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Commuting workers in Switzerland can now be paid for work done on the train

Do you commute to and from your place of work? This law change, which has already taken effect as of January 2020, now makes it much easier for some employees to be paid for the work they do on the train.

Commuting workers in Switzerland can now be paid for work done on the train

These days it’s a common sight. Trains full of commuters, disposable coffee cups in hand, typing away furiously on their laptops as they try to get a head start on the day’s work. 

For the almost 40,000 people who work for the Swiss government, new rules mean all it takes is a tick of approval from a manager – and time spent working while commuting will be counted as on the clock. 

The laws came into effect from January 1st, 2020 pursuant to the Mobile Forms of Work in Federal Administration Directive. The Directive was passed in response to pressure from the relevant union, who complained that staff were frequently only being paid for part of the work they completed 

While previously some government workers were eligible to be paid while working during the morning commute, this was comparatively rare and usually involved navigating plenty of red tape. 

Approximately eight percent of federal workers are currently paid for work done during their commute. 

The Federal Statistical Office estimates that the average worker in Switzerland spends over an hour (62 minutes) commuting to work per day. 

READ MORE: How the new Léman Express train link will ease Geneva's traffic woes 

According to the Tages Anzeiger, all federal workers need to simply gain approval from their manager and all work done during the commute will be “fully paid”. 

A spokesperson for the federal government told the newspaper that the move reflected a need to incorporate greater flexibility into working conditions. 

“With this directive we are ensuring that mobile forms of work are implemented uniformly in the federal administration. There is a great need for more flexibility in the forms of work”

With its high cost of living, commuting from neighbouring countries into Switzerland for work is considerably popular. 

More than 325,000 foreign workers commuted over the border into Switzerland in 2019, with 85,100 people coming to Geneva from France, 67,800 crossing the border from Italy to Ticino and 33,700 coming from Germany and France to Basel, as the city straddles French and German borders.

READ: Record number of foreign workers commute to Switzerland from abroad 

Under the law, only government workers are eligible – with private sector workers needing to discuss similar conditions with their employer. 

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Swedish Fiscal Policy Council criticises ‘too large’ electricity subsidy

Sweden's Fiscal Policy Council, the government's own council of experts on financial policy, criticised the 60 million kronor energy price subsidy in its yearly report, presented on Wednesday.

Swedish Fiscal Policy Council criticises 'too large' electricity subsidy

“I don’t think all the households with dramatically high energy prices think the subsidy was too large,” Sweden’s finance minister, Elisabeth Svantesson, said after the report was published. 

The council argued that it would have been better to offer a less extensive subsidy, with the government instead focusing more on support aimed at particularly vulnerable households.

“If they had not offered such large subsidies in those areas, they would have had the opportunity to do other things which we believe would have been better for the economy,” said Lars Heikensten, chairman of the Fiscal Policy Council.

The money could, according to the council, have also been used for measures aimed at increasing economic growth – measures which the report states are “conspicuously absent”.

The council’s vice chairman, Lisa Laun, agreed that there was good reason to give a certain amount of economic support to households. She did, however, point out that subsidies in general are problematic, as the best way to lower electricity prices is to reduce the demand for electricity.

Svantesson argued that the government had instead made sure that households were partly refunded for the cost of capacity charges, adding that it would “not have been possible” to give more tailored support to vulnerable households.

“We used the capacity fees to refund the fees households and companies had paid in,” she said.

The council argued, however, that the government would have been better able target measures to vulnerable households in its budget, without also fuelling inflation, if the energy price subsidy had been less extensive.

The price subsidy announced in January, which compensated for households across the country for energy prices in November and December last year, came in for particularly harsh criticism, as households in southern Sweden had already received compensation through the subsidy announced by the previous government prior to the election.

Svantesson, however, said that the price support subsidy announced in January had not compensated users in southern Sweden twice, as it covered a different time period.

The council was also critical of the energy price support subsidy offered to companies in southern Sweden, arguing that companies to a large extent have been able to pass on their increased energy costs to consumers.

“High consumers of electricity also often have long, fixed energy contracts, meaning that there’s a risk that the subsidy for companies actually exceeds the increased costs they’ve paid for electricity,” Laun said.

The government wanted to subsidise companies as soon as possible, Svantesson explained.

“Of course, there’s almost always room for improvement. If we offer some type of energy subsidy in the future, it’s good to take these viewpoints into consideration.”