Burnout Risk: Can the Law Help?

If a company cuts jobs, those who remain have to absorb the additional burden. Their risk of burnout increases.

Those affected rarely communicate the first signs of burnout. Particularly when things are turbulent in the company, they are afraid that they will be thought to be less resilient. The irony of burnout is that it often affects extremely committed employees who have high expectations of themselves.

If you find that you may be at risk of burnout, your first port of call (in addition to family and friends) should be a health care professional – someone who can professionally assess what is needed for your recovery, for example:

  • Adjustment of lifestyle, more recovery time
  • sick leave
  • Prescription of medication

But time and again, questions about employment law come up. We have compiled a few examples for you.

Shall I Inform my Employer?

If you inform your employer about your health problems, they must take measures to make you feel better. Employers have a duty of care and a duty to protect your health. If no measures are taken, you can – after an unsuccessful reminder – under certain circumstances stop working. You can also challenge any dismissal as abusive if it was only because you asked for help.

The dismissal is also abusive if it is due to poor performance that only arose because there were not enough health protection measures in place. However, an employer will not be liable for the consequences of the damage to health if it can be proven that he or she did not know that the employee was unwell. So it is worthwhile to raise the issue of your health.

What Measures Are Possible?

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs has produced a fact sheet on which various measures for burnout prevention are recorded. It contains concrete and valuable tips for managers.

The organization and distribution of work plays a special role. Goals and priorities must be realistic. If necessary, it is the employer's responsibility to recruit additional employees and to ensure a positive working atmosphere, for example through mediation, conciliation, team seminars, etc.

As an employee, you are only obligated to work overtime if you can realistically perform it and it can be reasonably expected of you in good faith. If burnout is imminent, both parties should consider to what extent overtime is still reasonable and whether it would not be better to reduce existing time credits on an ongoing basis.

If the reason for your overload is a lack of professional competence, further training can help. From a legal point of view, it must be checked in each individual case whether an employer has to bear the corresponding costs.

Should I Resign?

As a rule, you should only give notice yourself if you already have a new job. If you are affected by a medical condition such as burnout, you should think very carefully about whether you really want to give notice yourself, because the new job will only offer protection against dismissal once the probationary period has expired.

If you still wish to resign of your own accord, you should do so only after your doctor has confirmed that it is no longer reasonable to continue your employment.

Our members can contact our legal advice team at Employees Switzerland free of charge for support in a difficult situation.

Publications of the Staatssekretariat für Wirtschaft about burnout (in German)


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