Country Information

Officially known as the Swiss Confederation, this European country is a Federal Republic comprised of 26 cantons. Switzerland has four different national languages including German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Switzerland is distinguished by its high-tech economy and economic stability, including a strong financial services and banking industry. Switzerland has the second highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in the world at USD82,950. The seat of government is in Bern and Geneva is known as the “capital of peace,” as it is home to the headquarters of the Red Cross and the United Nations Organization (Europe).

Employment Contracts

Employment contracts in Switzerland are generally written, although this is not required. However, when the employee’s contract is for an indefinite term or for a fixed-term lasting longer than a month, the employer must provide the employee a written document that includes:

  • The names of the employer and employee
  • The date the employment relationship will begin
  • A description of the job
  • The employee’s salary and any adjustments
  • The number of hours to be worked each week
  • It is also advisable to provide the term of the employment relationship, rules regarding probation and notice periods, the employee’s vacation time, rules about sick leave and maternity leave, and any other specific terms the employer and employee have agreed on.

In practice, terms of employment are often set by collective agreements, which cover roughly 40% of workers in Switzerland.

Working Hours

The standard work week is 45 hours for industrial, office, technical and retail workers, while other industries are limited to 50 hours. Overtime may not exceed two hours per day. Employees whose work week is 45 hours may not work more than 170 overtime hours per year, while the annual overtime limit for employees who work 50 hours per week is 140 hours. Employees are paid at 125% of their standard hourly rate for overtime, although white collar workers and retail workers in large stores do not begin to receive the 25% supplement until they have worked 60 hours.

Sick Leave

Employees are normally entitled to three weeks of paid sick leave during the first year of work for an employer, and more the longer they remain with the employer. The exact amount of sick leave the employee receives and the pay the employee receives during this time varies from one canton to another and may be determined by a contract or collective agreement.

Maternity/Paternity Leave

Female employees receive 14 weeks of maternity leave. The leave lasts 16 weeks in the canton of Geneva, and other cantons may enact other laws that provide for more time. In every canton except Geneva, a mother who has used her 14 weeks of maternity leave is entitled to two more weeks of unpaid leave before returning to work. Fathers may take up to two weeks of paternity leave during the first six months after birth.

Compensation

Bonuses are common in Switzerland and are often paid towards the end of the year as a 13th month salary. Workers on fixed-term contracts sometimes receive a bonus when the contract expires.

Vacation Leave

Employees receive four weeks of paid annual leave. Employees who are 20 years old and younger receive five weeks.

Public Holidays

There are many holidays that are observed in one or a few of Switzerland’s cantons but are not observed nationwide. The holidays listed below are the national holidays observed in all or almost all cantons.

  • New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • Ascension Day
  • Whit Monday
  • Swiss National Day
  • Christmas Day
  • St. Stephen’s Day
Health Insurance Benefits

Switzerland requires anyone who will be in Switzerland for more than three months, including non-residents, to purchase private health insurance. All health insurance companies offer an affordable basic policy, and insurers are required to insure all applicants. Many residents also purchase additional coverage to supplement the basic policy.

Employment / Termination / Severance

Either the employer or the employee may terminate an employment contract with the appropriate notice. Unless a contract or collective agreement provides otherwise, the notice period ranges from one week to three months depending on the employee’s length of service. An employee can be dismissed without notice but only for extreme misconduct. Special procedures apply to collective dismissals. Severance is required in limited circumstances. Employees past the age of 50 who have worked for their employers for more than 20 years are entitled to severance of a minimum of two months of salary. Severance is not normally paid in other situations unless required by a contract or collective agreement.

Local Laws & Regulations

We understand that local laws and regulations change and sourcing an accurate reference guide is not easy. Our data is researched and verified by our team of local international Employment Attorneys, HR and Benefit Professionals and Tax Accountants through our Atlas team and consultants, to ensure information up-to-date and accurate.

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