There are several sources of labor law in Switzerland. The federal Code of Obligations, for example, 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 number of working hours per week is 45 hours for employees working in the industry, office staff, technical and other employees, sales personnel in large retailing firms and 50 hours for all other employees.
For certain categories of establishments or workers, the maximum weekly working time may be temporarily extended by regulation for a maximum of four hours, provided that it does not exceed the annual average.
An extension of the maximum weekly working time of up to four hours may be granted by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) 3 for certain categories of companies or employees or for certain establishments, provided that and for as long as compelling reasons justify it.
It is also applicable to office staff, technical and other staff, including sales personnel in large retail establishments employed on the same holding or part of the operation, together with workers who have a longer weekly maximum working time.
For employees working a 5-day week on average over the calendar year, the maximum weekly working hours of 45 hours may be extended by:
- 2 hours, as long as the average number of working hours over a period of eight weeks does not exceed the maximum, or
- 4 hours, as long as the average number of working hours over a period of four weeks does not exceed the maximum.
Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 9-10.
Day and Evening Work
The work from 6 am to 8 pm is considered daily work, the work from 8 pm to 11 pm is evening work. Day and evening work are free of permits. Evening work may be introduced by the employer after consulting the employee representatives at the establishment or, where this is not the case, the workers concerned.
Beginning and end of daytime and evening work can be set differently between 5 am and midnight if the employee representation at the establishment or, where this is not the case, the majority of the employees concerned, agrees. The daily and evening work, in this case, amounts to a maximum of 17 hours.
The daily and evening work of the individual employee must be within 14 hours, including breaks and overtime. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 10
Compensation of Working Hours
If the work is suspended for a short period of time due to business interruption, company holidays, days off or similar circumstances, or if a worker is granted leave to work on his / her request, the employer may, within a reasonable period of time, arrange for such compensation to deviate from the maximum weekly working time, The compensation for the individual worker, including overtime work, may not exceed two hours per day, except on days off or half-days. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 11
Employees are entitled to 25% extra pay for overtime hours or, if workers agree, to compensatory time off. The daily limit for overtime is generally 2 hours, and the annual limit is 170 hours for workers whose regular workweek is 45 hours long and 140 hours for those whose regular workweek is 50 hours. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 1113.
Prerequisites and Duration of Overtime Work
The maximum weekly working time may exceptionally be exceeded:
- Because of the urgency of work or extraordinary work order;
- For inventory-taking, clearing and liquidation work;
- To prevent or remedy failures, unless the employer can be expected otherwise.
Overtime shall not exceed two hours per day for the individual worker, except on days off work or in emergencies, and in the calendar year not more than:
- 170 hours for workers with a maximum weekly working time of 45 hours;
- 140 hours for workers with a maximum weekly working time of 50 hours.
Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 12
Salary Surcharge for Overtime Work
The employer shall pay the employees for overtime work at least 25 percent, the office staff and the technical and other employees, including the sales staff in large retailers, but only for overtime work exceeding 60 hours per the calendar year. If overtime work, with the consent of the individual worker, is compensated within a reasonable period of time by the spare time of the same duration, no supplement shall be paid. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 13.
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 supplement of at least one-quarter thereof. Art 321 CB – Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911.
Approval from the authorities is generally required if night work is needed (apart from companies where special conditions apply). 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. There is no entitlement for compensation in the form of paid leave if the average shift time, including breaks, does not exceed seven hours, or if the person working at night is employed for only four nights per week.
Prohibition of Night Work
The employment of workers outside the day-to-day and evening work activities under Article 10 (night work) is prohibited. Reserved remains Article 17. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 16.
Exceptions to the Ban on Night Work
- Exceptions to the prohibition of night work require the authorization.
- Permanent or regularly recurrent night work is granted if it is indispensable for technical or economic reasons.
- Temporary night work is granted if an urgent need is demonstrated.
- Night work between 5 and 6 o’clock as well as between 23 and 24 o’clock is granted, if an urgent need is proven.
- Permanent or regularly recurring night work is granted by SECO, temporary night work by the cantonal authority.
- The employer may not use the employee for night work without his consent.
Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 17.
Duration of Night Work
At night, the daily working time for the individual worker must not exceed nine hours; it must be within a period of ten hours, including the breaks.
If the employee is employed for a maximum of three out of seven consecutive nights, the daily working time maybe ten hours, subject to the conditions laid down by regulation; however, it must be within a period of twelve hours, including the breaks. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 17 a.
The worker who works long hours at night is entitled to an examination of his state of health and to receive advice on how to reduce or avoid the health problems associated with his work. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 17 c.
The employer shall, as far as possible, place the worker who for health reasons is unfit for night work to undertake a similar day’s work for which he is fit. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 17 d.
The work must be interrupted by pauses of the following minimum duration:
- A quarter of an hour with a daily working time of more than five and a half hours;
- Half an hour with a daily working time of more than seven hours;
- One hour with a daily working time of more than nine hours.
Breaks are considered as working time if workers are not allowed to leave their workplace. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 14.
Employees must be provided with a daily rest period of at least eleven consecutive hours. The rest period may be reduced to eight hours once a week for adult workers, provided that the period of eleven hours is maintained for an average of two weeks. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 15.
Days off Work
- The employer must allow the employee one day off per week, generally Sunday or, where circumstances do not permit this, a full weekday instead.
- In special circumstances, he may allow the employee several days off together or two half-days instead of one full day provided the employee consents to this.
- In addition, he must allow the employee the customary hours and days off work and, once notice has been given to terminate the employment relationship, the time required to seek other employment.
- When determining time off work, due account is to be taken of the interests of both employer and employee.
Art 329 C – Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911.
Employees with family responsibilities may only be used with their consent to overtime work. At their request, they are allowed a lunch break of at least one and a half hours. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 36.
Breast Feeding Break
- Up to four hours, 30 minutes break.
- Over four hours, 60 minutes break.
- Over seven hours, 90 minutes break.
A worker is entitled to at least two days off every seven days. One day is regular leave and the other is a rest day. Over the weekend, an uninterrupted rest period of 35 hours ( 11-hour daily rest period and 24 hours for Sunday ) must be granted and include the period from 11pm on Saturday to 11pm on Sunday. In certain industries, employers may determine the regular day off.
Employees also must have a rest period of at least 11 hours between shifts. However, effective March 1, 2018, employees can be asked to work 12 days in a row and work shifts with only eight hours of rest in between, provided that the period of eleven hours is maintained for an average of two weeks. Employers must get approval from the appropriate federal agencies and their employees in order to do so.
If an unexpected event or emergency leads an employer to suspend a worker’s regular weekly day off or annual or holiday leave, the worker must be paid twice his or her usual wage for the canceled leave and provided with compensatory time off. The employer must file a report with local authorities within 24 hours of the leave suspension explaining the reasons for it. Articles 15a.
Weekly Free Half Day
- If the weekly working time is spread over more than five days, the employees shall be granted a free half-day each week, except for the weeks in which a day off work falls.
- The employer may, with the agreement of the employee, grant the weekly free half-days for a maximum of four weeks in a cohesive manner; the maximum weekly working time must be adhered to on average.
Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 21.
Prohibition of the Compensation of the Rest Period
Insofar as the law prescribes rest periods, these may not be compensated by cash benefits or other benefits except when the employment relationship ends. Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 22.
Sunday is defined as the time between 11 p.m. on Saturday and 11 p.m. on Sunday. Sunday work of up to 5 hours must be compensated for within 4 weeks by an equivalent number of hours of time off. Where an employee has worked for longer than 5 hours, a compensatory rest period of no less than 24 hours must be granted on a normal workday. This can occur either in the preceding or the following week and must run consecutively with the daily rest period, producing a combined rest period of 35 hours. The compensatory rest period must include a period from 6 am to 8 pm.
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.
Ban on Sunday Work
- In the period between Saturday at 11 pm and Sunday at 11 pm, the employment of employees is prohibited. Reserved remains Article 19.
- The period of 24 hours laid down in paragraph above may be advanced or postponed by one hour at the most, if the employee representation at the establishment or, where this is not the case, the majority of the workers concerned, agrees.
Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 18
Exceptions to the Ban on Sunday work
- Exceptions to the prohibition of Sunday work require the authorization.
- Permanent or regular Sunday work is authorized if it is indispensable for technical or economic reasons.
- Temporary Sunday work is granted if an urgent need is demonstrated. The employee has to pay a wage supplement of 50 percent.
- Permanent or regularly recurring Sunday work is approved by the SECO, temporary Sunday work by the cantonal authority. Employees who work continuously or regularly on a Sunday. No wage premium but are entitled to compensation for 10 percent of the time during which they have worked night-time. The compensatory rest is to be granted within one year.
- The employer may not use the employee for Sunday work without his consent.
- The cantons may indicate a maximum of four Sundays a year, during which employees may be employed in sales outlets without a license.
Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 19
Free Sunday and Spare Rest
- Within two weeks, at least once a full Sunday must be released as a weekly rest day immediately before or after the daily rest period. Reserved remains Article 24.
- Sunday work of up to five hours is compensated by free time. If it lasts longer than five hours, a replacement day of at least 24 consecutive hours shall be granted during the preceding or following week following the daily rest period.
- The employer may temporarily employ workers during work, as far as necessary to prevent spoilage of goods or to avoid or eliminate operational disturbances; but the replacement rest is to be granted at the latest in the following week.
Federal Law on Work in Industry, Trade, and Commerce of March 13, 1964, arts. 20
Public holidays vary across Switzerland, some holidays widely observed nationwide, other religious and local holidays observed only in certain cantons. 1 August (National Day) is the only federal holiday. The cantons may designate a maximum of eight additional public holidays, which vary from canton to canton.
If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it will not be moved to a weekday. 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. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 78.
Where the time of performance or the last day of a time limit falls on a Sunday or on a day officially recognized as a public holiday at the place of performance, the time of performance or the last day of a time limit is deemed to be the next working day. Any agreement to the contrary is unaffected. 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. Employees under the age of 20 are entitled to five weeks’ paid vacation. Where an employee has not yet completed one year’s service, his holiday entitlement is fixed pro rata.
The employer determines the timing of the holidays taking into account the employees’ preferred dates to the extent they are compatible with the organization’s business needs. 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. Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911, art. 329 (a)(c).
- 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 within the meaning of the Loss of Earnings Compensation Act of 25 September 19523.
- A standard employment contract or collective employment contract may derogate from paragraphs above provided that, taken as a whole, it gives employees terms of at least equal benefit.
Art 329b C – Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911.
Consecutive Weeks, Timing
- The holiday entitlement for a given year of service is generally granted during that year; at least two weeks of the holiday must be taken consecutively.
- The employer determines the timing of holidays taking due account of the employee’s wishes to the extent these are compatible with the interests of the business or household.
Art 329c C – Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911.
There is no mandated minimum wage under Swiss law.
All persons 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 female employees are entitled to maternity leave for 14 weeks after the birth of a child. Under Switzerland’s mandatory lossofearnings insurance program, 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 196 francs per day. If an employee does not qualify for this program, she is entitled to take leave under the sick leave provisions of the Code of Obligations. 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. During a worker’s pregnancy, an employer:
- Must ensure her job does not threaten her health, providing other work if necessary;
- Must allow her to take unpaid leave if she desires;
- May not require her to work overtime and
- May not allow her to work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. after the eighth week prior to birth.
A woman is not allowed to return to work for the first eight weeks after the birth of a child. Employers may not terminate pregnant workers or new mothers for the first 16 weeks after childbirth. 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).
During the first year of the life of the child, the time used for breastfeeding is counted as working time and remunerated within the following limits:
- For a day of work up to four hours, 30 minutes break minimum;
- For a day of work over four hours, 60 minutes break minimum;
- For a day of work over seven hours, 90 minutes break minimum.
This time can be taken off at once or divided according to the individual needs of the child. Maternity Protection Convention of the ILO, 2014.
Swiss law does not provide for paternity leave. Male workers are typically granted two or three days of leave following the birth of a child, although this is left to the discretion of individual employers.
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. 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).
Employers must grant employees up to 3 days of leave to care for a sick child on presentation of a medical certificate stating the same, by the employee.
- During each year of service, the employer must grant employees under the age of 30 leave of up to one working week for the purpose of carrying out unpaid leadership, care or advisory activities in connection with extracurricular youth work for cultural or social organizations and for related initial and ongoing training.
- The employee has no salary entitlement during such leave for youth work. An individual agreement, standard employment contract or collective employment contract may provide otherwise to the employee’s benefit.
- The employer and employee should agree on the timing and duration of leave for youth work, having due regard for each other’s interests. Where they cannot reach an agreement, such leave must be granted on condition that the employee gives two months’ advance notice of his intention to exercise his right. Any leave for youth work not taken by the end of the calendar year is forfeited.
- At the employer’s request, the employee must furnish proof of the activities and functions he has carried out in relation to youth work.
Art 329e – Swiss Code of Obligations, March 30, 1911.
Last updated on: August 19th, 2019