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Employment Terms and Conditions

Switzerland - Employment Terms and Conditions


In Switzerland 42 hours is considered fairly standard for a working week and the leave entitlement is 4 working weeks per year, in addition to public holidays. Taking annual leave into account, the Swiss spend more hours at work than many of their European neighbours. The legal maximum working week is 45 hours in industry and for office, technical and retail staff, and 50 hours in other sectors. A further 4 hours may be worked by agreement. Moves to reduce the time spent working have in the past been opposed by Swiss voters.

Office based employment will involve working Monday to Friday beginning at 8.30am or 9.00am and finishing the working day between 5.30pm and 7.00pm, depending on the sector. Some companies may allow an earlier start and finish time. A working day is likely to be 8.5 hours, plus you are required to take an unpaid lunch break of at least 30 minutes. There may be a 15 minute break allowed. If working non-standard hours, you would not work greater than 5 days without a day off. Night and Sunday work will normally attract a higher rate of pay. Evening work does not, and is classed as work between 8.00pm and 11.00pm. Overtime is compensated either with additional pay or in time off, at the discretion of each individual company.

In addition to the 20 working days annual leave there will be a number of public holidays which vary according to canton, and on average will total around 9 days in a year. All cantons observe public holidays on New Year's Day (1st January), Ascension Day, National Day (1st August), and Christmas Day (25th December). Additionally, all cantons except Valais (Wallis) take Easter Monday and Whit Monday as public holidays. Further days in the calendar observed as holidays will be religious festivals and will depend on the predominant religion of the canton, with the exception of Labour Day which is also observed by a number of cantons at the beginning of May.

Swiss workers have a low rate of sickness absence. Accidents and illness are treated differently by Swiss employment law and are funded by different social insurances deducted each month from your salary. You are therefore expected to make accurate reports of the cause of absence to help your employer to correctly account for payments made to you.

Sick leave is payable once in employment for at least 3 continuous months. During the first year of work, an employer will be expected to pay a maximum of between 1 and 3 weeks of sickness pay (depending on the canton, with most cantons within the 1 week category but Zurich and Basel in the 3 week category), but is entitled to ask for a doctor's certificate for an absence of more than 3 consecutive days. After a year, the period for which a sick employee would be paid will depend on the canton, length of service and other circumstances. In Zurich, sickness pay in the second year of work would be a maximum of 8 weeks, and in the third year a maximum of 9 weeks. In many other cantons it would be 1 month in the second year, increasing to 2 months in years 3 and 4. Note that any illness or injury considered to be self-inflicted is unlikely to be paid as sick leave by the employer, and would instead be deducted from the annual leave allocation (or from salary if insufficient leave has accrued).

Accidents include poisoning, and are covered by the accident insurance (UVG). While incapacitated you will receive a daily allowance equivalent to 80% of your earnings. This only begins on the third day of incapacity.

Compassionate leave may be granted of between one and three days, according to how closely the bereaved was related to the deceased.

Maternity leave is a legal right in Switzerland and maternity benefit is payable after at least three months in continuous employment with the same employer, provided at social insurance contributions have been made for a minimum of 9 months and that a minimum of five of these months were spent in employment. A new mother will be paid at 80% of her full wage for 14 weeks after childbirth (or CHF 196 where 80% of salary would exceed this figure). Only the canton of Geneva differs, extending this to 16 weeks. The mother is also protected against dismissal during the pregnancy and for 16 weeks after giving birth. The employer will have to make reasonable accommodation for the needs of a expectant or new mother to ensure the continued good health of her and her baby. She will be exempt from certain types of hazardous or physically stressful work and can be paid 80% of her salary if her employer is not able to offer her alternative duties. From 8 weeks before her due date, an expectant mother will be exempt from evening (from 8.00pm) and night work. There are additional legal provisions made for breastfeeding mothers to leave the workplace, and pregnant women will also be entitled to more frequent breaks. Although there is currently no statutory paternity leave, new fathers may at the discretion of their company be permitted to take paid leave, although this varies from a single day to five days according to the employer. Unpaid parental leave is not normally granted.

Currently the age of retirement in Switzerland is 65 for men, with legislation likely to set a similar wage for women. This is the age at which eligibility for the state pension (AHV) begins. A company may allow employees to retire at the age at which they become eligible for the occupational pension (BVG), with state pension payments reduced accordingly. This can be from 58 years of age, depending on the pension scheme. All employees must pay into a company pension. Additional private pension schemes may be subscribed to by the employee. The private, voluntary pension is referred to as the third pillar, a metaphor which aims to encourage Switzerland's residents to build a more stable retirement. The state pension and the compulsory occupational pension are respectively the first and second pillars.

Trade unions exist in Switzerland but rarely engage in strike action. Most, but not all, workers have a right to strike. Around a quarter of employees belong to a union. Employees pay a membership fee to the union, and can choose whether or not to join. Many of the unions have grouped themselves under two larger umbrella organisations, The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (G: SGB, F: USS) and Travail.Suisse.

The standard probation period in Switzerland is from 1 to 3 months. Dismissal during this period would require 7 days notice. During the first year of employment, a month's notice is standard. This increases to 2 months in subsequent years. However, pregnant women may leave work without being obliged to give the stated notice. It may be possible for an employer and employee to negotiate an immediate termination of contract where this is of mutual benefit. Serious misconduct in the workplace can result in dismissal without notice but may be difficult to legally enforce. The employee can make an appeal for unfair dismissal but must do so immediately. Employees enjoy protection from dismissal during pregnancy, periods of military service, and illness.

It is possible to be made redundant in Switzerland and the employer has few obligations beyond providing paid notice of 8.7 weeks to employees in service over 1 year, and 4.3 weeks to those below a year. There is no severance pay required by law.


Useful Resources

Federal Social Insurance Office: Overview of Swiss Social Security
(PDF document in English giving a detailed overview of social security deductions and claims)
http://www.bsv.admin.ch/themen/ueberblick/00003/index.html?lang=en


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