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Country snapshot

Key considerations

Which issues would you most highlight to someone new to your country?

Unlike many EU member states, Switzerland has liberal and flexible employment laws regarding recruitment, employment and dismissal. EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) citizens can be hired freely, while citizens and residents from non-EU countries require immigration and work permits, which are subject to restrictive quota systems. In general, an employment contract can be terminated by observing a minimum termination notice period of one to three months. In that sense, at-will termination of an employment contract exists, as dismissals cannot be challenged in the courts unless they are considered to be grossly discriminating.

In general, there is no minimum wage in Switzerland; Swiss voters rejected the option to introduce such a wage in a May 2014 referendum. However, minimum wage rates are found in selected collective bargaining agreements. Further, Switzerland’s bilateral treaties securing the free movement of EU and EFTA citizens into Switzerland (and vice versa) provide indirect minimum wage provisions.

Swiss data protection laws allow companies to manage their workforces’ personal data effectively and on a global basis. 

Although major corporations and the federal and state (cantonal) public sectors have adopted various diversity programmes over the past 20 years, small and medium-sized entities in Switzerland do not actively pursue any formal diversity programmes (and are not legally required to do so). Nonetheless, 60% of Switzerland’s female population are in full or part-time employment, while foreign workers constitute 25% of Switzerland’s workforce.

An employer can establish a workforce council when its workforce exceeds 50 employees and 20% of employees request that it do so, while an employer must establish a work council when its workforce exceeds 500 employees and at least 100 employees request that it do so. Workforce councils have the right to be consulted (but have no say) on a variety of topics, such as workplace security, wages and pension funds. 

What do you consider unique to those doing business in your country?

The Swiss employment market, which has an average unemployment rate of around 3%, is robust for many reasons. First, Swiss employees are usually well qualified due to the country’s successful dual-education model and their willingness to continue professional education. Swiss citizens are also highly mobile. Further, Switzerland has a century-old tradition of multilingualism, which now includes English. Switzerland also has the longest working week in the Western world: Swiss labour laws allow for up to 50 work hours per week, whereas the average is around 40 hours per week. As mentioned above, Swiss labour laws are liberal and flexible, which is also seen as a determining factor for the country’s low unemployment rate.

Is there any general advice you would give in the employment area?

Experience shows that dismissals should be handled in close cooperation with legal human resources specialists to prevent disgruntled employees from calling on the courts. A number of topics should be addressed, including:

  • the calculation of any remaining fixed and flexible salary to be paid until the termination of the employment contract;
  • the payment of any overtime and holidays accrued;
  • the granting of part or full-time gardening leave; and
  • the application of restrictive covenants, employee participation plans and pension funds, among other things.

Emerging issues/hot topics/proposals for reform

Are there any noteworthy proposals for reform in your jurisdiction?

Switzerland’s auditing, trust, IT and public relations sectors have recently proposed that local labour laws be amended to incorporate greater flexibility regarding working hours, in order to better serve the modern service society’s needs. Under the proposals, which are part of a recently launched parliamentary initiative, senior employees and highly qualified professionals with considerable working autonomy would no longer be:

  • limited by maximum working hours or minimum daily rest periods; or
  • prohibited from working on Sundays.

According to estimates, approximately 500,000 workers (or 10% of all employees) would be affected.

There is also support for a legislative reform regarding further relaxation of working hour record keeping, whereby managers and highly qualified professionals with considerable working autonomy could waive such record-keeping requirements without being subject to a collective labour agreement (a requirement under the new federal working hour record-keeping laws revised as of January 1 2016).

What are the emerging trends in employment law in your jurisdiction?

One of the emerging trends in the Swiss employment market is an increased interest of employees and employers alike in part or full-time working from home. This is due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • reduced commuting times;
  • cost-effectiveness (eg, by removing the need for an expensive office space); and
  • better work-life balance.

It is best practice to amend existing employment contracts to meet the requirements of working from home, such as:

  • the definitions of ‘working’ and ‘available’ hours;
  • reporting lines;
  • data and work place security; and
  • professional accident insurance.

The employment relationship

Country specific laws

What laws and regulations govern the employment relationship?

Swiss employment laws are comprehensively covered by Articles 319 et seq of the Code of Obligations 1911. Public work laws regulating maximum working hours, overtime and workplace security, among other things, are governed by the Federal Labour Act 1964 (including its respective ordinances). Also of importance are the Federal Staff Leasing Act 1989, the Federal Data Protection Act 1992, the Federal Participation Act 1993 and the Federal Equal Opportunity Act 1995.

Who do these cover, including categories of worker?

In general, Swiss employment laws apply to all employees. However, the Federal Labour Act 1964 differentiates between managers and regular employees in regards to maximum working hours and working hour record keeping, among other things. 

Misclassification

Are there specific rules regarding employee/contractor classification?

Swiss employment laws, including social security laws, classify an individual as an ‘employee’ based on a variety of tests, including:

  • the individual’s subordination and integration into the employer’s organisation;
  • the individual’s lack of a separate work or office space;
  • the existence of only one mandator (ie, the employer); and
  • the individual’s lack of separate tax and value-added tax identification numbers. 

Contracts

Must an employment contract be in writing?

Employment contracts need not be in writing to be enforceable. However, specific clauses – such as post-contractual restrictive covenants or waivers on overtime compensation – must be in writing. Further exemptions apply for employees who are in a particularly weak social situation (eg, apprentices).

Are any terms implied into employment contracts?

No. 

Are mandatory arbitration/dispute resolution agreements enforceable?

In general, arbitration clauses in employment contracts are enforceable.

How can employers make changes to existing employment agreements?

Changes to an existing employment contract are unproblematic if they are in the employee’s favour (tacit consent may be assumed). Usually, existing contracts can be changed without observing the written requirements, unless the employment contract itself provides that any amendments or changes must be in writing, in which case employee consent must be demonstrated.

A further proviso exists for major amendments and changes which are unfavourable to employees (eg, transferring the workplace where it results in a substantially longer commute), which can be made only by observing the contractual and statutory termination notices.

Foreign workers

Is a distinction drawn between local and foreign workers?

Local and foreign workers are treated equally. However, distinctions may exist in terms of immigration and work permits. For certain categories of foreign worker, employers must apply source income taxes. 

Recruitment

Advertising

What are the requirements relating to advertising positions?

Job ads must be drafted and published in line with the Federal Equal Opportunity Act 1995. Most discussions take place around alleged direct or indirect discrimination due to gender and age – for example, job ads should be gender neutral, unless there are reasonable grounds for a different approach. Similarly, jobs should not be advertised to a certain age group or experienced professionals with a specified period of work experience in a particular field, as this may be considered indirect discrimination unless there are good reasons for doing so).

Background checks

What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries in relation to the following:

(a) Criminal records?

It is best practice to ask a candidate to provide a copy of his or her criminal record if he or she is applying for:

  • a higher management position where professional reputation and trustworthiness, among other things, are important; or
  • a position which involves a level of security (eg, a bank officer or professional driver).

(b) Medical history?

In some instances, job applicants can be asked to disclose their medical records – for example, if the position requires good physical and mental health (eg, security-related positions, such as pilots or professional drivers).

(c) Drug screening?

In some instances, job applicants can be asked to undergo drug tests if the position requires good physical and mental health (eg, security-related positions, such as workplace security positions in the pharmaceutical industry).

(d) Credit checks?

Employers can request information regarding candidates from a local debt collection agency if the position justifies such disclosure (eg, if the position has treasury or accounting functions).

(e) Immigration status?

An employee’s visa and work permit status must be confirmed (either before or after the conclusion of the employment contract).

(f) Social media?

Best practice prohibits employers from conducting research through social media platforms of a primarily private nature, such as Facebook or Twitter. However, employers can generally access business-focused social media, such as LinkedIn or Xing. 

(g) Other?

No.

Wages and working time

Pay

Is there a national minimum wage and, if so, what is it?

There is no minimum wage in Switzerland; Swiss voters rejected the option to introduce such a wage in a May 2014 referendum. However, minimum wage rates are found in selected collective bargaining agreements. Further, Switzerland’s bilateral treaties securing the free movement of EU and European Free Trade Association citizens into Switzerland (and vice versa) provide indirect minimum wage provisions.

Are there restrictions on working hours?

The maximum number of working hours per week is 45 for industrial sector employees, office employees and technical and other such employees, including sales personnel for large retailing firms. The maximum number of working hours per week for all other employees is 50.

Hours and overtime

What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?

The following break requirements apply:

  • Where an employee’s daily working hours exceed five hours and 30 minutes, the law requires a break of at least 15 minutes.
  • Where an employee’s daily working hours exceed seven hours, the law requires a break of at least 30 minutes.
  • Where an employee’s daily working hours exceed nine hours, the law requires a break of at least one hour.

How should overtime be calculated?

Overtime – as opposed to so-called ‘extra hours’ (see below) – accrues when working hours exceed the contractually agreed working hours (usually 40 hours per week). Employees are required to undertake overtime where:

  • the work is necessary and reasonable and not physically and mentally overwhelming; and
  • working hour limits and rest periods are respected.

Overtime must be compensated with a premium of 25% of the employee’s hourly rate. However, premiums can be partially or entirely excluded if done so in writing. If agreed, overtime can also be compensated with time off in lieu. Working time is generally not specifically defined for higher level management positions; it is assumed that managers with greater workloads will be compensated with higher wages.

So-called ‘extra hours’ accrue when working hours exceed the statutory maximum number of working hours per week (ie, 45 to 50 hours, depending on the sector). Extra hours cannot exceed:

  • two hours per day; and
  • 170 hours (based on a 45-hour week) or 140 hours (based on a 50-hour week) per calendar year.

Further, extra hours must be compensated with a premium of at least 25% of the employee’s hourly rate (non-waivable) if they are not compensated with time off in lieu.

What exemptions are there from overtime?

See above.

Is there a minimum paid holiday entitlement?

Employees under the age of 20 years are entitled to a minimum of five weeks paid holiday. All other employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks.

What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?

Switzerland’s social security system encompasses mandatory insurance relating to an employee’s retirement, sickness and death, for which 10.25% of an employee’s overall gross salary is equally deducted/grossed up and forwarded by the employer to the local social security office. The same system applies for insurance relating to unemployment, for which 1.1% percent of an employee’s gross salary is deducted/grossed up for an annual gross salary of up to Sfr148,200. For salaries exceeding Sfr148,200, an additional 0.5% is levied.

While the above regime is intended to cover minimum living standards, Switzerland’s mandatory and partly voluntary pension fund system will, to some extent, meet the existing living standards of pensioners in cases of retirement, invalidity and death. To cover the mandatory pension fund requirements, between 7% and 18% of a salary ranging between Sfr21,150 and Sfr84,600 will be deducted/grossed up and forwarded by the employer to a pension fund that is legally separate from the employer. Additional levies exist for the voluntary part of the pension fund scheme.

There are further, rather nominal, social security levies for the financial risks relating to accidents, which in most cases are shared equally between employers and employees. Employers also take out insurance for salary-related risks associated with accidents and sickness. Insurance for sickness-related risks is generally a private insurance matter.

Record keeping

What payroll and payment records must be maintained?

There is a general record-keeping duty for all relevant business documents in Switzerland, which includes human resources-related documents. 

Discrimination, harassment & family leave

What is the position in relation to:

Protected categories

(a) Age?

There are no specific employment laws protecting employees from age discrimination. Unlike in many European countries and the United Kingdom, in Switzerland the mandatory retirement ages (64 years for women and 65 years for men) are not considered to be discriminatory. Age discrimination has been addressed in a range of court cases, including cases regarding unfair dismissals that are based on Article 328 of the Code of Obligations 1911, under which an employer must treat all employees equally, unless there are reasonable grounds for unequal treatment.

(b) Race

Switzerland has not enacted any specific employment laws protecting employees from race discrimination. However, a number of court cases have been brought in this regard on the basis of Article 328 of the Code of Obligations 1911, which is broadly applicable (see above).

(c) Disability?

The Federal Act against Invalidity Discrimination 2002, which applies to the public sector, has also started to be applied analogously in the private sector (eg, in cases of unfair dismissal). 

(d) Gender?

The Federal Equal Opportunity Act 1995 protects employees from all forms of gender discrimination during recruitment, employment and dismissal.

(e) Sexual orientation?

There are no specific employment laws regarding discrimination due to sexual orientation. Such cases would be reviewed under Article 328 of the Code of Obligations 1911, which is broadly applicable (see above). 

(f) Religion?

Switzerland has no specific employment laws protecting employees from religious discrimination. However, a number of court cases have been brought in this regard on the basis of Article 328 of the Code of Obligations 1911, which is broadly applicable (see above).

(g) Medical?

There are no specific employment laws protecting against health discrimination. Such cases are dealt with under Article 328 of the Code of Obligations 1911, which is broadly applicable (see above).

(h) Other?

No. 

Family and medical leave

What is the position in relation to family and medical leave?

In cases of medical absences due to sickness or an accident, it is best practice for employers to take out a salary insurance policy to cover ongoing salary payment obligations. These insurance policies usually cover 80% to 100% of the insured’s salary for up to two years.

Otherwise, in cases of sickness or an accident, employers must pay employees their full salary for a limited period, which depends on the number of years that they have served. The Basel, Berne and Zurich courts have developed their own practices – for instance, the so-called ‘Zurich tariff’ provides for a three, eight, nine and 10-week salary payment in the first, second, third and fourth years of service, respectively.

Employers are not required to provide sickness insurance beyond the above salary payments. In general, Swiss residents are mandatorily insured against the financial consequences of sickness, regardless of whether they are employed. Further, employees in full or part-time employment (ie, exceeding eight hours per week) also have mandatory financial entitlements in terms of health (eg, hospital, medical and rehabilitation costs).

Mandatory maternal leave insurance totalling 80% of the insured’s salary for 14 weeks was introduced in 2005. There have also been efforts at various levels to introduce a two-week paid leave period for fathers.

Harassment

What is the position in relation to harassment?

See above.

Whistleblowing

What is the position in relation to whistleblowing?

Since 2003, there have been legislative efforts to improve the protection of whistleblowers provided under Switzerland’s employment laws, including protection against wrongful dismissal for employees who report abusive behaviour.

In November 2013 the federal government proposed a bill to revise the Code of Obligations 1911 in regards to whistleblowing. Though both chambers of Parliament largely welcomed the legislative initiative in 2014 and 2015, they rejected the proposed legislation for being too complex. This is considered a major setback in the efforts to improve the legal protection available to whistleblowers.

Privacy in the workplace

Privacy and monitoring

What are employees’ rights with regard to privacy and monitoring?

Under the Data Protection Act 1992, the systematic (but not sporadic) monitoring of employees during working hours – in particular, via television cameras or their phone, email or internet (including social media) use – is prohibited, unless such surveillance is to ensure work quality or health or security or is for compliance reasons. However, if there is a justifiable suspicion of major misconduct, systematic monitoring is allowed for a limited period.

It is recommended that employers implement guidelines governing the use of email, the Internet and social media platforms for both professional and private use. Pursuant to its instructional rights, an employer can prohibit entirely the private use of company and personal devices – such as mobile phones, tablets and personal computers – during working hours, while permitting their use during breaks and in personal emergencies. It is also acknowledged that there is wide use of social media in a professional context among younger employees, so a general prohibition of social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook or WhatsApp, seems unsuitable.

To what extent can employers regulate off-duty conduct?

In most cases, it would not be permissible to regulate an employee’s off-duty conduct (at least for low-ranking employees). One exemption to this rule is available for employers with, among other things, a clear political, social or ideological purpose. A further exemption applies for high-ranking managers who are expected to represent their employers, including when off duty. Further, even low-ranking employees have a duty of loyalty when off duty and should not, for example, make disparaging comments about their employer or working conditions. 

Are there rules protecting social media passwords in the employment context and/or on employer monitoring of employee social media accounts?

See above.

Trade secrets and restrictive covenants

Intellectual Property

Who owns IP rights created by employees during the course of their employment?

Inventions and designs produced by an employee alone or in collaboration with others in the course of his or her work for the employer while performing his or her contractual obligations belong to the employer, regardless of whether they can be protected.

By written agreement, an employer can reserve the right to acquire inventions and designs produced by an employee in the course of his or her work for the employer, but not while performing his or her contractual obligations.

An employee who produces an invention or design must notify his or her employer in writing. The employer must inform the employee within six months if it wishes to acquire the invention or design or otherwise release it to the employee.

If there is no such release to the employee, the employer must pay him or her separate appropriate remuneration, which will be determined with due regard for the pertinent circumstances – in particular:

  • the economic value of the invention or design;
  • the degree to which the employer contributed to the invention or design;
  • any reliance on other staff and the employer’s facilities; and
  • the expenses incurred by the employee and his or her position in the company.

Restrictive covenants

What types of restrictive covenants are recognised and enforceable?

Within the limitations explained below, a variety of restrictive covenants are enforceable. These include working for a competitor and soliciting former co-employees and previous clients.

Non-compete

Are there any special rules on non-competes for particular classes of employee?

An employee with the capacity to act can give his or her employer a written undertaking to refrain from engaging in any activity that competes with the employer once the employment relationship has ended – in particular, running a competing business or working for or participating in such a business.

The competition prohibition is binding only where:

  • the employment relationship allows the employee to have knowledge of the employer’s clientele or manufacturing and trade secrets; and
  • the use of such knowledge could cause the employer substantial harm.

The prohibition must be appropriately restricted regarding place, time and scope in such a way that it does not unfairly compromise the employee’s future economic activity. The prohibition can exceed three years only in special circumstances. The courts may, at their discretion, impose restrictions on an excessive competition prohibition, taking due account of the circumstances. In particular, the courts will give due regard to any consideration that the employer makes.

An employee who infringes a competition prohibition must provide compensation for the resulting damage to the employer. Where an employee who infringes the prohibition is liable to pay a contractual penalty, unless otherwise agreed, he or she can exempt him or herself from the prohibition by paying such penalty. However, the employee will remain liable for any further damages.

Where expressly agreed in writing, in addition to the agreed contractual penalty and any further damages, employers can insist that the situation be rectified to the extent justified by the injury or threat to the employer’s interests and the employee’s conduct.

The competition prohibition is extinguished once the employer can demonstrate that it no longer has a substantial interest in its continuation. The prohibition is likewise extinguished if the employer terminates the employment relationship without the employee having given it any good cause to do so or if the employee terminates it for good cause attributable to the employer.

Discipline and grievance procedures

Procedures

Are there specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?

In general, there are no particular discipline and grievance procedures to be observed before admonishing or dismissing an employee. However, major corporations in Switzerland include in their guidelines and manuals discipline and grievance procedures, which could lead to an unfair dismissal case if disregarded.

Industrial relations

Unions and layoffs

Is your country (or a particular area) known to be heavily unionised?

Trade unions that play an important role in Switzerland are:

  • the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB), which had 16 associations and almost 370,000 members as of 2015; and
  • Travail Suisse, which emerged from the Christian trade union movement and had 12 associations and almost 160,000 members as of 2015.

A number of important unions independent from SGB and Travail Suisse focus on certain professions. The two largest are the Kaufmännische Verband Schweiz and the Association of Swiss Teachers, each of which have approximately 50,000 members.

Switzerland has approximately 4.5 million full or part-time employees, 17% of whom are union members. This is considered low compared with other countries, such as Austria, France and Germany. However, it should also be considered in light of the hundreds of collective bargaining agreements, which the federal and cantonal governments can declare as generally applicable – either for the entire country or for certain cantons if certain tests are met (see below).

Around 40% of all employees in Switzerland are covered in some way by collective bargaining arrangements, which is also considered low compared with the rest of Europe. 

What are the rules on trade union recognition?

Trade union recognition is important in regards to declaring a collective bargaining agreement generally applicable, whereby a relatively complex three-fold 50% test applies for employers and employer associations and employees and employee associations.

What are the rules on collective bargaining?

The collective bargaining legal framework is provided in Article 356 et seq of the Code of Obligations 1911.

Collective bargaining agreements can be declared generally binding by the federal government (or, in case of regional agreements, by cantonal governments) at the request of the negotiating partners, after which they apply automatically to all employers in the sector. Notably, collective bargaining agreements in the building and trade and service sectors, including the hotel and catering sectors, are generally binding.

Branch employers’ associations generally negotiate collective agreements on behalf of employers, whereas branch trade unions usually do so on behalf of employees.

As a rule, collective bargaining agreements are concluded for between two and five years. During this time, annual wage negotiations take place in the autumn, at which time wage increases for the beginning of the following year, and possibly other wage components, are negotiated. Wage agreements for more than one year are concluded in exceptional cases.

One peculiarity of the Swiss system is that the annual wage negotiations for important collective bargaining agreements – namely, the machinery, electrical, metal, chemical and pharmaceutical industries – occur at the enterprise level. The negotiating partners are staff representatives and the employers of individual companies. Trade union representatives are used only in cases of conflict.

As regards content, collective bargaining agreements include details on:

  • working conditions (eg, minimum wages and working hours);
  • additional pension funds;
  • early retirement;
  • conflict resolution procedures;
  • joint social funds;
  • training funding;
  • joint implementation and control bodies;
  • participation rights (including financial participation); and
  • procedures relating to collective redundancies and takeovers.

Termination

Notice

Are employers required to give notice of termination?

Employment agreements can be terminated by observing the following termination periods:

  • one month during the first year of service;
  • two months between the second and ninth years of service; and
  • three months thereafter. 

Employment agreements can provide for longer or shorter termination periods (although they will usually be no less than one month).

Though no specific form is required for a termination, for evidence purposes, it is advisable that termination notices be given in writing (which is sometimes required by the employment contract itself).

Redundancies

What are the rules that govern redundancy procedures?

‘Mass redundancies’ are notices of termination given by an employer to employees for reasons not pertaining personally to the employees that affect:

  • at least 10 employees of a business normally employing between 20 and 100 employees;
  • at least 10% of employees of a business normally employing between 100 and 300 employees; or
  • at least 30 employees of a business normally employing at least 300 employees.

An employer intending to make mass redundancies must consult the work’s council or, in its absence, the employees themselves. The employer must give employees the opportunity to formulate proposals on how to:

  • avoid such redundancies or limit their number; and
  • mitigate their consequences.

Employers must provide the work’s council or, in its absence, their employees with all appropriate information and inform them in writing of:

  • the reasons for the mass redundancies;
  • the number of employees to whom notice has been given;
  • the number of employees normally employed in the business; and
  • the period in which it plans to issue the notices of termination.

An employer must notify the cantonal employment office in writing of any intended mass redundancies and forward a copy of such notification to the work’s council or, in its absence, its employees. The notification must contain the results of the consultation with the organisation that represents the employees and all appropriate information regarding the intended mass redundancies

The cantonal employment office seeks to resolve problems caused by planned mass redundancies. The work’s council or employees can submit comments. Where notice to terminate an employment relationship has been given within the context of a mass redundancy, the relationship will end 30 days after the date on which the mass redundancies were notified to the cantonal employment office, unless such notice of termination takes effect at a later date pursuant to statutory or contractual provisions.

As a separate matter, an employer must hold negotiations with it employees with the aim of preparing a social plan if it:

  • usually employs at least 250 employees; and
  • intends to make at least 30 employees redundant within 30 days for reasons that are unrelated to them.

If the parties are unable to agree on a social plan, an arbitral tribunal will be appointed, which will issue a social plan in a binding arbitral award.

The social plan’s provisions do not apply to mass redundancies that occur during bankruptcy or composition proceedings that are concluded with a composition agreement.

Are there particular rules for collective redundancies/mass layoffs?

See above.

Protections

What protections do employees have on dismissal?

In general, Swiss employment laws provide protection against:

  • dismissals that occur during sickness or accident-related work absences or absences due to military or other public service;
  • dismissals that are based on, among other things, gender, race, religion or union membership;
  • dismissals that occur because the employee rightfully complained about his or her entitlements;
  • certain dismissals that occur in the context of a mass dismissal;
  • dismissals for an important cause that have an immediate effect, where the necessary requirements are not met.

Courts/tribunals

Jurisdiction and procedure

Which tribunals or courts have jurisdiction to hear complaints?

Some cantons in Switzerland, such as Zurich and Geneva, have specialist labour courts that exclusively handle employment law disputes. However, the district courts handle labour cases in most cantons.

When lodging a court action, plaintiffs must first follow a conciliation proceeding. The employment or district courts can be called on only when conciliation fails. The introduction of mandatory conciliation procedures as of January 1 2011 has been a success, as conciliation now settles almost 65% of all disputed matters (not just employment matters) before they are brought to the courts (2015 statistics for the Canton of Zurich). 

Employment litigation for cases worth up to Sfr30,000 incurs no court costs, while all disputes pursuant to the Federal Equal Opportunity Act 1995 and the Federal Participation Act 1993, regardless of value, incur no court costs. However, the unsuccessful party in an employment lawsuit must assume the costs of the other party’s lawyers, although this is excluded in certain cantons, such as Geneva. Entitlements to free legal aid for parties without the necessary financial means to conduct litigation are available, provided that the case is not futile. Corporations are ineligible for any kind of free legal aid.

For the above employment disputes, the law also provides for a variety of procedural simplifications, such as filing a court claim orally and without any detailed justifications. There is also an increased judicial duty to inquire and admit potential facts regarding the litigation, thereby releasing the claimant (ie, employee) from what can be severe procedural obligations to claim and give evidence regarding all aspects of his or her entitlements.

What is the procedure and typical timescale?

Through the above procedural simplifications, the law also aims to secure a fast-track litigation procedure for matters with a dispute value of up to Sfr30,000. However, it provides no specific time prescriptions. As a matter of experience, smaller employment litigation matters are often resolved within three to six months, whereby the high success rate of 65% in the preceding conciliations (see above) leads to an even faster settlement of employment disputes in Switzerland.

Appeals

What is the route for appeals?

Under the Federal Procedural Code 2008, there are four different legal remedies available in employment law matters, the most important of which is lodging an appeal or complaint with the upper cantonal courts. 

An appeal is the primary legal remedy against first-instance final and interim decisions
and first-instance decisions on precautionary measures. Where financial claims are at stake, the appeal is admissible only if the dispute’s value exceeds Sfr10,000. In most cases, the deadline for filing an appeal is 30 days. 

A complaint is a subsidiary legal remedy that is available only when an appeal is not allowed (ie, in labour law proceedings where the dispute’s value is less than Sfr10,000 (see above)).  

A complaint can also be the primary legal remedy – for example, against selected other first-instance decisions, such as those relating to: 

  • cost advances and securities; 
  • litigation costs;
  • the suspension of proceedings; and
  • free legal aid. 

In most cases, the deadline for submitting a complaint is 30 days.

Calling on the Supreme Court is subject to separate rules pursuant to the Federal Supreme Court Act 2005, whereby an appeal is admissible only if the dispute’s value exceeds Sfr15,000 (unless the appellant can demonstrate that the case is of fundamental importance).