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JOBS

Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland

If you are a new arrival, or planning to move here for work, you may not be familiar with the Swiss labour law’s provisions in regards to paid holidays. This is what you should know.

Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland
The Swiss can do a lot of mountain hiking during their four weeks off. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland’s paid annual leave — four weeks —is not as generous as in some other countries, but the Swiss have only themselves to blame for that.

In what should go under the heading of “Only in Switzerland”, in a 2012 referendum, 67 percent of the country’s voters rejected (yes, rejected) the proposal to extend the mandatory leave to six weeks.

Why? Because they believed longer holidays would cost the economy billions of francs each year, and the money-conscious Swiss just couldn’t allow that.

As the media reported at the time, the outcome showed that Swiss voters had realised “something which sounds nice at first, on closer look brings many disadvantages” and that “citizens have kept a sense of reality”.

What does the law say?

For full-time work, which is 41 hours per week, “employers in Switzerland must allow their employees to have a minimum of four weeks of vacation each year, and at least five weeks in the case of employees who have not yet reached the age of 20”.

However, many companies offer their employees more than the legal minimum; the exact number of days or weeks is outlines in an employment contract.

For part-time work, the four-week period is pro-rated according to the number of hours an employee works each week.

These rules apply to everyone employed in Switzerland, including foreign nationals.

Public holidays

In addition to the statuary annual leave, employees are also entitled to get public holidays off with pay.

On the federal level, public holidays are January 1st (New Year’s Day), Ascension Day, August 1st (National Day), September 19th (The federal day of thanksgiving, repentance, and prayer, which is a holiday everywhere in Switzerland except in Geneva, which celebrates it on September 9th), and December 25th (Christmas Day).

Technically speaking, Easter Sunday is also a national holiday, however it always falls on a Sunday. 

Additionally, nearly each Swiss canton has its own pubic holidays, which workers can have off with pay.

What about parental leave?

Until January 1st, 2021, only mothers were allowed to take time off after the birth of their babies — 14 weeks at 80 percent of their usual earnings, although cantonal laws and / or employment contracts may provide for a more generous leave and compensation.

New mothers are entitled to 14 weeks off. Photo by Alexandr Podvalny / Pexels

In terms of paternity leave, Switzerland has long lagged behind its neighbours, with fathers allowed to take only one unpaid day off upon the birth of their child.

However, in September 2020, Swiss voters approved the plan to extend this leave to two weeks for all biological fathers, who are paid 80 percent of their earnings —  up to a maximum of 196 francs per day — during this time.

READ MORE: How does paternity leave work in Switzerland – and who can claim it?

The days do not have to be taken all at once; fathers could elect to take one day off per week for ten weeks, or any combination thereof.

But that’s not all.

While this does not count as annual leave, employees are also allowed to take paid absence due to extreme or extraordinary situations, including sickness, accidents, military service, marriage, and death of a close relative.

READ MORE: Working in Switzerland: A weekly roundup of the latest job news

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For members

ZURICH

Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

The Covid pandemic hit Switzerland hard, although the country's largest city has rebounded strongly.

Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

Measures imposed due to the Covid pandemic, which began in earnest in February 2020, shuttered businesses across the country and pushed many people out of work. 

When most notable Covid rules were relaxed in Switzerland in mid-February 2022, the economic recovery – highlighted by a strong job market – began in earnest in 2021. 

READ MORE: How the Swiss job market rebounded from the Covid pandemic

Nowhere was this more evident than Zurich, Switzerland’s largest and most economically powerful city. 

How did Zurich rebound from the Covid pandemic in comparison to the rest of the country?

Even though Zurich, along with other large Swiss cities like Geneva, Basel, Bern and Lausanne, have been hit hard by the pandemic from the employment perspective, Zurich’s labour market is now growing faster than in other urban centres.

One of the reasons for this upward trend is that young, well-educated foreigners are coming back.

In the first nine months of 2021, the city’s population grew significantly.

In September alone, it recorded 2,200 additional residents.

This is mainly due to people with a B residence permit, according to Klemens Rosin, methodologist at Zurich’s Statistics Office.

During the crisis, far fewer of them left the city. “This group is made up of well-educated, younger and mobile foreigners who have made a significant contribution to Zurich’s growth”, Rosin said.

Zurich’s employment market is expect to grow even further.

READ MORE: How hard is finding work in Zurich without speaking German?

That’s because in the coming years, many Zurich workers will retire — an estimated  210,000 by year 2050 — creating more job opportunities for younger employees.

In fact, according to a study commissioned by the canton in 2021, if Zurich’s economy is to continue to flourish, it will need around 1.37 million workers by mid-century.

If these vacancies will not be filled, then income, tax revenue and the financing of social security programs will be impacted.

READ MORE: Have your say: What’s the best way to find a job in Zurich

While it is difficult to predict what jobs will be most in demand in 2050 — what new technologies will emerge in the meantime — right now and in medium term, IT workers will be especially needed, experts say, because businesses will continue to to digitalise and automate.

Lower skilled jobs will also be in higher demand, including hospitality, retail and transport. 

With hundreds of thousands of vacancies to fill, people with the permission to work in Switzerland are likely to be flush with offers – particularly skilled workers with recognised qualifications. 

READ MORE: Why finding a job in Switzerland is set to become easier 

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