The Federal Council has decided to extend the term of the standard employment contract for domestic staff by three years until end of 2019 and to increase the minimum salaries with effect as from 2017.

The standard employment contract for domestic staff (“SEC Domestic Staff”) sets forth minimum salaries to be paid to employees providing domestic work in private households. Such work may e.g. include cleaning, doing the laundry, shopping, cooking or taking care of children or elderly people. However, the SEC Domestic Staff does not cover employees who work in average less than five hours per week for the same employer. Moreover, certain groups of persons (e.g., au-pairs or juvenile babysitters) are exempted from the scope of application of the SEC Domestic Staff.

The amount of the minimum salary depends on the training and work experience of the specific employee. The SEC Domestic Staff lists four different categories of employees. The new minimum salary of the lowest category, i.e., employees without any professional training and experience in domestic work, amounts to CHF 18.90 per hour (until end of 2016: CHF 18.55). The minimum salary of the highest category , i.e., employees with a federal certificate of capacity, amounts to CHF 22.85 per hour (until end of 2016: CHF 22.40). In case minimum salaries are undercut, the employees concerned may not only claim the difference but also fines can be imposed on employer.

The SEC Domestic Staff initially entered into force in 2011. Under Swiss law, there is generally no statutory minimum salary. In 2014, Swiss voters rejected an initiative which aimed at introducing a minimum salary of CHF 22.00 per hour massively (76.3% voted no).

However, where salaries that are customary for a geographical area, occupation or industry are repeatedly and unfairly undercut within a particular occupation or economic sector, the competent authority may issue a fixed-term standard employment contract providing for a minimum salary. Since the SEC Domestic Staff in principle applies in entire Switzerland, it had to be adopted by the Federal Council, i.e., the Swiss federal government.

Minimum salaries can further be contained in collective employment contracts which may under certain circumstances also be declared generally applicable, i.e., binding upon all employers in a specific sector regardless whether they are members of the employers’ association which is a party to the collective employment contract. In practice, such collective employment contracts are of a significant importance as they cover numerous industries and sectors.