The largest employee group in the Swiss labour market is workers over 50 years old. Trade unions, representatives of this age bracket and lawyers specialising in labour law are therefore demanding increased protection for older workers against age discrimination. According to trade union leader Daniel Lampart, longer termination periods applying to longstanding employees should no longer be considered taboo.

Employment lawyer Denis G Humbert has stated that there will be no absolute protection for all older workers and that dismissals due to restructuring or lack of performance will remain possible. In the past, the Federal Supreme Court has ruled that special protection is in place for long-term employees. According to Humbert, it is unclear from which age this protection applies, and so he has proposed drawing the line at 55.

So far, both the federal government and Swiss Employers' Association have refused to implement further protection into Swiss labour laws, while Minister of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs Johann Schneider-Ammann has confirmed recent analysis of the effects of better protection against dismissal. Specifically, the collective bargaining agreement of the Basel chemical and pharmaceutical industry has been reviewed in more detail, which for the past 10 years has provided a mandatory six-month notice period (extendable to 12 months from the age of 55).

The results of the analysis have been positive from both employer and employee representatives participating in the review, with Novartis commenting on "good experiences with extended notice periods". Member of the National Council and trade unionist Corrado Pardini, who negotiated the collective bargaining agreement, confirmed that the extended termination period has been accepted in the industry without problems.

According to Kathrin Ackermann from leading trade union Syna, the increasingly protective regime has raised awareness among human resources departments, as older workers are less likely to be dismissed. Both employee and employer representatives have stated that the federal government's main argument against special protective regulations that fewer staff over 50 years old will be recruited is probably unjustified.

For further information on this topic please contact Thomas Rihm at Rihm Rechtsanwälte by telephone (+41 44 377 77 20) or email ([email protected]). The Rihm Rechtsanwälte website can be accessed at