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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. 

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