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03. Working Conditions

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Switzerland

03. Working Conditions

Minimum Working Conditions

In Switzerland, the most important conditions of an employment contract are provided by statutory law and by the applicable collective agreement (if any). In particular, collective agreements set the terms and conditions of employment, which include, amongst others: categories and related job descriptions; duties and obligations; minimum wages; job retention rights during absences due to illness; salary increases due to length of service; termination, resignation, criteria for calculation of the severance pay; night work; maternity leave; and holidays.

Salary

Salary is usually paid at the end of the calendar month deducting all applicable social security contributions and withholding taxes (if any). Swiss law explicitly provides that the salary paid to employees must be stated in a pay slip. So far, four cantons (Jura, Neuenburg, Geneva and Ticino) have introduced minimum wages for all employees. They vary from CHF 19 to CHF 23 per hour. Minimum wages may also be found in collective labour agreements.

Maximum Working Week

In the majority of Swiss companies, the normal weekly working hours under an employment contract of a collective bargaining agreement are between 40 and 44 hours. The legal maximum weekly working hours are 45 for industrial workers, office, technical and other employees including salespersons in large retail stores; for all other commercial enterprises, the legal maximum weekly working hours are 50. The difference between the normal weekly working hours and the maximum weekly working hours is important for distinguishing between overtime and excess working hours.

Overtime

Overtime is defined as hours worked in excess of the normal weekly working hours. An employee is obliged to work more than the normal working hours to the extent that the employee can in good faith be reasonably expected to do so. By statutory law, overtime must be compensated with an additional premium of 25%.

It is, however, permissible to agree in writing that overtime work will not be compensated with an additional premium or even not compensated at all. It is also possible, subject to the employee’s consent, for overtime to be compensated by time off of at least equivalent duration. Contracts with management-level employees usually completely waive their right for overtime, either by payment or time off.

Excess working hours are the hours worked in excess of the legal maximum weekly working hours. To safeguard the employee’s health, the Federal Labour Act prohibits more than two hours per day of excess working hours; in a calendar year, an employee may not work more than 170 excess working hours (where the weekly maximum is 45 hours) or 140 excess working hours (where the weekly maximum is 50 hours). Excess working hours must always be compensated by an additional premium of 25%, unless the employee consents to take an equivalent amount of time as compensation within a given time period.

Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace

Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace

The Swiss legislative framework for safety and health at work is not based on European Legislation. As Switzerland has not joined the European Economic Area (EEA), it is not obliged to adopt EU laws. Although Switzerland has set its own policies on occupational safety and health, these basically comply with the EU legislation. Differences do exist e.g., non-reporting of occupational accidents in Switzerland.

Occupational health and safety in Switzerland is primarily based on two laws: the Labour Act (Arbeitsgesetz ArG, 1964) and the Accident Insurance Act (Bundesgesetz über die Unfallversicherung UVG, 1981). The Labour Act stipulates, “The employer shall take all measures necessary to maintain and improve health protection and to ensure the physical and mental health of workers”.

The Accident Insurance Act contains provisions on the compensation and prevention of accidents and occupational diseases. It regulates compulsory accident insurance (Compulsory Accident Insurance Regulation – UVV), accident prevention and the prevention of occupational diseases (Accident Prevention Regulation – VUV).

Complaint Procedures

Complaints about non-compliance with health and safety regulations can be submitted to the employer directly and, if this does not help, to the cantonal labour inspectorate. In the case of collective labour agreements, it is also possible to bring complaints to the attention of the contractually agreed complaint office or directly to the trade union concluding the agreement.

Protection from Retaliation

An employee who asserts rights from the employment relationship in good faith may not be dismissed for this reason. If he is nevertheless dismissed, although the dismissal is valid, the employer must pay a penalty of up to 6 months’ salary.

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