Essential guide: What to do if you need a sick day in Switzerland

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Essential guide: What to do if you need a sick day in Switzerland
Here's what to do if you need a sick day in Switzerland, Photo by Polina Tankilevitch:

Falling ill is irritating for many reasons, but one bright side is that in Switzerland you don't need to feel guilty about taking time off work. Swiss labour laws have fairly generous sick leave policies, though there are some important things to be aware of.


Here's what workers in Switzerland should know about taking time off work for illness and making sure you get paid for it.

What do I do if I fall ill?

If you fall ill in Switzerland and are unable to go into work, there's no need to panic. The first step is to notify your manager.

Because of Switzerland’s rather formal working culture, you will usually need to give your boss a ring to let them know you are ill, but this can vary from workplace to workplace and some companies may be okay with an e-mail instead.

In some workplaces, employees may be allowed to work from home, so if your illness doesn't prevent you from working altogether – for example, a leg injury, slight headache, or cold – you can ask if this is an option for you (but don't strain yourself).

However, while you shouldn't be put off from taking time off when you need it, for minor sicknesses – such as the cold or a flu - most companies will expect to be notified every morning whether you will be working that day.

If you are absent for more than three days, you must also present a doctor’s certificate mentioning the date of the examination and how many days (or weeks or months) you will be absent from work.

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

Will I get paid?

Swiss employment law only mandates that employers offer basic paid sick leave: generally, three weeks in your first year in the job, rising with each additional year to around four months max, depending on the canton.

However, many Swiss employers take out insurance that covers a more generous sick pay deal. Individuals can also take out such insurance for themselves, including if they’re freelancers or unemployed.

If you are sick for three (or more) days and provide your boss with a doctor’s certificate stating that your ability to work has been hindered by at least 50 percent or more, 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.

Can I get fired while off sick?

While insurance may cover a lengthy absence, you’re not necessarily protected from getting the sack for the same period. 

According to labour laws, your boss only has to hold your job for you for 30 days in your first year at the company, 90 days in your second to fifth years, and 180 days from the sixth. 

And if you fall ill during your probation period - usually between one or three months after you start a new job - they can terminate your contract right away. 

How does sick leave pay compare around Europe? Photo by David Mao on Unsplash

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in Switzerland compares to other countries in Europe

Can I go back to work sooner despite what the doctor’s certificate states?

If you wish to return to work after 7 days but your doctor has granted you a 2-week leave, you should always consult with your doctor first and see if your certificate be amended, or which activities you may be greenlit to perform.

Note that you, as an employee, must not do anything that could delay or impede with your recovery as this could - in severe cases - lead to a reduction in your daily cash sickness benefits.

Can my boss force me to work despite being ill?

No, your employer is not allowed (due to their duty of care) to urge you to work if you are sick and must adhere to the doctor’s certificate.

So, if you are ever asked to perform a task while sick, make sure to point them to the doctor’s certificate.


Can my boss reject the doctor’s certificate?

In Switzerland, doctor’s certificates generally have a high probative value, however, your employer can indeed question or even reject such a certificate if they have reasonable grounds to suspect you are faking an illness. This is, however, rare.

Though this is rare, if your employer catches you helping a friend with a movie and lifting heavy furniture (while off sick with a broken arm), they can – at their own expense -send you to a medical examiner of their choice. The medical examiner will then have to decide whether you can or cannot work.

If you decide to insist on being unable to work despite what the medical examiner states, you could end up facing off your employer in court. It will then be up to the judge to decide whether the employer has to continue paying you for your sick leave or not.

What if I fall sick during a planned holiday?

If you fall sick during scheduled holiday time, you have the right to end the holiday period and instead take the time as sick days, provided you give your employer your doctor’s certificate.


If this is the case, you should contact your employer and report yourself sick on the first day of illness. The requirement is that you should be ill enough that you'd be unable to carry out your regular work.

Can I leave the house if I’m sick?

If you fall ill in Switzerland, you may worry about leaving your house. However, in general, being sick in Switzerland does not mean you are under house arrest, even if you have a doctor’s certificate stating you should be off work.

If you have a slight cold or even a broken limb, you are still allowed to do your own shopping or go for a run (if possible). In most cases, going for a walk around the neighbourhood is good for your health.

But what if you run into your co-worker or, worse, boss while out and about?

While this would, of course, be awkward, you have no reason to feel guilty. At the end of the day, it’s your doctor and hence, the doctor’s certificate, that dictates what you are and are not allowed to do while on sick leave.

However, note that if you are caught partying it up at your local club, you may struggle to prove you are indeed sick.


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