Expat guide to the new minimum wage rules in Zurich

Expat guide to the new minimum wage rules in Zurich

At a vote on June 18, Swiss citizens in Winterthur and Zurich approved a plan to create an all-encompassing minimum wage for both cities. Here’s what you need to know about the plans, who the minimum wage will apply to, when it will come into force, how much it will be and how it will impact jobs and businesses.

Swiss cities vote for new minimum wage

With 65,52 percent of the vote in Winterthur and 69,43 percent in Zurich, locals approved the popular “A wage to live on” initiative on June 18, 2023. The plan, initially revised and accepted by Zurich’s parliament in January, will see both areas become just the sixth and seventh areas of Switzerland where a minimum wage is in force.

Speaking to 20 Minuten, the committee in support of the vote said that the result was a “breakthrough”, with Social Democratic National Councillor Cédric Wermuth calling the moment “historic”. The committee added that by accepting the proposal, people in Zurich have sent a clear signal to federal authorities that recent attempts to undermine minimum wage laws are “undemocratic”.

The “No Minimum Wage” committee, headed by FDP. The Liberals and Green Liberal parties, said that they would be respecting the outcome of the vote. However, in a statement given to 20 Minuten, they said that it will now be up to the “left-green camp" to implement the “state wage dictate” in as business-friendly a way as possible.

Zurich and Winterthur minimum wage: your questions answered

With the vote now approved, Zurich and Winterthur become only the second and third areas of German-speaking Switzerland to have a minimum wage - after Basel. To help people navigate the new policy, here's what you need to know about the change and how it will impact salaries.

How much is the minimum wage in Zurich and Winterthur?

Under the plans, workers will receive a minimum of 23,90 francs per hour in Zurich, ensuring a monthly salary of at least 4.000 francs. In Winterthur, the minimum wage will be set at 23 francs an hour.

Who do the new wage rules apply to?

The minimum wage will apply to everyone whose job is based in the city of - not the canton of - Zurich, and Winterthur. It will also be in place for those who are technically employed elsewhere but who “mainly work” within city limits. The policy applies to those on collective bargaining (GAV) and regular work contracts.

Will the minimum salary in Zurich and Winterthur be indexed to inflation?

Authorities confirmed that the minimum wage will be indexed to inflation - the initial proposal in Zurich sought a minimum wage of 23 francs an hour, but due to inflation this increased. “Wage developments” and inflation will be reviewed annually to make sure those on minimum wage can keep up with rising prices.

Who will be exempt from the minimum wage in Zurich?

However, there will be occupations and workers who will be exempt from the minimum wage in Zurich. These exemptions are:

  • Those employed in a training internship for 12 months or less.
  • People under the age of 25 “without professional qualifications” like completed apprenticeships, degrees or school graduation certificates.
  • Those under 18 with temporary jobs during the holidays.
  • Those completing an apprenticeship.
  • Family who are employed in the family business.

Despite the exemptions, Zurich City Council estimates that around 17.000 people stand to benefit from the new minimum wage.

How will the minimum wage be enforced in Zurich and Winterthur?

The minimum wage will be enforced by city authorities, who will check businesses regularly to see if they are following the rules. Companies found to be breaking the rules will be subject to fines.

When will Zurich's new minimum wage come into force?

Now that the proposal is approved, businesses will have a maximum of two years to start paying employees the minimum wage - but this maximum timeframe will only be granted to companies that can prove they are in "financial difficulty." The body responsible for enforcing the policy is expected to be established in the coming weeks, with authorities planning a full report on how the wage is affecting the economy in 2026.

For more information about the law, check out the official website (in German).

Thumb image credit: berm_teerawat /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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