Last updated on: February 1st, 2023
The labor relationship in Switzerland is mainly regulated by the Federal Code of Obligations 1911 (amended as of January 2022) which governs the terms and conditions of employment such as employment contracts and termination of employment etc. The Federal Labor Act, of 1964 (amended as of January 2021) sets out employment standards such as working hours, holidays and rest periods, wages, overtime, and employment relationships.
Hours & Pay Regulations
Normal Working Hours
Normal working hours shall not exceed 45 hours per week for employees working in industrial companies as well as for office staff, technical, and sales staff, and 50 hours per week for all other employees.
The maximum weekly hours for some categories of employees may be extended by a maximum of 4 hours per week with the agreement of the government authorities, provided it does not exceed the annual average (i.e. 170 hours inclusive overtime per calendar year and 140 hours per year inclusive overtime hours for employees with 50 hours working week). Additionally, this rule applies to office personnel, technical staff, and other employees, including sales employees in large retail establishments or employees who are part of large retail establishments with longer weekly working hours.
Day and evening work
Any work performed between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. is considered as day work. Evening work is considered between 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. No employee shall work more than 14 hours per day inclusive of overtime and breaks in any given day or evening work shift.
The start and finish times of the day and evening shifts may vary between 5 am and midnight in certain circumstances as agreed by the employee or employee representative. In such cases, the combined duration of daytime and evening work including overtime and breaks shall not exceed more than 17 hours per day.
Compensation for lost working hours
An employer may deviate from the maximum weekly working hour in circumstances such as if work is suspended for operational reasons, company holidays, or if an employee is granted a non-working day. However, in such cases, the employee’s compensated work shall not exceed more than 2 hours per day including overtime, unless it is on a non-working day or half-day.
The working hours of an employee shall be arranged in a manner that an employee does not have to work the same shift for more than 6 consecutive weeks. In the case of two-shift work during the day and in the evening, the employee shall have an equal share in both shifts. The 6 consecutive weeks time period can be extended or can be distributed altogether, with the consent of the employee. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, arts. 9 – 11 and 25 (Last amended 2021).
There are two categories of overtime: Contractual Overtime and Extra Hours(Statutory Overtime).
An employee’s employment contract defines the number of hours the employees are required to work per week. This is referred to as contractual overtime. When working hours exceed the contractual normal working hours or the maximum number of working hours per week is considered as overtime. The maximum weekly working hours including overtime are 45 hours per week (for the industrial sector, office staff, technical employees, sales staff in large retail companies) or 50 hours per week (all other sectors).
Premium for Overtime
- An employee who works more than the contractual working hours is entitled to overtime premium pay of 25% at a regular rate, or
- If, via an agreement of the individual employee, overtime work is compensated for by time off of the same duration within a reasonable period of time, no premium shall be paid.
The employees as office personnel, technical employees, and other employees including sales staff in major retail business will only be entitled to premium pay of 25% on their hourly rate if they have overtime work more than 60 hours in a calendar year.
If the employee is not compensated by time off in lieu as stipulated under the written agreement, the employer shall compensate the employee with the premium of 25% on the normal hourly rate.
Extra hours accrue when working hours exceed the statutory maximum number of working hours per week. The maximum weekly working hours are 45 hours per week for the industrial sector, office staff, technical employees, and sales staff in large retail companies, or 50 hours per week (in all other sectors). An employee shall not work extra hours for more than 2 hours per day except on non-working working days or in emergencies. Extra hours for employees with a working week of 45 hours, shall not exceed 170 hours per calendar year and 140 hours for employees with 50 hours working week.
Pay for Overtime
- An employee who works extra hours is entitled to overtime premium pay of 25% of their hourly rate or
- If the employee opts for a compensatory rest day period in lieu of premium pay, then the employee is entitled to a compensatory rest day for overtime work of at least equal length. Such time off in lieu shall be given within 14 weeks or within a period agreed upon with the employer (maximum 12 months).
Example: During a specific week, an employee works 52 hours, which amounts to seven hours overtime, since the company has a maximum of 45 working hours per week. If the company had a statutory 40-hour week, an additional five hours would be considered to be overtime. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, arts. 12 – 13 and The code of Obligations, art. 321c B.
Any work performed between 11 pm and 6 am is considered night work. Employees shall not work more than 9 hours in any 10 hours period, including breaks during the night.
In case, the employee works for a maximum of 3 out of 7 consecutive nights, the daily working time maybe 10 hours including the breaks, but it shall not exceed 12 hours.
An employee who performs night work for a long period of time has the right to a medical examination for their health and to receive advice on reducing or avoiding health problems associated with their work. The costs of the medical examination and the consultation are borne by the employer unless the employee’s health insurance company or another insurer pays for them.
If the employer is declared unfit for night work for health reasons, they must transfer to a similar day job for which they are fit.
In case, the employee works for a maximum of 3 out of 7 consecutive nights, the daily working time may be 10 hours however, including the breaks, it must be within a period of 12 hours.
Night work is divided into two categories:
- Temporary night work is generally understood as working occasionally or regularly at night for up to 3 months in any calendar year or working at night for up to 6 months per calendar year for fixed-term employment of an exceptional nature.
- Any work extending beyond these limits is considered to be regular night work.
Pay for Night Work
An employee who works temporary night work between 11 pm to 6 pm shall be entitled to premium pay of 25 % for work performed.
Compensatory Rest Period- An employee who works permanently or regularly recurring night work shall be entitled to time off equal to 10% of the hours worked during the night period. The compensatory rest period shall be granted within one year. For employees who regularly work no more than one off-peak hour at night when they work in the evening or morning, the compensation (i.e. compensatory rest period) can also be granted as a wage supplement (i.e premium pay).
The compensatory rest period shall not be granted if the average operational shift length including breaks does not exceed 7 hours, or the employee who works at night is only employed 4 nights a week (four-day week), or the employees are granted other equivalent compensatory rest periods within one year through a collective employment contract or of public law regulations.
Employees who regularly work in the evening or in the morning for a maximum of 1 extra hour during the night period (i.e between 11 pm to 6 am), in such scenarios an employee can be paid a premium pay instead of the compensatory rest period. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, arts.16 – 17e.
An employee is entitled to breaks of the following minimum duration:
- 15 minutes with a daily working time of more than 5.5 hours;
- 30 minutes with a daily working time of more than 7 hours;
- 1 hour with a daily working time of more than 9 hours.
The breaks are considered as working time (i.e. paid breaks) if the employees are not allowed to leave their place of work. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, art. 15 (Last amended 2021).
An employee is entitled to at least 11 consecutive hours of rest per day. The rest period can be reduced to 8 hours provided that the average duration of 11 hours is observed over a period of 2 weeks. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, art. 15a (Last amended 2021).
An employee is entitled to at least 1 day off each week and such a day shall generally be a Sunday. In cases where it is not possible to provide a weekly rest day on a Sunday, a full weekday shall be provided as a weekly rest day. The weekly day of rest must fall on Sunday at least once every 2 weeks, immediately before or after the daily rest. An employee under exceptional circumstances with their approval may be given 2 half-days of rest instead of 1 full day.
Except in the event of termination of employment, rest periods are mandated by the law and cannot be compensated by cash payments or other benefits. The Code of Obligations, art.329, Art 19-20 Labor Act,1964 (Last amended 2021).
Weekly half-day: An employee whose weekly working time is spread over more than 5 days per week, must be granted a half-day off of 8 hours each week, either before or following the daily rest period with the exception of weeks in which a day off falls.
The employer may grant free half-days for a maximum of 4 consecutive weeks, with the consent of the employee, wherein the maximum weekly working time must be adhered to on average. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, art.21
Work On Rest Days
An employee may work on a rest day (i.e Sunday) on a temporary basis, in such cases, they are entitled to a premium of 50% of the regular rate for the work performed. The Code of Obligations, art.329, Art 19-20 Labor Act,1964 (Last amended 2021).
Weekly rest shall usually fall on a Sunday. Employees are prohibited to perform work between Saturday 11 p.m. and Sunday 11 p.m. In special circumstances, employers may allow the employee several days off together or two half-days instead of one full day provided the employee consents to this. The duration can be brought forward or postponed by a maximum of 1 hour if the employee representation in the company or, where there is no such representation, the majority of the employees concerned agree.
Within every 2 weeks, at least one full Sunday must be given as a weekly rest day immediately before or after the daily rest period. In cases where an employer requires an employee to work on Sunday, the employee may not work for more than 6 days consecutively.
Pay for Sunday Work
An employer shall not employ an employee to work on a Sunday without the employee’s consent. An employee may work on a rest day (i.e Sunday) on a temporary basis, in such cases, they are entitled to a premium of 50% at the regular rate for the work performed.
Employees involved in permanent Sunday work are not entitled to extra premium but they shall be entitled to time off as applicable to temporary Sunday employees. In cases, where the Sunday work lasts for 5 hours, the employee must be compensated with an equivalent amount of free time within 4 weeks, and where the work lasts for more than 5 hours, the employee shall be granted a substitute rest period of 24 hours during the preceding or the following week running consecutively with the daily rest period.
The employer may call on the employees to work temporarily during the compensatory rest, insofar as this is necessary to prevent the spoilage of goods or to avoid or eliminate operational disruptions; however, another compensatory rest must be granted in the following week at the latest. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, arts.18 – 20a.
In Switzerland, there are 26 cantons (states) and each canton sets its public holidays independently. August 1st (national holiday) is the only federal holiday. The labor law equates it to Sunday. The cantons can make a maximum of eight other public holidays a year on Sunday.
In most Cantons, the following are 8 legally recognized public holidays are generally observed:
- New Year’s Day – January 1
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- Labour Day – May 1
- Ascension Day – May 26
- Whit Monday
- National Day – Aug 1
- Christmas Day – Dec 25
- St. Stephen’s Day – Dec 26
If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it will not be moved to a weekday.
Pay for Work on Public Holiday
The compensation for working on public holidays is regulated in the same manner as Sunday. Employees who work on a public holiday are entitled to a premium of 50 percent premium in addition to their regular rate of pay. Employers may only select employees who consent to work on holidays.
In cases, where the work lasts for 5 hours, the employee must be compensated with an equivalent amount of free time within 4 weeks, and where the work lasts for more than 5 hours, the employee shall be granted a substitute rest period of 24 hours during the preceding or the following week running consecutively with the daily rest period. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 78.
Employees are entitled to 4 weeks of paid vacation per year, of which at least 2 weeks must be consecutive. Where an employee has not yet completed one year’s service, his holiday entitlement is fixed pro-rata. Employees under the age of 20 are entitled to 5 weeks of paid vacation.
An employer cannot pay employees in lieu of granting them time to take a vacation, and unused vacation generally cannot be carried over to the following year. In cases where a public holiday falls during an annual vacation, the vacation period shall be extended accordingly.
Pay – An employee is entitled to receive their full salary for the annual leaves taken. In case of any loss in the benefits for leave entitlement, the employer shall pay fair and reasonable compensation.
The annual leaves cannot be replaced by cash payments or other benefits. If an employee engages in any activities for a third party that is in conflict with the company’s interests, the employer has the right to refuse to pay the employee’s compensation for the annual leaves. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 329 (a)(c).
Reduction of Annual Leave
- Where in a given year of service the employee through their own fault is prevented from working for more than a month in total, the employer may reduce the holiday entitlement by one-twelfth for each full month of absence.
- Where the total absence does not exceed one month in a given year of service and is the result of personal circumstances for which the employee is not at fault, such as illness, accident, legal obligations, public duties or leave for youth work, the employer is not entitled to reduce the holiday entitlement.
- A standard employment contract or collective employment contract may derogate from the above conditions if it gives employees terms of at least equal benefit.
The employer may not reduce the holiday entitlement of:
- a female employee who is prevented from working by pregnancy for up to two months;
- a female employee who has taken maternity leave;
- a male employee who has taken paternity leave;
- an employee who has taken carer’s leave
- an employee who has taken adoption leave.
Swiss Code of Obligations, art. 329b&c.
Switzerland does not have a mandated minimum wage.
Where the employer pays a bonus over and above the salary on particular occasions, such as at Christmas or the end of the financial year, the employee is entitled to such a bonus where it is contractually stipulated. If the employment relationship ends prior to the occasion on which the bonus is paid, the employee is entitled to a pro-rata bonus where the contract so provides. The code of Obligations(amended Dec 2019) art. 322d.
All employees residing or gainfully employed in Switzerland are entitled to sickness benefits. The insured pays premiums, which vary depending on the fund, the type of benefits provided, the age first insured, and the canton. Employers are not required by law to contribute, but some collective agreements require the employer to share employees’ membership fees.
Swiss law requires employers to continue to pay employees who are unable to work due to illness for up to 3 weeks in the first year of employment and for longer periods at full pay proportionate to longer periods of employment. Cantons specify sick leave limits after an employee’s first year. Employers may require a medical certificate for any absence longer than 3 consecutive days due to sickness. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 328(a).
All female employees are entitled to maternity leave for 14 weeks after the birth of a child.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women shall be employed with their consent. Pregnant women may take time off from work or leave work by merely notifying their employer. Employers shall not employ any pregnant women between 8 pm and 6 am from the 8th week before the birth and must offer them equivalent work between 6am and 8pm. This obligation also applies to the period between the 8th and 16th week after the birth.
Pay – An employee who has worked at least 5 out of the 9 months before birth may receive 80% of the regular pay as a daily allowance subject to a maximum of 196 francs per day from Social security. Female employees who have recently given birth may not be employed for 8 weeks after the birth and then only with their consent up to the 16th week.
There are no specific provisions for maternity leave before the birth of a child, but pregnant employees can take sick leave during this time if they cannot work. Female employees may not work during the first 8 weeks after the birth. Pregnant women may not be employed between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. from the 8th week before the birth.
Breastfeeding Break – Employees must be given time for breastfeeding and expressing milk. This time counts as paid work time (at least 30 minutes per day for work of up to 4 hours; 60 minutes per day for work of more than 4 hours; and 90 minutes per day for work of more than 7 hours). Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 329(a)(c); Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 35(b).
An employee who is legally the father of a child at birth or becomes the legal father within the following 6 months is entitled to 2 weeks of paid leave which can be taken up to 6 months following the birth of the child and maybe split up in daily or weekly increments. Fathers will receive compensation equal to 80% of their income capped at 196 Swiss francs (CHF) per day. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 329(g).
An employee who has a seriously ill child or a child impaired due to an accident is entitled to paid leave for a maximum period of 14 weeks. If both parents are employed, each parent is entitled to childcare leave of a maximum of 7 weeks. Leave can be taken at one go or by the day. This leave shall be taken within a time period of 18 months calculated from the first day, the daily allowance has been drawn. Swiss Code of Obligations(amended Dec 2019) art. 329(i).
Employees are entitled to paid leave for family responsibilities. Family responsibilities include bringing up children up to the age of 15 and caring for relatives or close people in need of care. These employees may only be used for overtime work with their consent. At their request, they are to be granted a lunch break of at least 1.5 hours.
On presentation of a medical certificate, the employer must grant the employee leave to look after a family member or partner with a health condition. The leave is limited to the duration required for the care but amounts to a maximum of 3 days per event. With the exception of children, the care leave is a maximum of 10 days per year. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, Arts 36, Swiss Code of Obligations Art 329h.
An employee who adopts a child shall be entitled to adoption leave of 2 paid weeks provided the requirements are fulfilled under law. The adoption leave must be taken within one year of adopting the child. It may be taken by one parent or shared between both parents. Both parents may not take their share of leave at the same time. It may be taken in full weeks or on a day-to-day basis. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 329(j).
Employees under 30 years of age are entitled to 1 working week of leave without pay per year to do volunteer work for a social or cultural organization. Any leave for youth work not taken by the end of the calendar year is forfeited. An individual employment contract or collective employment contract may provide employee benefits for such leaves. Leave days not taken expire at the end of the calendar year.
Leave for Military Duty – In addition, employers must provide leaves of absence to employees for the performance of their compulsory military duties. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, arts. 329.