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Switzerland proposes minimum wage for foreign workers

A waiter holds a drink in the Swiss Alps
Service work is most commonly paid minimum wage in Switzerland. Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash
A proposal to impose minimum wage rules on foreign workers posted to Switzerland has just won partial parliamentary support, but still needs to pass the senate.

Switzerland’s National Council, the country’s lower House of Parliament, has just passed a revision to the wage rules which would require foreign workers to receive a minimum standard under Swiss law. 

At present, the minimum wage standards put in place by several cantons do not apply to foreign workers posted to Switzerland, which advocates of the reform argue puts Swiss companies at a disadvantage. 

The rule passed the National Council on Tuesday by a narrow majority. 

It will now be up to the Council of States, Switzerland’s senate, to approve the law. 

What are the minimum wage rules for foreign workers in Switzerland?

Under Swiss law, minimum wage standards are put in place at a cantonal level. 

Five of Switzerland’s 26 cantons have put in place a minimum wage, most of which are in the French or Italian-speaking parts of the country. 

Five Swiss cantons have a minimum wage: Jura, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Ticino and Basel.

Reader question: Which Swiss canton has the highest minimum wage?

Other minimum wage standards are put in place via employee organisation agreements. 

Advocates of the change argue that under current EU/Swiss law, when companies post their workers to Switzerland, they do not need to comply with these wage requirements. 

In effect, this means that an EU or foreign company would be able to pay its workers much less than a Swiss company, thereby providing foreign companies with an advantage. 

Opponents however disagree, saying that cantons do have the power to make sure foreign workers are paid in accordance with minimum wage standards. 

Will the proposal pass the senate and be implemented? 

Switzerland’s Social Democrats, Greens and several other parliamentary groups voted in favour of the change, with the Swiss People’s Party and the Free Democrats voting against it. 

Fabio Regazzi, from The Middle political party, said that despite “not being a fan of cantonal minimum wages” the proposal “created legal certainty” with regard to foreign workers. 

Thomas Burgherr, from the SVP, said he opposed the proposal because he felt cantons could put changes in place at their own level and did not need a federal solution. 

Burgherr pointed to the minimum wage rules in the canton of Ticino, which expressly exclude posted foreign workers from the minimum wage standards 

Ultimately, it will be up to the Swiss courts to decide whether the minimum wage standards apply to workers of foreign companies in the same manner as workers of Swiss companies in Switzerland. 

The senate is expected to consider the proposal in the coming weeks. 

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