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Your salary (Salär/Gehalt, salaire) is stated in your contract, where salary reviews, planned increases and cost of living rises may also be covered. Only general points, such as the payment of your salary into a bank account and the date of salary payments, are usually included in an employer’s general terms. If the salary payment day varies each month, your employer may provide you with a list of payment dates. Salaries are usually paid earlier in December.
Salaries in Switzerland are generally reviewed once a year around November/ December, with pay rises (if applicable – you don’t always get one!) taking effect from 1st January of the following year. Annual increases include a percentage to cover a rise in the cost of living, although if there’s a decrease in the cost of living (which has happened in Switzerland!), your salary may be reduced.
13th Month’s Salary & Bonuses
Most employers in Switzerland pay their employees’ annual salary in 13 instalments and not 12: in December you receive, in effect, two months’ salary (which helps pay your end-of-year bills, Christmas and New Year expenses, etc.), although sometimes you receive half in July and half in December. Note, however, that a 13th month’s salary isn’t a bonus but is, in effect, a delay in payment. When a 13th month’s salary (13. Salar, 13ême salaire) is paid it’s stated in your employment contract. Some companies don’t pay a 13th month’s salary but compensate by paying a higher monthly salary. When negotiating your salary with a prospective employer, you should ask whether a 13th month’s salary is paid, i.e. whether you should divide your annual salary by 12 or 13. In your first and last year of employment, your 13th month’s salary is paid pro rata if you don’t work a full calendar year.
Some employers operate an additional annual voluntary bonus (Gratifikation, gratification) scheme, based on each employee’s performance or the employer’s profits. If you’re employed on a contract basis for a fixed period, you may be paid an end-of-contract bonus.
If you pay direct income tax, then you’ll pay a higher overall rate of tax if your 13th month’s salary and bonus are paid in the same month.
In addition to your salary, you may be paid various allowances, including the following.
If you’re a civil servant employed by the federal government or a canton or community, you may receive an area allowance or weighting (Ortzuschlag, allocation locale), depending on the region where you work. The allowance, which may total a few thousand francs a year, is paid in monthly instalments with your salary.
In Switzerland, parents receive a monthly child (or family) allowance (Kinderzulage, allocations familiales), which depends on the number and age of children. Child allowance is paid by your employer and varies from canton to canton (some only pay it if your home country has a social security agreement with Switzerland). The majority of cantons pay a fixed allowance for each child, while some cantons pay an increased allowance for the third and subsequent children (to encourage the Swiss to have more children). The cantons with the smallest population or lowest birth rates usually pay the highest child allowances.
The allowance is usually paid up to a child’s 16th birthday (15 in Fribourg and Geneva) or until the age of between 18 and 25 when he remains in full-time education or occupational training. Registration is made by your employer and the allowance is usually paid to the family’s main breadwinner (you can choose) in his or her monthly salary payment.
You can check the monthly child allowance for the canton where you work at http://www.kinderzulage.ch (click on your canton’s shield).
Around ten cantons also pay a birth allowance.
Expenses (Spesen, frais) paid by your employer are usually listed in his general terms. These may include travel costs from your home to your place of work, usually consisting of a second-class rail season ticket or the equivalent cost, paid monthly with your salary. Companies without a staff restaurant or canteen may pay a lunch allowance or provide luncheon vouchers. Expenses paid for travel on company business or for approved training and education may be detailed in a separate document.
Travel & Relocation Expenses
Travel (Reisespesen, frais de voyage) and relocation expenses to Switzerland depend on your agreement with your employer and are usually included in your employment contract or the employer’s general terms. If you’re hired from outside Switzerland, your air ticket (or other travel costs) are usually booked and paid for by your employer or his agent abroad. In addition, you can usually claim any extra travel costs, for example the cost of transport to and from airports. If you travel by car to Switzerland, you can usually claim a mileage rate or the equivalent air fare cost.
Most Swiss employers pay your relocation expenses up to a specified limit, although you may be required to sign a contract which stipulates that if you leave the employer before a certain period elapses (e.g. five years), you must repay a percentage of your removal costs, depending on your length of service.
An employer may pay a fixed relocation allowance based on your salary, position and size of family, or may pay the total cost of removal. The allowance should be sufficient to move the contents of an average house (castles aren’t usually catered for) and you must normally pay any excess costs yourself. If you don’t want to bring your furniture to Switzerland or have only a few belongings to ship, it may be possible to purchase furniture locally up to the limit of your allowance. Check with your employer. A company may ask you to obtain two or three removal estimates when it’s liable for the total cost.
Generally you’re required to organise and pay for the removal yourself. Your employer usually reimburses the equivalent amount in Swiss francs after you’ve paid the bill, although it may be possible to get him to pay the bill directly or provide a cash advance.
SURVIVAL TIP: If you change jobs within Switzerland, your new employer may pay your relocation expenses when it’s necessary for you to move house. Don’t forget to ask, as he may not offer to pay (it may depend on how keen he is to employ you).