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WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Reader question: Does my Swiss employer have a right to fire me when I’m sick?

If you miss work due to illness, you might be worried about your rights at work. This is what Switzerland’s labour law says about being dismissed while on a sick leave.

Reader question: Does my Swiss employer have a right to fire me when I'm sick?
Getting sick in Switzerland may get you fired, but not immediately. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Being laid up with an illness is bad enough without having to worry about being let go from your job.

Generally speaking, workers in Switzerland are well protected through labour laws and collective agreements between employers and professional associations or trade unions, which set the terms and conditions of employment.

These categories are wide-ranging, including wages, holiday time, leaves of absence, as well as worker’s and employer’s rights during illness-related absences.

So what happens if you fall ill?

If you are absent for more than three days, you must present a medical certificate mentioning your diagnosis and how many days (or weeks or months) you will be absent from work.

During this time you will continue to receive your salary for a period of time based on the duration of your employment (see below) and whether your company has a sickness benefit insurance for employees

In this case, you will continue to be paid for up to 730 days for illness that lasts over 900 days.

But while most employers in Switzerland have this insurance, some don’t. If you happen to work for the latter kind,  you will continue to get your salary but for a very limited period: three weeks in the first year of employment, with increases for every additional year, up to a maximum of four months.

This period does, however, vary depending on the canton.

Does this mean you can’t be fired while sick?

No, your job is not going to be there waiting for you until you recover — you are protected from dismissal only for a limited period of time, depending on how long you have been employed at a company.

Your boss must keep you on for:

  •        30 days in the first year of work;
  •        90 days from the second to the fifth year of work; and
  •       180 days from the sixth year of work.

The only exception to this rule is if you get sick during the trial or probation period — usually between one or three months after you start a new job.

If that’s the case, the employer has the right to terminate your contract.

What if you fall ill after receiving or giving notice — in other words, you already know you will be leaving your job at a previously determined time?

If this happens, the notice period is postponed for the duration of your sick leave, and will resume once you are able to return to work.

More information about dismissal during sick leave can be found here.

The same rules apply if you are laid up after an accident — for the purposes of your employment, illness and post-accident recovery are the same.

Other absences

Situations might come up when you have to take time off for work for reasons other than sickness. Can you be fired?

In Switzerland, employees are allowed to take paid absence due to extreme or extraordinary situations other than sickness, including accidents, military service, marriage, and death of a close relative.

You can find out more about what absences are permitted under the law, including maternity and paternity leave here:

Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland

And this is a useful guide about the employment laws all people working in Switzerland should know:

Getting fired in Switzerland: The employment laws you need to know about

Please keep in mind that this is a guide only and should not take the place of qualified legal advice. 
 

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For members

JOBS

Why is vocational training so popular in Switzerland and how much can I earn?

In most countries, young people regard universities as the best way to further their education and earn good salaries afterwards. But this is not the case in Switzerland — here’s why.

Why is vocational training so popular in Switzerland and how much can I earn?

After having rebounded well from the Covid pandemic, the demand for skilled workers in Switzerland’s labour market far outweighs the supply.

As The Local reported on Monday, thousands of Swiss companies are advertising vacant positions in several sectors, including IT, healthcare, hospitality and catering, construction and sales, among others.

READ MORE: Which jobs are in demand in Switzerland right now – and how much can you earn?

Many of these jobs have one thing in common: they don’t require a university degree but rather a vocational training, also known in Switzerland as apprenticeship.

This is how it works.

Compulsory education ends in Switzerland at age 16, when students have a choice between going to a university or opting for a three-year vocational education and training (VET).

More than two-thirds opt for a VET pathway, a three-year, dual-track programme that includes two days in a vocational school and three days getting an on-the-job training in their chosen sector.

It includes a variety of fields such as business and commercial, administration, retail, tourism, construction, information technology, arts, wellness services, as well as various trades — in all, 230 professions, according to Educationsuisse platform.

In all, 212, 347 students were in vocational training in 2020, the last year for which official data is available.

The most frequently chosen fields were business and administration, wholesale and retail, and building and civil engineering.

According to World Economic Forum (WEF), 30 percent of Swiss companies participate in the VET programme, preparing “a broad cross-section of students for careers in a range of occupations and sectors”. 

At the end of three years, during which apprentices are paid wages, they receive a VET diploma — the Federal Certificate of Proficiency (EFZ in German, CFC in French, and AFC in Italian) — which entitles them to work in their chosen field.

Those who want to continue their education at higher schools, such as Universities of Applied Sciences, can do so, after taking additional courses and passing exams.

VET “enjoys very strong support from Swiss employers, who credit it with being a major contributor to the continuing vitality and strength of the Swiss economy”, WEF said.

And there are advantages for all involved: “The country benefits from a pipeline of young-professional talent, it says, low youth unemployment in the single digits and the skilled workforce needed to produce high-quality goods and services”, WEF added.

How can a student apply for VET training?

Anyone attending a school in Switzerland, whether a Swiss national or foreigner, is eligible for the apprenticeship option once they complete their compulsory education.

Once you decide what field interests you, you can look for a position as an apprentice in a company.

This database lists all of the available registered apprenticeship positions in each canton, so is a good place to start the search.

How much can you expect to earn after VET?

This depends on many factors, including the field you are in as well as the region where you live. Typically, wages are higher in or near large urban centres than in rural areas.

But as a general indication, and as reported in this article, the average salary five years after completing VET training is 5,270 francs a month.

In the IT sector, the salary is 1,100 francs above this average.

The second-highest gross median income for full-time employment is that of nurses.

With an average of 6,060 francs / month after five years of employment, they are followed by apprentices with degrees in electricity and mechanical construction” (5,445 francs), architecture and construction” (5,425 francs), accounting, marketing and secretariat (5,367 francs) and “the social sector (5,349 francs).

Lowest wages — below 5,000 a month — are in the retail and “personal services” sector.

READ MORE:  Which jobs pay the most and least after a Swiss apprenticeship?

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