What's a fair wage for a middle manager in the pharmaceutical industry? How many hours is the Swiss working week? What is a 13th month salary? Find out here.
Salaries in Switzerland are among the highest in the world but the Swiss also often work hard, long hours for their pay. Here you'll find salary calculators, learn about deductions and how employment contracts work.
The cost of living in Switzerland is among the highest in the world, but workers also earn among the highest salaries.
Salaries in Switzerland are paid once a month and are often based on a 13-month system. That means an annual salary is paid out in 13 instalments: one a month until the end of the year when a worker receives two instalments. Working less than a full year means the 13th month payment is typically paid on a pro-rata basis. It is not the same as a bonus.
There is no statutory minimum wage in Switzerland, although some labour agreements set minimum salaries in specific fields, such as in the catering and hotel sectors.
As in the United States, gross salary in Switzerland is negotiated before a contract is signed and it represents the amount of money to be earned before deduction of sums for compulsory social contributions such as old-age, disability and unemployment insurance as well as pension schemes (the so-called second pillar, see section on Social Security Paymentsexternal link). A worker can expect a net salary to be 13-20% lower. Non EU/EFTA workers with a B permit will also have income tax withheld at source, further reducing take-home pay.
The Swiss Trade Union Federationexternal link has developed a salary calculatorexternal link (in German and French) that offers a slightly more precise idea of average wages paid based on qualifications and the professional sector you wish to work in.
The bank UBS produces reports every three years comparing salaries and purchasing power using easy-to-grasp concepts, such as how long a worker earning average local wages must work to be able to afford common items, like a tablet or a Big Mac. Find the “Prices and Earningsexternal link” report here.
The following deductions are taken from an employee at source:
- Old-Age and Survivors’ Insurance (OASI), Disability Insurance (DI) and Income Loss Insurance: 5.05% of salary (without a ceiling)
- Unemployment Insurance (UI): 1% of salary (ceiling: CHF126,000 p.a.)
- Occupational pension provision: roughly 7.5% of regular salary, depending on the age of the insured person and the pension scheme
- Non-occupational accident insurance: between 0.7% and 3.4% of salary (ceiling of salary: CHF126,000 p.a.), depending on the sector.
With the exception of non-occupational accident insurance, employers match contributions for each item mentioned above.
Unlike in the United States, health insurance premiums are not deducted from take-home pay. Rather, health insurance is mandatory but handled separately from work – people are free to choose their own providers and policies – and contributions depend on age and where you live. (See section on Daily Life, Insurance, Healthexternal link for more.)
This salary calculatorexternal link can help you calculate your monthly net salary.
There is no set legal formula for a work contract.
Many firms use a General Labour Agreement (GLA), which is a written agreement between one or more employers and their workers or their associations and trade unions. They often cover duration, trial periods, termination, and periods of notice. A few points:
- An unlimited employment contract may be terminated by either of the two parties, provided the period of notice and the date for giving notice are respected (see next point). Should the other party request this, the party giving notice must give written grounds for his/her decision. Furthermore, the employer and employee may at any time agree to terminate their employment relationship by mutual consent.
- Periods of notice: During the trial period, generally speaking, either party may terminate the employment contract at any time by giving a seven-day notice. After the trial period, a contract may be terminated at the end of any month by giving a one-month period of notice in the first year of employment, two months in the second to the ninth year of employment and thereafter three months. Each employer may change these periods of notice, so read contracts carefully.
- Swiss law covers certain situations where dismissal would be considered unfair, including sexual orientation, belonging to a political party or religious group, being a union member or when prevented from working by illness, pregnancy or an accident.
For more on work contracts in German, French or Italian, please go to the Swiss government portalexternal link for small and medium-size enterprises. This reportexternal link from international law firm CMS also explains work contracts in Switzerland.
The hours a person can be required to work are limited under Swiss law. The maximum legal working time amounts to 45 hours a week for employees in industrial enterprises, for office staff, technical personnel and other employees including sales assistants in large retail businesses. For all other salaried persons, the upper limit is 50 hours.
Overtime must as a rule be paid at 125% or, with the consent of the employee, compensated by the same amount of free time. Employers and employees can come to their own agreements on how this is handled.
Temporary work at night, work on Sunday and during public holidays give an employee the right to a special form of compensation. For regular night work, labour laws grant a compensation in time of 10%, which may not be converted into money (except what is due at the end of a working relationship).
The right to holidays and time off is also enshrined in law. The employer must grant all employees for each year of service a minimum of five weeks off for employees and apprentices below the age of 20 and four weeks off for employees and apprentices above the age of 20. This minimum duration is often increased by employers, especially for workers who have been at their posts for many years.
Other reasons for taking time off:
- Sick leave: In general, most employers require a doctor’s certificate if you are away from work for more than two consecutive days because of illness. The law requires that employers pay salaries for a limited period to employees who are involuntarily prevented from working because of illness. Employers must also give employees up to three days of leave to care for a sick child, with a doctor’s note.
- Other types of leave include the so-called “youth leave”, which guarantees up to five extra days of leave per year to all employees and apprentices under the age of 30 who work voluntarily on behalf of young people. This applies to workers in the private sector – those employed in the public sector have other laws governing the youth leave policy. Employers often also grant employees days and hours off for their marriage, the birth of a child, the death of close relations or friends and moving house.
- Maternity leave: Salaried women or those exercising a self-employed occupation have a right to maternity leave. The same right is granted to women working in their husband’s company for a salary in kind. During the 14 weeks following birth they receive 80% of the average income of their gainful employment before birth. For more on this subject please visit the State Secretariat for Economic Affairsexternal link (SECO).
System of percentage of work
In Switzerland employees are often offered positions based on certain percentages of work time. A job offered at 100% means full-time, up to 45-50 hours a week depending on the job sector.
A job offered at 90% typically means two days off a month (work nine out of ten workdays). A 50% position could mean two days of work one week, followed by three the next. Exactly how the time is divided up can be determined between the employer and employee.
The percentages often also apply to certain benefits. For instance, if a company offers workers four weeks of paid vacation, a 50% employee would also receive four weeks, paid at the 50% rate.