By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi
ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's highest court on Friday rejected foreign sex workers' access to compensation for pay lost due to the coronavirus pandemic, saying temporary workers were ineligible for short-time work payouts due to their short stay.
The court denied a request by an unidentified sex club operator in the northeastern canton of Thurgau, whose 30 workers were put out of work from March 17 until June 5 last year when the club closed due to government measures to contain COVID-19.
Because the workers were permitted to work in Switzerland for only four months under rules allowing people from the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to work in Switzerland for a short time, the court determined they were ineligible for compensation.
"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.
Switzerland last year extended its short-time working scheme that helps cover lost wages for staff at companies that manage lean economic times by temporarily reducing workers' hours and pay.
However, such compensation required a minimum six months' employment, the court said, adding the relationship between the club and the sex workers did not fit the criteria of employment.
"There is no real employment contract between the club operator and the sex workers, as the latter decide themselves on where, what type and to what extent they provide sexual services," the top court said in its ruling. "Regarding the employment relationship, it is rather to be assumed that the work is performed quasi on demand of the client."
Their temporary stay excluded them from pandemic-related jobless insurance, the court said.
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Alex Richardson)