A quick dive into Swiss labor laws

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  • As an employer, do I need to provide insurance, e.g. for loss of earnings due to sickness or accident of the employee?

The social law in Switzerland states, that all employees are insured against accidents at work and occupational illness. If an employee works eight hours a week or more, additionally accidents that happen in private (non work-related) are covered as well by insurance.

Special circumstances aside, the employee must pay as well for a certain period of time when the employer gets sick and is unable to work. However, it is up to the employer, if he wants to buy an insurance for continuation of salary payments in case of illness (premium payments can be shared with the employee), or if he fully wants to take this risk.

  • Are verbally concluded employment contracts also binding?

The Swiss law doesn’t have a provision that states a certain (e.g. written) form with regard to an employment contract to become binding. Hence, if two parties agree on an employment contract it is binding as agreed. Still, without writing down the conditions of the employment, problems are inevitable. It is even possible that one of the parties will claim never having agreed on an employment contract.

  • What deductions will be made from the salary?

The employer will deduct mandatory positions that concern social insurance. These include AHV and IV (Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and disability insurance), EO (income compensation for official duty and maternity), ALV (unemployment insurance), BVG (occupational benefits insurance) and possible insurance for non-occupational accident.

In case of foreign employees, source tax will be levied.

Further deductions are possible if agreed, such as deductions for the insurance for continuation of salary payments, for the cafeteria etc. 

  • Does a trial-workday also entitle to compensation?

If the employee works as usual, he is entitled for regular compensation. Another situation that doesn’t entitle for payment is when the trial-workday is about getting to know the workspace, the tasks and the work environment.

In an individual case it can be difficult to determine, whether the supposedly employee was indeed working or only getting to know his employer. Some circumstances indicate a trial without payment. This can be the case, when the supervisor was always next to the candidate and never left him alone letting him perform any duties. Also, freedom from instruction, namely, if the candidate is entitled to leave anytime without justification. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to clarify the conditions of the trial-workday in advance and comply with circumstances that qualify as paid working day, or an free of compensation trial day.

  • Is it possible to claim free time in order to look after sick children?

Yes. The law states, that on presentation of a medical certificate, the employer must release employees with family obligations from work for up to three days to care for sick children.

  • Is termination without notice permissible? Under what circumstances?

A termination of the employment contract without notice is only permissible for good causes. As good causes qualify circumstances, that make it unacceptable for one party to pursue the working relationship. If it is this case depends on the individual situation and can be caused by relevant criminal actions and abuse of confidence. As such can qualify when stealing from the employer or the customers, drug abuse at work, palpability, competition from the employer, falsification of work documents and acceptance of bribes.

  • What happens to employees who do not show up for work?

First it has to be determined, what caused the absence. If the employee claims not to be able to show up at work, it’s his obligation to prove that he is indeed not to blame. When claiming sick, the employer can ask for a medical certificate. If the employer doubts the severity of the certificate, he can ask on his own expenses the employer to consult a doctor on the employer’s choice.

In general, showing up for work does not entitle to terminate the employment contract without notice; the employer should first issue a warning. If the employee appears again late for work, immediate dismissal should only be given as the ultima ratio. Otherwise, the employer may be liable for damages from an action for unjustified termination without notice. If possible, the employment relationship must be terminated in an orderly manner, if necessary, with release from work.

  • Are employees entitled to a job reference?

Yes. In general, an employee can ask for a job reference at any time.

  • Which misconduct may be mentioned in job references?

The job reference must be benevolent Misconducts. Negative aspects and misconducts can only be mentioned, if they are relevant to the performance of the employee. Single incidents or at least only very few considering the length of employment (e.g. show up for work, an average mistake etc.) regularly don’t qualify as such. On the other hand, if an employee hides relevant aspects (e.g. embezzlement of the employee) and the employee causes damages of the hidden kind, the old employer can be held liable against the new employee.

  • When must overtime work be remunerated additionally and when not?

When the employee works overtime, he can compensate his overtime with free time of the same duration. If the employee does not agree to this, he is entitled to get payment plus surcharge of one quarter. Yet, oftentimes the parties agree to different conditions regarding overtime that frequently put the employee to a disadvantage.

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