Switzerland Country Profile – Working Practices
Swiss employees work some of the longest hours in Europe and many attempts to reduce the maximum number of hours have been repeatedly rejected by government. The law does state that most employees can work a maximum of 45 hours a week. In some specialised industries, this is raised to 50 hours a week. Many Swiss employers promote flexible working hours, most commonly seen in manufacturing industries. Workers are given staggered start times, usually from 7am. Overtime is usually paid at one-and-a-quarter times the usual wage or days off in lieu. However, managers are rarely compensated with extra pay and the expectation is that they are already handsomely paid for the work they do.
Workers aged over 20 are legally entitled to four weeks of paid holiday a year, while workers under 20 are eligible for five weeks. Some senior employees are granted a fifth week in their contracts but this is usually awarded depending on seniority at a firm.
Each of the 26 cantons (regions) which make up the Swiss Confederation decide what public holidays they observe except for 1st August which is a federal holiday. It is best to check which holidays are applicable in each canton.
Public holiday dates
New Year’s Day: 1st January
Good Friday: 14th April
Easter Sunday: 16th April
Easter Monday: 17th April
Ascension Day: 25th May
Whit Monday: 5th June
National Day: 1st August
Christmas Day: 25th December
Visas and eligibility
People coming from a European member state or with a right to stay in that member state do not need a visa to enter Switzerland. Although Switzerland is not part of the EU, a bilateral agreement signed in 2002 relaxed the laws for Europeans intending to work and stay in the country. If you need a visa you should apply for it in your home country because they cannot be issued in Switzerland. Foreigners living in Switzerland can apply for a residence permit and the type of permit you need will depends on your length of stay and whether you are a worker or student. More information can be found here. You must register for a residence permit within eight days of arriving in the country and before your first day of work.
As a confederation, the Swiss tax system is complicated, mainly because of the 26 cantons and 2,300 or so municipalities which have their own tax systems. In Switzerland the tax year runs from 1st January to 31st December. In most cantons it is necessary to file tax returns within three months after the end of the tax period. Taxes are comprised of confederation, canton and commune tax. Most cantons also take a church tax from one of the three national churches, Roman Catholic, Christian Catholic and Protestant. High earners living in Switzerland are obliged to fill in tax returns based on their worldwide earnings and assets. Most foreign employees have their income tax automatically deducted from their salary. To work out how much tax you will pay in Switzerland, you can find more information here.
The Swiss pension system is known as the ‘three pillars’, consisting of the Federal Old Age pension, Occupational pension scheme, and private pensions. The basic pension covers living expenses and is financed by employees’ monthly contributions of around 4%. People are usually entitled to collect this when they reach 65 for men and 64 for women. The second pillar is a funded pension plan financed by employees and employers. Private pensions schemes are optional. Visit the Swiss Government’s pension website to find out more.
There are five areas of social security in Switzerland designed to ensure individuals enjoy a reasonable standard of living. They include old age and invalidity insurance, protection against illness and accidents, maternity pay, unemployment insurance and family allowance. Benefits and insurance are generally paid by workers through monthly contributions automatically deducted from salaries. Each canton also contributes different amounts. Unemployment benefits are considered generous in Switzerland and are available to foreign workers with the amount received dependent on final salary and length of employment.
In November 2014 Switzerland ratified the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities which came into force in May the following year. The convention, along with other national laws, compels employers to improve access and rights for disabled workers. Many public buildings have also undergone alterations to improve accessibility. There are disabled parking bays available to those carrying a parking authorisation card which can be obtained through the disabled person's canton of residence