At Work in Zurich

Work Usage in Zurich

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Switzerland follows generally the same working model as most of the Western World. In general, the Swiss value cleanliness, honesty, and hard work. They have a long tradition of freedom and value responsibility. They are very proud of their neutrality and promotion of worldwide peace.

The statutory minimum working age in Switzerland is 15. In some cases (messenger services, light work, cultural, artistic and sporting events or advertising) people from the age of 13 may be employed.

Entitlement to Work in Switzerland

EU citizens (plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) are free to move and work within the union.

The situation is more difficult for people from outside the EU. This does mean impossible, but it is difficult. To increase your chances, it helps to have an education or special skill and speak at least one of the official languages. Start applying before arriving and have enough savings to subsist for a while.

Working hours

Under Swiss law, the maximum weekly working time for industrial workers, office personnel, technicians and other employees, including the sales staff of major retailers is 45 hours. The limit for all other workers is 50 hours per week. Average weekly working time is about 42 hours a week.

Overtime above the agreed working hours but not exceeding the statutory maximum working time must in general be remunerated at time plus 25 percent. If the employee agrees, overtime can be offset by a corresponding period of leave.

Temporary work performed at night, on Sundays or on public holidays carries an entitlement to special remuneration. For regular night work, the Labour Law provides for a 10 percent leisure time offset for all employees. This cannot be converted into pecuniary compensation unless the person's employment ends.


Switzerland does not have a statutory minimum wage. Only certain collective labor agreements stipulate a minimum. However, in general wage levels are higher than in other European countries. Average salary is around 47,088 euro a year. Wages and salaries are usually determined on the basis of seniority.

The Federal Administration tracks average earnings and conducts regular surveys. Consult their site for specific estimates on wages.


An employment contract should be in writing and the employee should read and understand all conditions before signing. If it is in a language other than your mother tongue, you should allow a trusted advisor (like a lawyer or financial advisor) that is fluent in that language to inspect it.

An employment contract must specify the employer's and employee's names, the start date of the contract, the work to be performed and the remuneration to be paid in return. Other important provisions of a contract are the probation period, benefits, and the period of notice. In addition, employment contracts must not provide for immoral or illegal tasks.

Basic Types of Contracts

Individual Employment Contract - This is the typical contract in which an employee work for an employer for a consideration (pay). The contract is concerned with certain rights and obligations: the employee must perform the relevant work, while the employer must pay the employee's remuneration and social security contributions, allow the employee paid holidays, etc.

Collective Labour Agreement - Based on negotiations between unions and employers, it contains provisions on the conclusion, content and termination of individual employment contracts, the rights and obligations of the contracting parties and how the agreement itself shall be applied and monitored. In many cases a standard employment contract is also signed.

Probationary Period

It is common for a new employee to undergo a probationary period. During the probationary period, either party can terminate the contract at any time subject to seven days's notice. Exceptions are possible provided they are agreed on in a written agreement, a standard contract or a collective labor agreement. A probationary period should not exceed three months.


After the probationary period, an employment contract may be terminated from the end of any month, subject to one month's notice in the first year of service, two months's notice from the second to the ninth years of service, and three months's notice thereafter. These periods may be amended by a written agreement, a standard contract or a collective labor agreement.

The party giving notice must state the reasons for this decision in writing if so required by the other party. Employers and employees may also mutually agree to end their employment contract. In this case, the employment contract is deemed to have been terminated by a "cancellation contract".

Time Off

Annual Leave

The statutory minimum period of leave is four weeks for employees and apprentices over the age of 20, and five weeks for employees and apprentices up to the age of 20. This minimum may be increased by contractual agreement.

The leave allowance may be reduced if an employee is off work for a prolonged period owing to a long illness, long-term unpaid leave, etc. While on leave, employees continue to receive their full pay.

Sick Leave

Most employers require a medical certificate for any absence longer than three consecutive days due to sickness. The law requires employers to continue to pay for a limited period employees who are unable to work by reason of illness.

Maternity Leave

All mothers are entitled to paid maternity leave for 98 days after the birth of their child. They receive 80 percent of their pay in the form of a daily allowance, subject to a maximum of CHF 196 per day.

Other Types of Leave

Switzerland has several other types of leave guaranteed by law or by collective labor agreements.

    These include
  • Youth Leave - Five extra days's leave per year for employees and apprentices under the age of 30 who do voluntary work with young people. Marriage
  • Death of a close relative
  • Moving house


Switzerland's statutory public holidays are:

  • New Year's Day (1 January)
  • Ascension Day
  • Swiss National Day (1 August)
  • Christmas Day (25 December)
All other public holidays (Easter, Whit Sunday, Corpus Christi) are determined by the cantons.

A calendar of holidays is available here (German).

Worker's Rights

Approximately one in four workers in Switzerland is a member of a trade union. The role of trade unions is to defend workers's interests. The unions dictate the collective labor agreements and perform a political and social function. Most trade unions belong to either the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (Union Syndicale Suisse, SGB/USS) or the Travail.Suisse. The level of union dues varies and is subject to the members's occupations and incomes. Employed workers typically pay between CHF 300 and CHF 600 per year.

In firms with more than 50 employees, staff may elect one or more worker representatives to exercise workers's participation rights. The cantonal civil courts (usually the labor courts) have jurisdiction in disputes arising from individual contracts of employment. Collective labor disputes are settled differently in each canton. All cantons have conciliation offices that deal with such disputes.

Business Etiquette

Swiss society is fairly formal and people should be addressed by their surname. This is a sign of respect, and tied to the Swiss value of privacy. In German-speaking Switzerland, use the courtesy titles "Herr" to address a man and "Frau" to address a woman; in French-speaking areas, use "Monsieur" and "Madame"; in Italian- speaking areas, use "Signore" and "Signora". At first, always address someone first by his or her professional title and family name, and if invited you may use their first names. Generally, English is spoken in business with foreigners, but it is best to inquire beforehand to determine if an interpreter is needed.

Punctuality for business and social meetings is taken very seriously. Call with an explanation if you will be delayed.

The business climate is conservative. Meetings are generally impersonal, brisk, orderly, planned and task oriented.

Update 18/08/2011


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