In many Swiss hospitals, mandatory labour laws are a 'dead letter': 52% of doctors do not adhere to the maximum weekly working time of 50 hours, which has been in force since 2005. This information was provided by a study carried out by a doctors' union, the Association of Swiss Medical Assistants (ASMA). On average, physicians who work full time (100% pensum) work 55 hours per week. This is true regardless of whether they are employed by a university, cantonal or regional hospital. In particular, the self-declared workload of assistant doctors and surgeons is exceptionally high. A high-ranking hospital manager recently reported in the media that a 90-hour working week is not uncommon.

Around 3,300 out of ASMA's 13,000 members participated in a 2016 online survey conducted by the association. It is important to consider that doctors who are dissatisfied with their work are more likely to be outspoken. That said, ASMA spokesman Marcel Marti stated that the results reflect the realities of the situation, and that the numbers are corroborated by feedback from ASMA members.

The doctors' union carried out an earlier analogous survey in 2013, but little has changed since then. Doctors still do not report a portion of their working hours – an average of 2.6 hours per week. A small improvement is that a majority of the interviewed doctors are no longer working more than seven days in a row, something which was also a clear violation of mandatory Swiss labour laws.

From the point of view of the hospital association H+, high workloads are also caused by the significant administrative work that doctors must increasingly perform. According to H+, health insurers, the cantons and the Federal Offices for Health and Statistics are also to blame, as these bodies require increased reporting duties. H+ has stated that one possible solution would be to delegate more work to medically trained administration staff.

Against this background, hospital doctors continue to complain about their workload. Two out of three say that they feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Patients also suffer, as professional malpractice results from overwork. Malpractice stemming from overwork is generally acknowledged, despite there being no reliable data on this topic.

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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