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Living and Working in Switzerland

All text on these pages is from ©2015 Survival Books' Living and Working in Switzerland, 15th Edition, and is published here with their generous permission. Order your copy online or pick one up at your local bookstore!

Employment Conditions

Employment conditions (Arbeitreglement, reglement de travail) in Switzerland are largely dependent on cantonal laws, an employee's contract, and an employer's general terms. In general, foreigners are employed under the same working conditions as Swiss citizens. This usually means that salaries, fringe benefits and working conditions are among the best in the world. Employees hired to work in Switzerland by foreign (non-Swiss) companies and organisations may be offered even better terms and conditions (including higher salaries) than those provided by Swiss employers.

Employment Contracts

Under Swiss law a contract exists as soon as you undertake a job for which you expect to be paid. For many Swiss, their word is their bond (in mountain areas, contracts are often oral and sealed by a handshake); however, even if you're employed only part-time, you should insist on a written contract. You and your employer are obliged to abide by the rules and regulations set out in the Swiss law of obligation (Schweizerisches Obligationenrecht, Droit d'obligation suisse), a copy of which can be purchased from most bookshops.

Salary and Benefits

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.

Working hours

Working hours (Arbeitsstunden, heures de travail) in Switzerland vary with the employer, your position and the industry in which you're employed, the average being around 41 hours per week. Under Swiss employment law, normal working hours should be a maximum of 45 hours per week. Employees in industry work around 40 hours per week, while workers in the service sector, such as banking, generally work slightly longer hours (around 42 per week). 


Accident insurance (Unfallversicherung, assurance accidents) is mandatory for all employees in Switzerland. Occupational accident insurance is paid by your employer and covers accidents or illness at work, and accidents that occur when travelling to and from work or when travelling on company business.

Retirement and Pensions

Your employment conditions may be valid only until the official Swiss retirement age (Ruhestand, retraite), which is 64 for women and 65 for men. If you wish to continue working after you've reached retirement age, you may be required to negotiate a new employment contract.

Other conditions

Education and training (Schulung und Ausbildung, enseignement et formation) provided by your employer should be stated in his general terms. This may include training abroad, provided it's essential to your job (although you may need to convince your employer). In addition to relevant education and training, employers must provide the essential tools and equipment for a job, which is, however, open to interpretation.

Permits and Visas

Before making any plans to live or work in Switzerland, you must ensure that you have a valid passport (with a visa if necessary) and the appropriate documentation to obtain a residence permit.

Work Permits

On 1st June 2002, a new permit system was introduced for most EU citizens under a bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the EU. This agreement applies to EU nationals from: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland (EEA), Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein (EEA), Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway (EEA), Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Transitional measures apply to some member states such as Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania.

Residence permits

Swiss residence permits fall into a number of categories, as shown below.

  • Limited Validity (L) Permits
  • Annual (B) Permits
  • Settlement (C) Permits