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What unemployment benefits are foreign workers in Switzerland entitled to?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What unemployment benefits are foreign workers in Switzerland entitled to?
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

The unemployment rate is currently very low in Switzerland — 2.3 percent — and the demand in many sectors is high, so employers don’t routinely fire skilled workers. It can, however, happen that you lose your job nevertheless. What are you entitled to in this case?

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The general rule is that if you have been legally working in Switzerland and contributing to the social insurance scheme, then you are entitled to receive unemployment benefits.

Everyone who is working in Switzerland, except those who are self-employed, are insured for unemployment.

However, when it comes to receiving benefits, not everyone receives the same. 

If you have a settlement permit C or a residence permit B, you will receive unemployment benefits, as long as you have been employed in Switzerland for at least 12 months in the last two years and have been living in the country full time during that period.

The ‘permanent residency’ requirement excludes cross-border workers, but there are other provisions for them in place in case of a job loss (see below).

As far as short-term permit L is concerned, which is issued for residency periods of three months up to a year, you are not entitled to collect unemployment benefits, but you are allowed to remain in Switzerland to look for another job after getting a special permission from your cantonal immigration office

If you have a B or C permit, how much compensation will you be receiving and for how long?

The period and the amount are the same regardless of whether you are a foreigner or Swiss citizen.

In other words, the compensation is not based on your nationality or permit but on your contributions to the unemployment scheme.

A man on a computer

You must accept any reasonable job offer that comes your way. Image by Steve DiMatteo from Pixabay

Generally, you will receive an amount equivalent to 70 percent of your average salary for the past six months.

In certain cases, you will get 80 percent of your salary, but only if you have dependent children below 25 years of age; your monthly income is less than 3,797 francs; or you have invalidity (for example a long term illness or disability) of at least 40 percent.

READ ALSO: An essential guide to being unemployed in Switzerland

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How long will the benefits be paid out depends on your circumstances.

If you have worked — and paid into the social security system — for 12 months in the past two years, you are entitled to 260 days’ worth of unemployment allowance.

If you are under 25 and childless, you will receive compensation for 200 days.

In the case that you had been employed for at least 18 months, you will collect for 400 days.

Older workers or those suffering from a disability can collect for 120 additional days.

There are, however, strict conditions.

If you think you can sit home and do nothing while collecting your compensation or go on a holiday while the money comes into your bank account, you are wrong.

In fact, being out of work in Switzerland is actually…hard work.

Among the obligations you must comply with, other than showing up for appointments with your unemployment counsellor, is

  • Sending out a certain number of job applications per month
  • Attending continuing education courses 
  • Participating in programmes to improve your skills and your employability

If you don’t, your benefits could be reduced.

You must also accept jobs that are being offered to you. You can refuse them only under certain circumstances — for instance, if the salary offered is less than 70 percent of your former income; your health doesn’t allow you to take on the job; or the commute to and from work is more than two hours each way.

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What about cross-border workers?

As mentioned above, these rules only apply to permanent B or C residents, which G-permit holders (cross-border workers) are not.

They will receive unemployment benefits from their country of residence, based on that country’s, rather than Switzerland’s,  unemployment scheme.

They must therefore register with their local authorities to claim compensation.

More information about unemployment compensation can be found here

EXPLAINED: Who can work in Switzerland but live in a neighbouring country?

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