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WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

For what reasons am I allowed to get a day off work in Switzerland?

Swiss law allows employees to take time off with pay in some well-defined circumstances. From annual leave to compassionate leave, this is what you are entitled to.

For what reasons am I allowed to get a day off work in Switzerland?
You can take a day off work to get married. Photo by Pixabay

In general, absences from work are covered by Switzerland’s labour law, collective employment agreement, or your individual work contract.

They all have provisions for situations that entitle employees to take time off work without having to miss pay or compensate for the missed hours.

They include:

  • A doctor’s appointment
  • A court appearance or similar legal obligation
  • Public duties (working as a member of Parliament, for instance)
  • Your marriage
  • Birth of your child
  • Death of a close relative
  • Moving house
  • Care of a close relative

According to the State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO), the last category includes children, spouse, the registered partner, as well as parents, siblings, and the person with whom the employee lives for at least five years without interruption.

Also, except in cases of births and deaths, which obviously can’t be scheduled in advance, “such short absences are only acceptable if it is impossible to organise these appointments outside working hours”, SECO points out.

Companies also will grant a so-called compassionate or bereavement leave for death of a close relative. The duration of this kind of absence is usually up to three days, or as defined by the work contract.

Note, however, that this paid time off is given only for deaths of immediate family members like parents, children, siblings or grandparents, rather than for distant relatives or, even less so, random people.

What about illnesses?

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 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?

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.

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

Annual leave and public holidays

For full-time work, which is 41 hours per week, companies must give their employees a minimum of four weeks of vacation each year, and at least five weeks for workers under the age of 20.

However, many companies offer their employees more than the legal minimum; the exact number of days or weeks is outlined 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.

In addition to 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.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland

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.

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.

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.

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For members

EMPLOYMENT

What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

If you are employed in one of Switzerland’s large or medium-sized companies, chances are your salary and work conditions are determined by a collective agreement. What exactly is this?

What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

Switzerland’s labour law is quite comprehensive, encompassing working conditions, employees’ rights, annual leave and other time off, protection from discrimination, and gender equality, among other aspects of employment.

In addition to the basic rules and conditions outlined in this legislation, many employees are also covered by the collective bargaining agreement (CLA), a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers or employer organisations. 

It is estimated that roughly half of Switzerland’s workforce of about 5 million people are covered by a CLA.

In fact, the strength of Switzerland’s CLAs means that there is no federal minimum wage, as minimum standards are often included in your bargaining agreement. 

A handful of Swiss cantons have put in place a minimum wage, mostly in the French and Italian-speaking parts of the country. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about minimum wage in Switzerland

What do these agreements include?

Generally speaking, they cover a minimum wage for each type of work; regulations relating to work hours; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland

Other important employment-related matters are also subject to negotiations — for instance, pension fund regulations, early retirement, conflict resolution procedures, and funding of training.

CLAs are sector-specific; in other words, they take into account the particular aspects of each branch. As an example, Switzerland’s largest labour union, The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (UNIA), maintains 265 collective agreements in the areas of industry and construction.

Collective agreements can also be company-specific — for instance, Coop, Migros, or SWISS airline — or specific to a certain region.

READ MORE: Everything foreigners need to know about trade unions in Switzerland

It is therefore clear that CLAs benefit employees in a number of ways, not the least of which is knowing what to expect from the company you work for and being sure that your rights are protected and not subject to the employer’s whimsy.

What if your company has not concluded a CLA?

In this case, you are still protected by the above-mentioned labour legislation, which ensures that your welfare and rights are being respected.

You will also sign an employment contract with your company, which outlines your salary, rights and obligations, as well as everything your employer can and cannot do, or expect from you.

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

According to a government site, “in professional sectors that do not have a collective employment agreement, the federal or cantonal authorities can establish a standard employment contract …The employer can only modify these conditions to offer better terms for employees”.

The system seems to be working well, as evidenced by a survey carried out by EY consultants, which found that 87 percent of workers in Switzerland are happy with their jobs.

Strikes are rare in Switzerland

Another proof of employee satisfaction is that Swiss workers rarely go on strike.

Switzerland has a long tradition of avoiding industrial conflict through negotiations. Many sectors are governed by collective bargaining agreements which set conditions for employees.

That tradition is deeply rooted and also seen in the country’s politics, where compromise is important.

Some also argue that the fact people can voice their opinions through regular referendums reduces the potential for conflict in the workplace. 

READ MORE: Why strikes are rare in Switzerland

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