The labor relationship in Switzerland is mainly regulated by the Federal Code of Obligations sets out standards on matters including employment contracts and termination of employment, while the Federal Labor Act contains standards for many conditions of employment, including hours of work and overtime pay.
Hours & Pay Regulations
The maximum weekly working hours is 45 hours for employees working in industrial companies as well as for office staff, technical, sales staff and 50 hours for all other employees.
For certain categories of employees, the maximum weekly hours can be extended by a maximum of 4 hours provided it is not exceeded on an annual average.
Day and Evening Work
Work performed between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. is considered as day work, and from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. is considered as evening work. The day and evening work of the individual employee, including breaks and overtime, must be within 14 hours.
The beginning and end of day work and evening work can be determined differently between 5 a.m. and midnight if the employee representation in the company or, where there is no such representation, the majority of the employees concerned agree. Daytime and evening work, i.e. work carried out between 6 am and 11 pm may not exceed the timeframe of 17 hours.
Compensation for Lost Working Hours
In case, work has been suspended due to operational reasons, or company holidays, or if an employee is granted a non-working day on his/her request, in such situations, an employer can deviate from the maximum weekly working time in such a manner that compensated work performed by an employee does not exceed 2 hours per day including overtime, except on non-working days or half days.
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 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 with the consent of the employee. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, arts. 9 – 11 and 25.
There are two categories of overtime: Overtime and Extra Hours.
When working hours exceed the contractual normal working hours or the maximum number of working hours per week. The maximum weekly working hours are 45 or 50 depending on the sector of the employees.
Premium for Overtime
Overtime must be compensated with a premium of 25%. Overtime may also be compensated with time off of at least the same duration in lieu of a monetary premium. Where the overtime is not compensated by time off in lieu and unless otherwise agreed in writing or under a standard employment contract or collective employment contract, the employer must compensate the employee for the overtime worked by paying him his normal salary and a premium of at least 25%.
For employees working in large retail undertakings [office staff, technical employees, and others, including the sales staff ] the employer shall pay overtime wage only where overtime work exceeds 60 hours in a calendar year.
Employees are required to work overtime provided the work is necessary, is not physically and mentally overwhelming, considered reasonable and working hours and rest periods are provided.
Extra hours accrue when working hours exceed the statutory maximum number of working hours per week. The maximum weekly working hours are 45 or 50 depending on the sector of the employees. Extra hours shall not exceed 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 – An employee who works for extra hours shall be compensated with a premium of at least 25%. An employee can also opt-in for a time in lieu of the same duration for the extra hours work performed, in which case, shall not be compensated with extra premium.
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.
Work performed between 11 pm and 6 am is considered night work. An employee‘s nighttime work may not exceed 9 hours within a 24 hours period. The work must be carried out within 10 consecutive hours, including breaks.
In case, the employee works for a maximum of 3 out of 7 consecutive nights, the daily working time maybe 10 hours however, including the breaks, it must be within a period of 12 hours.
Pay for Night Work
For temporary night work, a premium of 25% must be paid. For permanent or regularly recurring night work, employees are entitled to paid leave of 10% of the time worked during night hours. This leave must be granted within one year. For employees who regularly work in the evening or in the morning for a maximum of 1 extra hour during the night, compensation can also be granted as a premium.
There is no entitlement for compensation in the form of paid leave of 10 % if the average shift time including breaks, does not exceed 7 hours, or if the employee working at night is employed for only four nights per week, or if the employee is granted other equivalent compensatory rest periods within 1 year by means of the collective labor agreement, etc. 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 if the employees are not allowed to leave their place of work. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, art. 15.
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 eleven hours are maintained for an average of 2 weeks. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, art. 15a.
An employee is entitled to 1 day off each week and such a day should generally be a Sunday. In cases where it is not possible to provide time off on a Sunday, a full weekday can be provided as a weekly off day. In special circumstances, an employee may also be allowed two half days rest instead of 1 full day, with his/her consent. The Code of Obligations, art.329C.
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 eight hours each week, either before or following the daily rest period. This weekly half-day rest period can also be combined with the consent of the employees, i.e in any 4 week period, employers may combine half-days off to give employees a maximum of 2 days off in a row instead of half a day each week. Also, with the consent of the employee, the employer may grant the weekly half days for a maximum of 4 consecutive weeks, in which case the maximum working hours must be performed on average.
For example – weekly half-day off will be considered as granted if a full morning from 6 am to 2 pm, is not worked or in shift-systems including night work, such as 3 or more shift systems, employees may work alternating 5-day weeks or have 2 days time off in lieu within a period of 4 weeks.
The daily and weekly maximum working hours can be extended and the rest time can be distributed differently in the event of uninterrupted operation. As a rule, the maximum weekly working time of 16 weeks on average must not be exceeded. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, art.21.
Sunday is defined as the time between 11 p.m. on Saturday and 11 p.m. on Sunday. 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.
Pay for Sunday Work
An employer shall not employ an employee to work on a Sunday without his/her consent. An employee who works on a temporary basis shall be compensated at a 50% premium for 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 workers in the below manner:
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 weekly day of rest must fall on Sunday at least once every two weeks, immediately before or after the daily rest. Employees may be required to work on a substitute rest day in case of emergencies, however, a replacement rest shall be granted in the following week at the latest.
In cases where an employer requires an employee to work on Sunday, the employee may not work for more than 6 days consecutively.
Except where special regulations apply to certain sectors, approval from the relevant authority is also needed for work on such days. Only one holiday – August 1 (Swiss National Day) – is treated as equivalent to a Sunday throughout the country. The cantons may declare up to eight additional holidays as equivalent to a Sunday. They must be differentiated from the legally recognized public holidays: Although the same rules generally apply to these days as to holidays treated as Sundays, the legal basis for this is defined by the canton or municipality and so may differ in detail from the provisions regarding Sundays. 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 9 legally recognized public holidays are generally observed:
- New Year’s Day
- Berchtold’s Day, January 2nd
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- Labour Day
- Whit Monday
- Christmas Day
- St. Stephen’s Day
If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it will not be moved to a weekday. In principle, on public holidays officially recognized and equal to Sunday, it is not allowed to employ workers.
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 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 four weeks of paid vacation per year, of which at least two 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 five weeks’ paid vacation.
An employer cannot pay workers 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 annual vacation, the vacation period shall be extended accordingly. 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 his own fault is prevented from working for more than a month in total, the employer may reduce his 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 his holiday entitlement.
- The employer may not reduce the holiday entitlement of a female employee who is prevented from working by pregnancy for up to two months or has received maternity benefits.
- A standard employment contract or collective employment contract may derogate from the above conditions if it gives employees terms of at least equal benefit.
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 pay 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 three 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 three consecutive days due to sickness. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 328(a).
All employees are entitled to maternity leave for 14 weeks after the birth of a child.
Pay – An employee who has worked at least five out of the nine months before birth may receive 80 percent of her 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. 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. 3535(b).
Employees are entitled to 2 weeks (10days) of paid leave which can be taken up to 6 months following the birth of the child and may be 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.
Between one and three days.
Employees under 30 years of age are entitled to one 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. 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(e), 336(c).
Parents whose child has an increased need for care due to serious health issues are entitled to care allowance and leave for a maximum of 14 weeks if certain conditions are met. A child’s health is considered seriously impaired if :
- a drastic change occurred in his or her physical or mental condition,
- the course or outcome of this change is difficult to predict, permanent or increasing impairment or death is to be expected,
- there is an increased need for care by the parents and
- at least one parent has to take a break from work to care for the child.
Minor illnesses and accidents (e.g. bone fractures) are excluded and the extent of the need for care is essentially dependent on the age of the child in addition to the severity of the health impairment.
The entitlement to care allowance and leave arises per illness or accident event. If a child falls ill with another serious illness, a new entitlement arises. Illnesses related to the main illness do not count as new illnesses. Employees can make a further request for paid leave and allowance in the same family if a second child has a serious accident or falls ill, or if several children are seriously injured in the same accident. If a child is born with a serious illness, there is no entitlement to the care allowance. In this case, the mother is entitled to maternity allowance.
Childcare allowance and leave are also granted if one or both parents work part-time. The entitlement to the allowance also exists on non-working days, e.g. Saturday and Sunday. The allowance and leave must be taken within a framework period of 18 months which begins on the day for which the first daily allowance is drawn.
The leave may be taken at one go or by splitting it. If both parents are employed, each parent is in principle entitled to a maximum of 7 weeks childcare leave and half of the daily allowances. Furthermore, an employee’s holiday entitlement may not be reduced by taking childcare leave.
Family members include family members in ascending and descending order as well as spouses, parents-in-law, and life partners who have lived in the same household as the employee for five years or more. Health impairments include illness, accidents, and disability, and the ill or injured person must require care.
Employers must pay the employee’s wages for up to three days of leave per event, capped at 10 days per year, but no cap applies to the care of a sick child. Paid care leave can be granted only once for a particular impairment, regardless of other occurrences that require care (for example, during a long-term illness).
Employees must be able to prove the need for care, but the law does not require the provision of a medical certificate. Labor Act, ArG, 1964, arts. 36, The code of Obligations(amended Dec 2019) art. 329g.
Last updated on: June 30th, 2021