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WAGES

Commuting workers in Switzerland can now be paid for work done on the train

Do you commute to and from your place of work? This law change, which has already taken effect as of January 2020, now makes it much easier for some employees to be paid for the work they do on the train.

Commuting workers in Switzerland can now be paid for work done on the train
Photo: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

These days it’s a common sight. Trains full of commuters, disposable coffee cups in hand, typing away furiously on their laptops as they try to get a head start on the day’s work. 

For the almost 40,000 people who work for the Swiss government, new rules mean all it takes is a tick of approval from a manager – and time spent working while commuting will be counted as on the clock. 

The laws came into effect from January 1st, 2020 pursuant to the Mobile Forms of Work in Federal Administration Directive. The Directive was passed in response to pressure from the relevant union, who complained that staff were frequently only being paid for part of the work they completed 

While previously some government workers were eligible to be paid while working during the morning commute, this was comparatively rare and usually involved navigating plenty of red tape. 

Approximately eight percent of federal workers are currently paid for work done during their commute. 

The Federal Statistical Office estimates that the average worker in Switzerland spends over an hour (62 minutes) commuting to work per day. 

READ MORE: How the new Léman Express train link will ease Geneva's traffic woes 

According to the Tages Anzeiger, all federal workers need to simply gain approval from their manager and all work done during the commute will be “fully paid”. 

A spokesperson for the federal government told the newspaper that the move reflected a need to incorporate greater flexibility into working conditions. 

“With this directive we are ensuring that mobile forms of work are implemented uniformly in the federal administration. There is a great need for more flexibility in the forms of work”

With its high cost of living, commuting from neighbouring countries into Switzerland for work is considerably popular. 

More than 325,000 foreign workers commuted over the border into Switzerland in 2019, with 85,100 people coming to Geneva from France, 67,800 crossing the border from Italy to Ticino and 33,700 coming from Germany and France to Basel, as the city straddles French and German borders.

READ: Record number of foreign workers commute to Switzerland from abroad 

Under the law, only government workers are eligible – with private sector workers needing to discuss similar conditions with their employer. 

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COST OF LIVING

Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law. 

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