It is increasingly evident that labour laws no longer reflect the needs of a modern service society. In principle, Switzerland's working hours regime aims for a maximum 45-hour working week, with at least 11 hours of rest per working day and work prohibited on Sundays. However, in reality this regime is routinely breached and yet exceptions to the rules are available only in limited cases. Unsurprisingly, members of the accounting and auditing industry are lobbying to further ease limitations in sectors which have peak seasons of a 50 to 60-hour working week, with compensation such as overtime in slack seasons.

Other professional sectors (eg, IT, banking and law) often encounter work which cannot be accomplished without breaking the law and having to work across different time zones. Labour laws can easily be broken when, for example, more than once a week a highly qualified professional must pick up his or her child from a daycare centre at 5:00pm, then attend to dinner and family responsibilities, check work emails at 9:00pm and prepare for a meeting the following morning at 8:00am. It comes as no suprise that a professional alliance of the auditing, trust, IT and public relations sectors wants to adapt labour laws to further represent reality. The alliance's proposals are part of a parliamentary initiative launched by Federal Senator Konrad Graber of the Christian Popular Party of Lucerne. According to a recent announcement, the Economic Commission of the Senate supports this far-reaching initiative by a large majority. The alliance's proposed aim is that senior employees and highly qualified professionals with considerable working autonomy should no longer be limited by maximum working hours, minimum daily rest periods and prohibited Sunday work. According to estimates by the alliance, approximately 500,000 workers (or 10% of all employees) would be affected.

In a separate announcement, one of the country's leading trade unions protested against this general attack on workers' protection. Graber pointed out that his legislative initiative does not aim at longer working hours but at providing flexibility in the distribution of working hours over the year (eg, annual working time rather than maximum weekly working hours).

The Economic Commission also supports a legislative initiative of St Gallen Senator Karin Keller-Sutter of the Swiss Free Democrats regarding a further ease on working time record keeping, whereby managers and highly qualified workers with considerable working autonomy could waive working time record keeping without being subject to a collective labour agreement (a requirement under the new time record keeping law, revised as of January 1 2016) (for further details please see "New working time record regulations in sight").

For further information on this topic please contact Thomas Rihm at Rihm Rechtsanwälte by telephone (+41 44 377 77 20) or email (thomas.rihm@rihm-law.ch). The Rihm Rechtsanwälte website can be accessed at www.rihm-law.ch.

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