Hire in Switzerland
Here’s where you get started with human resources best practices and hiring in Switzerland.
Swiss Franc (CHF)
Key Country Facts
Switzerland is a federated country in central Europe with a population of 8.5 million. The 26 ‘cantons’ of Switzerland are the member states of the Swiss Confederation. Switzerland’s administrative capital is Bern, while Lausanne serves as its judicial center. As a consequence of its remarkable stability and carefully guarded neutrality, Switzerland – Geneva, in particular – has been selected as headquarters for a wide array of governmental and non-governmental organizations. This includes many entities associated with the United Nations (UN). Banking and finance are among the key industries of Switzerland. The country is also known for its ski resorts and hiking trails, with tourism being an important pillar of the Swiss economy.
Switzerland is a small landlocked, mountainous country located in central Europe. Spanning an area of 41,285 square kilometers. Switzerland extends across the north and south side of the Alps in west-central Europe. It is bordered to the west by France, to the north by Germany, to the east by Austria and Liechtenstein and to the south by Italy.
Switzerland is located within a temperate climatic zone. The lowland regions in the north and east host more continental influenced conditions, experiencing colder winters and hotter summers. The southeastern areas have longer and warmer, Mediterranean-like summers. The weather can change quickly at the high altitudes in the mountainous regions of the Alps.
Swiss culture is distinguished by its diversity, heavily influenced by major European cultures of its neighboring nations. The Swiss are known for their reserved, extremely organized nature and strict adherence to a set of unwritten social rules for daily life. Respect for privacy and discretion are key values in social interaction. The Swiss have always maintained and nurtured their wide range of traditional customs.
Switzerland is a Christian country. Around two-thirds of the population are either Roman Catholic or Protestant, primarily Reformed-Evangelical.
Switzerland is a multilingual country with four official national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The prevalence depends on the region. High German and Swiss German are spoken by about 63% of the population, French by about 23% and Italian by about 8%. Romansh is spoken by less than 1% of the total population.
Switzerland HR at a Glance
The main sources of employment law in Switzerland are the Federal Code of Obligations, (setting out standards on matters including employment contracts and termination of employment), the Federal Labor Act (containing standards for many conditions of employment, including hours of work and overtime pay) and the terms agreed in the contract of employment. In some industries, mandatory collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) will apply.
The recognized types of employment contract in Switzerland are:
- An employment contract concluded for an unlimited period: this is the most common type of employment contract in Switzerland. Because the parties are not bound to a maximum term, it is open-ended.
- A fixed-term contract: the duration of the contract relationship is determined by the parties involved.
- An apprenticeship contract / vocational education and training (VET): this is only valid in written form
Swiss law does not stipulate a specific form for a contract of employment but a written contract is recommended. A collective labor agreement (CLA) may stipulate the need for a written contract.
Where an employment contract is concluded for an indefinite term or for more than 1 month, the employer must, within one month following the commencement of the contract, inform the employee of the primary contractual provisions in writing:
- the names of the contracting parties
- the starting date
- the position
- the salary and possible additional salary elements
- the weekly working hours
In addition to the above provisions, an employment contract must specify at least:
- the work to be performed and the remuneration to be paid in return
- the probation period (which must not be more than three months)
- the period of notice
The fundamental provisions of an existing employment contract may not be modified except by agreement between both parties.
Switzerland regulates various types of employment contracts:
- In individual employment contracts, an employee performs work for an employer in return for payment. These involve certain rights and obligations: the employee must perform the relevant work, while the employer must pay the employee’s remuneration and social security contributions, grant the employee paid holidays, etc.
- Another common type of employment contract is a CLA. Based on negotiations between unions and employers, the CLA stipulates provisions on the conclusion, content and termination of individual employment contracts as well as the rights and obligations of the contracting parties, the scope of the agreement and how it is to be regulated. In addition, the authorities may furnish a standard employment contract for specific occupations.
Probation Period / Trial Period
During a probationary period, either the employer or the employee can terminate the contract at any time. This is subject to seven days’ notice. Different arrangements may be made through a written agreement, a standard contract or a CLA. However, the probationary period must not exceed the statutory limit of three months.
According to Swiss law, the maximum weekly working hours for industrial workers, office staff, technicians and other employees is capped at 45 hours. The maximum for all other workers is 50 hours in a week. Most employees perform between 40 and 42 hours of work weekly.
The maximum weekly working time may be temporarily extended, according to by regulations, for a maximum of four hours. This is allowed so long as the working time does not exceed the annual average. Such an extension may be granted by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) for certain categories of companies or employees or for certain establishments, provided there are compelling reasons to justify it.
The employer must allow the employee to take one day off weekly. This day is usually Sunday or, in cases where circumstances do not allow this, a full weekday instead. In certain situations, the employer can give the employee several days off together or two half-days instead of one full day. This applies as long as the employee consents to the modification.
In Switzerland, top managers are not subject to a certain maximum work duration.
Overtime in excess of the maximum weekly working time of 45 or 50 hours is regulated by the conditions of the Employment Act. Overtime is defined as hours worked beyond the agreed working hours but not exceeding the statutory maximum weekly working hours. It must be compensated at a premium rate of 25% above the normal hourly wage. For office workers, this rate only applies to overtime work exceeding 60 hours per calendar year. Alternatively, by agreement between both parties, overtime can be compensated with time off equal to the same duration.
As long as overtime work is not beyond the legal maximum, different arrangements can be agreed upon in writing between both parties, outlining other compensation (e.g. at 100% instead of at 125%). By agreement, there can even be additional compensation at all. This can happen, for example, when the agreed salary arguably compensates for the overtime and overtime is not much more than what can be expected when signing the contract. Employees with family responsibilities may only be called upon to work overtime by consent.
The daily limit for overtime is generally two hours while the annual limit is 170 hours for workers whose regular workweek is 45 hours long and 140 hours for those whose regular workweek is 50 hours.
The maximum weekly working time can exceptionally be exceeded:
- due to the urgency of the work or an extraordinary work order
- for inventory-taking, clearing and liquidation activities
- to prevent or mitigate failures (unless the employer can reasonably be expected to otherwise resolve such challenges)
Health and Safety in the Workplace
There are two main laws regulating Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) in Switzerland:
- The Labor Law regulates work hours, health protection, workplace building standards and the protection of personal integrity.
- The Accident Insurance Law regulates the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases which are linked to work.
The cantonal labor inspectorates (SUVA) serve as the main accident insurance authority and the State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO) enforce the laws. A coordination commission (EKAS) manages the inspection system aimed at accident prevention. Companies must consult OSH services if they have higher accident risks and employ more than 10 workers.
Industrial companies (e.g. factories manufacturing and processing goods and enterprises deploying machines or automatic processes) in Switzerland are required to furnish a written health and safety policy. This document is subject to review by the Cantonal Labor Authority.
Bonus and 13th Month Pay
Swiss law has no specific provisions defining and addressing bonuses. According to its characteristics, a bonus will be regarded as either as a gratification or as part of the salary of the employee. The distinction between a gratification and a salary payment is significant in Swiss employment law. This is because the provisions for gratifications are much more flexible than the ones that apply to the payment of the salary.
The disbursement of a gratification depends, at least partially, on the employer’s goodwill. If the payment of a gratification has not been expressly agreed between both parties, it is considered entirely optional. If the payment of a gratification has been agreed, it is subsequently required. However, the employer is entitled to a certain freedom in fixing the amount.
In defining a bonus, the Swiss Courts rely on a number of principles that have established by case law. As per decisions by the Swiss Supreme Court, in the absence of an explicit agreement, the payment of a “gratification” becomes required if it has been paid by the employer for three consecutive years. There is an exception to this if the employer expressed reservation via a written declaration addressed to the employee. However, even if the employer expressed a reservation regarding the disbursement of the gratification, it is still mandatory if such reservation can reasonably be considered as a simple formula not reflecting the agreement between the parties.
Working contracts frequently stipulate that the payment of the bonus is contingent on the achievement of specific objectives. If the achievement of such objectives is easily measurable, courts tend to consider the bonus as part of the salary. At the same, the courts are more likely to qualify the bonus as a gratification if the objectives set out to the employee are vague or if the employer has a large discretion in determining if the employee has satisfied such objectives.
Indefinite contracts can be terminated by either party and the employment relationship can cease without providing reason or cause. This applies so long as the required period of notice is observed (‘Kündigungsfreiheit’).
The termination of an indefinite-duration contract is possible for any reason. However, the dismissal must not be wrongful or unlawful. Certain reasons cannot serve as a fair reason for a termination. This includes terminations rooted in grounds of individual characteristics, complaints made by the employee about working conditions or their agreement not being respected, union membership, mass redundancies by the employer (if the consultation process is not observed, etc. A fair process must be followed in any case.
An employer in Switzerland must not terminate the employment relationship during the following periods and any notice offered during these periods is considered void:
- while the other party is performing compulsory Swiss military service and during the four weeks preceding and following the service if the service lasts for more than 11 days.
- while the employee, through no fault of their own, is prevented from working or partially prevented from working due to illness or accident. This applies for up to 30 days in the first year of service, 90 days between the second and fifth years of service or 180 days thereafter; or
- during the pregnancy of an employee and for 16 weeks following the birth.
Unfair Dismissal / Remedies
In the case of an unfair dismissal, the notice remains valid. However, the party abusively giving notice may be required by the court to pay an indemnity of up to six months’ salary.
Collective Redundancies / Mass layoff rules
The statutory provisions regarding mass dismissals apply when the employer – within a time period of 30 days – provides notice for reasons unrelated to any particular employee and affecting:
- at least ten employees at a company usually employing between 21 and 99 employees
- at least 10% of the employees at a company usually employing between 100 and 300 employees
- at least 30 employees at a company usually employing greater than 300 employees
The stipulations regulating mass redundancies do not apply in the event that business operations have ceased by a court order or mass redundancies have occurred as a result of bankruptcy or a composition agreement with assignment of assets.
Before providing notice, the employer must consult the employee’s representative body or the employees. At the same time, the employer is required to notify the cantonal labor office in writing of the intended mass dismissal. These bodies maintain consultation rights only. Neither the employees nor the cantonal office are able to prevent a mass dismissal. Notices given over a longer period, but based on the same operational decision, must be added collectively.
If the company usually employs at least 250 employees and plans to terminate at least 30 employees within 30 days for reasons unrelated to an individual employee, the employer is required to enter into social-plan negotiations with either the employee associations party to the collective employment contract or with an organization representing the targeted employees. If these negotiations fail, an arbitral tribunal will establish a social plan through an arbitral award.
Either party can terminate the contract at any time during the probationary period. This is subject to seven days’ notice.
Following the lapse of the probationary period, an employment contract can be terminated with effect from the end of any month. This is subject to the following guidelines:
- One month’s notice in the first year of service
- Two months’ notice from the second to the ninth year of service (inclusive)
- Three months’ notice thereafter
The notice period can vary depending on the written individual or CLA. However, the notice period can be reduced to less than one month only if outlined by a CLA and only for the first year of service. Both parties must be subject to the same notice period.
Notice of termination can be delivered verbally or by other means. For evidentiary purposes, it is strongly recommended that any notice be communicated in writing.
No notice is required in terminations following very serious misconduct. Either the employer and employee can terminate the employment relationship with immediate effect at any time following specific severe grounds. The requirements for such a termination with cause are high. A severe breach of contract must occur and except for very serious cases (e.g. theft), a clear warning must be given. This warning must then be ignored by the other party. The notice must be issued to the violating party within two to three days of the complaining party becoming aware of the serious breach.
Redundancy / Severance Pay
Employees have a right to a severance payment if they are over 50 years old and have performed 20 or more years’ service. If the contract doesn’t provide for a severance payment, the court will award an amount equal to between two and eight months’ salary. However, the employer’s contributions toward the employee’s pension fund throughout the entire tenure can be deducted from the severance payment. Accordingly, required severance payments are rare in Switzerland.
Post-Termination Restraints / Restrictive Covenants
Under Swiss law, non-competition clauses are allowed. However, because these are likely to adversely impact the employee’s economic freedom, they are subject to a number of limitations. The non-competition restriction must be agreed upon in writing.
The prohibition has to be appropriately restricted in regard to place, time and scope so that it does not unfairly compromise the future economic activity of the employee. In any case, a non-competition clause that would compel the employee to modify his or her professional activity altogether will be deemed invalid as it would be considered contrary to public order.
- A post-termination restriction on competition is only valid and enforceable if it is limited to a specific activity, a reasonable geographic area and a reasonable time period. For the latter, this is typically no more than one year (if based on the knowledge of the employer’s clientele) and no more than three years, (if based on knowledge of manufacturing and commercial secrets).
- In addition, a non-competition restriction is only enforceable in cases where the employee has had access to the employer’s customers or to manufacturing or business secrets during their tenure – and the use of such knowledge could significantly harm the employer.
- The restriction does not apply if the employer terminates the employment relationship without the employee giving reasonable cause to do so. It also will not apply if the employee terminates it for a reasonable cause attributable to the employer.
- If an employee infringing the restriction is liable to pay a contractual penalty, the employee may exempt themselves from the prohibition by paying the penalty. However, liability for any further damage remains. When expressly agreed upon in writing, the employer can insist the employee continue to observe the non-competition restriction in addition to seeking the agreed contractual penalty and any further damages.
A non-competition clause, while common in the practice, is not required to be paired with financial compensation. Because of this, consideration is not a prerequisite to the validity of that clause under Swiss law.
Customer non-solicits – Are permissible (subject to similar restrictions to non-competes).
Employee non-solicits – Are permissible (subject to similar restrictions to non-competes).
Employers are required to document employees’ working hours (Art. 46 of the Employment Law (LTr) and Article 73 of Order 1 on the Employment Law). Employers must therefore have a system in place to document the daily and weekly working hours of their employees, including compensatory work and overtime. The employer must also calculate the worker’s days off (whether weekly or compensatory) along with any break of half an hour or longer.
The breakdown of work hours performed by employees must be retained by the company for five years. If a company fails to follow this rule, several penalties are possible. These range from a warning to a fine. In the most extreme cases of an employer infringing employment rules, namely when employees’ lives or health are at risk, the law even provides for shutting the company down.
- Specific professions and businesses are excluded from the regulations on working hours and time off. For example, the staff of international organizations or agricultural companies may be exempt.
- Provisions relating to the recording of working hours do not apply to employees in “a high management position.” This includes workers with significant decision-making power or the ability to strongly influence important decisions for the company.
- The responsibility of recording working hours is completely removed for employees earning a salary subject to AVS of more than CHF 120,000 (including bonuses) and enjoying flexibility in their working hours. This removal must be agreed upon within the context of a collective bargaining agreement (for the company or the sector) and must form the subject of a specific written agreement concluded with each employee.
A partial or simplified recording, with only the total daily working hours, is possible if one of these requirements is fulfilled:
- a collective agreement concluded between the employer and the workers’ representatives (in-house or external)
- in the absence of such representation, by agreement of the majority of employees
- in companies with less than 50 workers, an individual agreement concluded in writing with the targeted employees
Trade Unions / Collective Agreements
Trade unions are prevalent in certain sectors. Industry-level CBAs are common. Trade-union arbitrators often serve as conciliators in the event of a collective labor dispute.
Approximately one in four workers in Switzerland is a member of a trade union or similar association. Most trade unions and professional organizations belong to one of the two umbrella associations: the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB/USS) or Travail.Suisse. The level of union fees varies significantly and is contingent on a member’s occupations and income.
In addition, there are various national, cantonal and municipal organizations to protect workers’ rights, such as the cantonal labor inspectorates. In companies with 50 or more employees, workers are entitled to elect one or more worker representatives to exercise workers’ participation rights.
Fixed Term Contracts
- There is no minimum or maximum term for a fixed-term employment contract.
- A fixed-term contract ends without notice on the date agreed at the outset.
- A fixed-term employment relationship tacitly extended beyond the agreed duration is considered to be an open-ended employment relationship.
Tax and Social Security
Personal Income Tax
Income taxes in Switzerland are levied at three different levels: at the federal level (which is the same across Switzerland), at the cantonal level (which stays the same within a specific canton and is based on the canton’s own tax law and tax rates) and at the municipal level (municipalities follow the cantonal tax law but are entitled to set their own communal tax rate within certain parameters). Income tax rates are progressive at the federal level as well as in most of the cantons. In recent years, some cantons have implemented flat rate taxation.
The federal income tax rates range from 0.77% (single taxpayers) / 1% (married taxpayers) to a maximum rate of 11.5% (married taxpayers). At the cantonal level, each canton has its own basis of taxation and tax rates, which vary considerably across Switzerland. In addition to cantonal taxes, communes also levy taxes as do some municipalities and churches. In 2019, the maximum marginal tax rates (including federal income tax) varied from as low as 22.42% to the highest rates in some large cities at 41.50% (Lausanne) or 48.04% (Geneva).
Federal Income tax table for 2021
|Taxable Income (CHF)||Rate (% on excess)|
|Up to 28,299||0.0|
|28,300 – 50,900||1.0|
|50,901 – 58,400||2.0|
|58,401 – 75,300||3.0|
|75,301 – 90,300||4.0|
|90,301 – 103,400||5.0|
|103,401 – 114,700||6.0|
|114,701 – 124,200||7.0|
|124,201 – 131,700||8.0|
|131,701 – 137,300||9.0|
|137,301 – 141,200||10.0|
|141,201 – 143,100||11.0|
|143,101 – 145,000||12.0|
|145,001 – 895,900||13.0|
Social security contributions deducted at source by employers in Switzerland are generally lower than what is seen in the majority of European countries. Net pay is therefore often higher in Switzerland than in other European countries. However, it is important to note that the cost of living is also generally higher in Switzerland than in other parts of Europe. Overall, social security deductions amount to about 16% of gross pay.
All social security taxes (except for the medical insurance) are the employer’s responsibility. The following Swiss social security contributions (as of January 2021) are payable:
|Insurance||Employer Contribution (%)||Employee Contribution (%)||Cap (CHF)|
|Old age, Survivors’ and Disability insurance||5.3||5.3||No cap|
|Family Compensation Fund||1.0 – 3.0||0.0||No cap|
|Occupational Accident Insurance||0.17 – 13.50||0.0||148,200|
|Non-occupational Accident Insurance||0.0||1.0 – 4.0||148,200|
|Occupational Pension Scheme||Depending on pension plan, employer specific||Depending on pension plan, employer specific||–|
|Medical Insurance||–||Depending on coverage, private insurance||–|
*The above rates serve as a broad guideline. Actual rates charged by GoGlobal will differ.
Salaries in Switzerland are among the highest in the world but the cost of living in Switzerland is also higher than in the rest of Europe. Salaries in Switzerland are paid once a month and payment is usually made via bank transfer.
Most employers in Switzerland pay their employees’ annual salary in 13 installments. In December they receive, in effect, two months’ salary although sometimes half is received in June or July and the other half is disbursed in November or December. It should be noted, however, that a 13th month’s salary is not a bonus. Rather, in effect, it is considered a deferred payment. When a 13th month’s salary is paid, it will be stated in the employment contract.
According to employment law, the employer is required to provide the employee with a written salary payslip for every salary payment that includes detailed information on gross and net salary, deductions and surcharges. Payslips can be sent to employees by mail or email, in accordance with data security standards.
In addition, all employers must provide their employees with a salary statement, which must include all the remuneration paid. Salary statements are normally sent out at the beginning of the year. Salary statements are generally intended for employees. However, several cantons have a salary reporting requirement, whereby employers must submit salary statements directly to the cantonal tax administration.
Employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave per year, of which at least two weeks must be consecutive. Employees under the age of 20 are entitled to five weeks’ paid vacation. If an employee has not yet completed one year’s service, their holiday entitlement is fixed pro rata.
The employer determines the timing of the holidays, taking into account the employees’ preferred dates to the extent they are compatible with the organization’s business needs.
Carry Over Rules
An employer cannot pay workers in lieu of granting them time to take annual leave. Unused leave generally cannot be carried over to the next year.
All persons residing or gainfully employed in Switzerland are entitled to sickness benefits. Employers are not required to contribute. However, some CLAs require the employer to share employees’ membership fees.
Employees who are unable to work due to illness usually need to submit a medical certificate as of the third missed day of work..
Swiss law requires employers to continue paying employees their full wages during illness for a certain period in proportion to increasing seniority. The minimum duration is set at three weeks in the first year of service. After that, wages are to be granted for appropriately longer periods. This amount will depend on the duration of the employment relationship and the particular circumstances.
Case law within in each Canton has determined how these “appropriately longer periods” are to be interpreted. The following is the so-called “Bernese scale,” as elaborated by the superior court of Canton Berne:
- during the first year of employment: three weeks of full salary
- second year: one month of full salary
- Three to four years: two months of full salary
- Five to nine years: three months of full salary
- 10 to 14 years: four months of full salary
- 15 to 19 years: five months of full salary
- 20 to 25 years: six months of full salary
Other agreements can be reached but they must be specified and concluded in writing for each individual employee (e.g. in their employment contract), in the standard employment contract or in a CLA Consequently, most employers subscribe to an insurance for a daily allowance to be able to pay their employees 80% during prolonged absences due to illness. Wage continuation applies for the duration of the employee’s inability to work but no longer than 720 days within 900 consecutive days.
Compassionate & Bereavement Leave
Time off is granted for the below events. However, the amount of time is not specified by law. The employee should check relevant employment regulations to find out what rules apply in the company they work. Typically, time off granted is between one and three days. There is no obligation to make up for lost working time.
Reasons listed in the law:
- Legal obligations (e.g. military service)
- Public office
- Death of a close relative
- Moving home, etc.
Other Rights for Leave of Absence
Volunteer Work Leave
- Employees under 30 years of age are entitled to one week of leave without pay per year week for the purpose of carrying out volunteer work for a social or cultural organization. The employee enjoys no statutory salary entitlement during such leave. However, an individual agreement or CLA may award more favorable provisions to the employee.
Also, employers must provide leave of absence to employees for the performance of their compulsory military duties.
Maternity & Parental Leave
- Employees are entitled to maternity leave for a minimum of 14 weeks following the birth of a child, which is to be taken as one single period. Interruptions are not possible.
- Under Switzerland’s mandatory loss of earnings insurance program, a female employee who has worked at least five out of the nine months before birth, is entitled to receive 80% of her regular pay as a daily allowance subject to a maximum of 220 Swiss francs per day.
- If the employee does not qualify for this program, she is entitled to take leave under the sick leave provisions of the Code of Obligations.
- There are no specific provisions for maternity leave prior to the birth of a child. However, pregnant employees can take sick leave during this time if they cannot work.
- The employer must not reduce the holiday entitlement of a female employee who is prevented from working due to pregnancy for up to two months or has received maternity benefits.
- A woman is not allowed to return to work for the first eight weeks after the birth of a child.
During a worker’s pregnancy, an employer:
- must ensure her job does not threaten her health, providing other work if necessary
- must allow her to take unpaid leave if she desires
- may not require her to work overtime
- may not allow her to work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. after the eighth week prior to birth.
Employers may not terminate pregnant workers or new mothers for the first 16 weeks following childbirth.
During the first year of the life of the child, the time used for breastfeeding is counted as working time and remunerated for 30 to 90 minutes. This amount will depend on the number of hours worked a day. This time can be taken off at once or divided according to the individual needs of the child.
Any employee who becomes a father can, within the first six months after the child’s birth, take two weeks off (10 working days). These two weeks can be taken either consecutively or in the form of individual days off.
During the paternity leave, the father has no salary claim against his employer but a claim for a daily allowance equal to 80% of his daily salary. This is capped at up to 196 Swiss francs daily, against the governmental social insurance. The father must be employed at the time of the birth, covered by the old age and survivor’s insurance scheme during the past nine months and employed for at least five months of that period.
Some companies have recently introduced more generous parental policies, offering the same extended benefits to all parents, regardless of gender, natural, adoptive and single parents.
Working parents who adopt a child under the age of four will be entitled to two weeks of paid leave.
Employers must grant employees up to three days of leave to care for a sick child on presentation of a medical certificate stating the same by the employee.
Switzerland’s statutory public holidays are as follows: New Year’s Day (January 1), Ascension Day, Swiss National Day ( August 1) and Christmas Day (December 25). All other public holidays (Easter, Whitsun, Corpus Christi, etc.) are decided on a cantonal basis in each member state of the Swiss Confederation, with each canton being able to decide whether or not to grant a holiday on these days. Generally, nine public holidays are granted, depending on the canton.
If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the day off will not be moved to a weekday.
Employees who work on a public holiday are entitled to a 50% premium in addition to their regular rate of pay. Employers may only appoint those employees who consent to perform work on a holiday.
Benefits to the Employee in Switzerland
The Swiss social security system comprises various forms of social insurance, which aim to protect both people living and working in Switzerland and their dependents. The system is federally organized federally, with social security responsibilities being divided between federal and cantonal authorities. All residents are compulsorily covered.
The concept of the three-pillar system providing for the contingencies of death, disability and old age is part of the Swiss constitution:
- First pillar: State social security (Federal Law on Retirement and Survivors’ Benefits – AHV/IV)
- Second pillar: Mandatory occupational pensions or employee benefit plans (BVG)
- Third pillar: Individual savings and insurance arrangements (personal pension)
In the Swiss multi-pillar retirement system, second pillar mandatory occupational pensions complement the first pillar universal state pension. It is expected that combined, these two pillars will provide a benefit of at least 60% of the final salary. A third pillar consists of various voluntary tax-exempt saving vehicles (e.g. life-insurance policy, savings plans or top-up insurance policies).
The Swiss social security system consists of five components:
- old-age and disability pension (AHV)
- protection against the consequences of illness and accidents (UVG)
- income compensation allowances for military, civilian or civil defense services
- maternity and unemployment insurance (ALV)
- family allowances (FAK)
There is no medical coverage provided by the Swiss Social Security system. However, participation in health insurance is compulsory for all persons resident in Switzerland, according to the Health Insurance Act. This is considered a private cover.
In Switzerland, parents receive a monthly child (or family) allowance (‘Kinderzulage, allocations familiales’), which will depend on the number and age of children. Child allowance is disbursed by the employer and varies from canton to canton. Most cantons offer a fixed allowance for each child while some cantons offer an increased allowance for the third and subsequent children. The allowance is usually paid up to a child’s 16th birthday or until the age of between 18 and 25 when they remain in full-time education or occupational training. The allowance is usually paid in the monthly salary payment. Approximately ten cantons also pay a birth allowance.
Typically, employees in senior roles are provided with supplementary benefit packages. These offering may include:
- private pension plan
- enhanced sickness allowance
- occupational accident insurance
- business travel insurance
- additional annual leave
- stock options
- corporate bonus program
- company car
Visas and Foreign Workers
Residence Permits / Work Permits
- EU/EFTA nationals enjoy priority in the event of authorization to access the Swiss labor market:
- Citizens of EU/EFTA member states are not required to obtain a residence permit to assume employment with a company in Switzerland for a period of up to three months per calendar year.
- Gainful employment lasting longer than three months per calendar year is subject to issuance of a work permit. Work permits will be issued upon presentation of proof of employment, such as an employment contract. Work permits are valid for the hole geography of Switzerland and allow the holder to switch jobs and occupations. The period of validity of work permits depends on the duration of employment.
- For employment lasting between three months and one year, workers are entitled to a short stay permit (L EU/EFTA), with the period of validity matching the duration of the employment contract.
- For employment lasting for one year, several years or for an unlimited duration, workers will be issued a residence/work permit (B EU/EFTA), which remains valid for a period of five years.
Non-EU/EFTA citizens need a job offer to be in place before they can apply for a Swiss work visa. If a third-country national has been offered a job in Switzerland, the prospective employer must submit an application for residence permit to the cantonal immigration or labor market authorities. There are no separate work permits and residence permits in Switzerland. Instead, a residence permit will be issued which gives permission to work.
If the application is accepted, it will be forwarded to the Federal Office for Migration (FOM) for approval. The FOM will then notify the parties and the cantonal authorities of its decision, but this decision does not constitute authorisation to enter Switzerland.
If a third-country national requires a visa, the cantonal migration authorities will send a visa clearance certificate via e-mail to the Swiss diplomatic or consular mission in the person’s home country for them to obtain the visa there.
While the employer applies for the Swiss residence permit, the foreign national must apply for a Swiss work visa (also known as a long-stay or a national visa) from their home country. Most non-EU/EFTA nationals need a long-stay (national) visa to enter Switzerland which can be applied for at their country’s Swiss embassy/consulate.
Within 14 days at the latest after arrival and before taking up employment, the foreign national will need to register at the Residents’ Registry Office through the local cantonal migration offices in the place where they are living. They then get their Swiss residence permit and are allowed to live and work in Switzerland.
The following requirements apply to employment of third-country nationals:
- Persons are admitted when it is in the general economic interest.
- Authorization is only granted if established quotas have not been used up.
- Third-country nationals can only be hired if no one with equivalent qualifications can be found in the Swiss workforce or in an EU/EFTA member state.
- Only managers, specialists and other categories of qualified workers can be admitted. “Qualified workers” are primarily the holders of higher education qualifications (e.g. from a university or university of applied sciences) who also possess specific technical expertise and several years of applicable professional experience. Integration criteria will also be taken into account when issuing residence permits: professional and social adaptability, language skills and age.
- Salary and working conditions must also be equivalent to those that apply to Swiss inhabitants.
When applying for a Switzerland work visa, the foreign national must make an appointment at the Swiss representation (embassy/consulate) in their country. The application will then be submitted in person and a non-refundable visa fee is to be paid. The documents must be submitted in triplicate and include:
- Three completed long-stay visa application forms (filled out and signed) in German, French, Italian, Spanish or English. These forms can be downloaded online.
- Valid passport/travel document with at least two blank pages, issued within the past 10 years and be valid for a minimum of three months.
- Four identical passport-size pictures. They must be recent and biometric.
- The job contract along with two copies.
- Proof of professional activity.
- Copies of qualifications (diplomas, certificates, etc.)
- Details about previous education, like grades, subjects, and the dates of attending university/college.
- Evidence of trying to get work in another method.
- The CV (resume).
Documents not concluded in German, French, Italian, or English must be translated.
The types of residence permit that can be obtained with a Switzerland work visa are:
- Permit L – for short-term residence: This type of permit is issued for up to one year and is linked to the terms of the employment contract. The permit holder can only work for that specific employer and company. In some cases, the visa can be extended for another year but the stay with a Permit L cannot be longer than 24 months.
- Permit B – for temporary/initial residence: The B Permit is also issued for a period of one year. However, it can be annually renewed. Work can only be performed for the same employer with this type of permit, and only within the same canton. After living in Switzerland with a B Permit for 10 continuous years, the permit holder becomes eligible to apply for a permanent residence permit (Permit C).
- Permit C – for permanent residence: After having lived in Switzerland for ten continuous years, the foreign national can apply for Swiss permanent residence. Permit C allows to work for any employer, job changes, and to live anywhere in Switzerland
Getting a Tax Number
The tax ID is the 13-digit AHV insurance number (e.g.. the social security number). Insured persons retain the same number throughout their lives and do not need to replace it in the event of a name change (e.g. due to marriage or divorce).
Every person with health insurance in Switzerland receives a health insurance card from their health insurer. The information on the health insurance card is identical to that on the social security insurance certificate (e.g. it states the AHV number). Registration for a social security insurance certificate is only necessary for people who do not have a Swiss health insurance card, such as immigrants from abroad. Any insured person can request a social security insurance certificate to be issued.
The application for a social security insurance certificate needs to be filed with the employer by the employee or by a non-employed person to the cantonal compensation office in their place of residence.
Public Holidays in 2023
All Saint´s Day
St Stephen´s Day
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