer other questions you may have:

  • A very useful online help center in the form of FAQs has been created for all questions of liquidity, indemnities and rights and obligations: : helpcenter.easygov.swiss
  • The "Coronavirus: what measures and rules for employers and employees" page on the FER website;
  • The general official information from the Confederation on coronavirus;
  • The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has published, in collaboration with the Influenza working group and SECO, a guide to help companies in the event of a pandemic: "Pandemic and companies";
  • Nowadays, digitalization has become crucial and some criminals may take advantage with various online frauds attempts. Cybersecurity cannot be underestimated. Geneva has published a free training accordingly;
  • A hotline and a chatbot exclusively dedicated to companies in order to understand their needs and how to support them effectively in their efforts have also been set up: +41 22 388 34 34.

 

Should you continue or stop your activity? Do you need help filing your VAT statements as soon as possible or do you need administrative support in making requests to the authorities? Do you want to implement the best solutions?

Each business is unique. If you would like a loss analysis and personalized tips, please contact us.

 

As the situation is constantly evolving, we will update this article regularly so that you do not miss any measures that could have an impact on your business. Do not hesitate to follow our Linkedin page to stay informed with the latest updates.