Switzerland debates increasing minimum paid holiday leave to five weeks

Switzerland debates increasing minimum paid holiday leave to five weeks

Members of the Swiss parliament have proposed a plan to increase the statutory minimum amount of paid leave in Switzerland to five weeks. Advocates say the change would better reflect the wishes of workers after the COVID pandemic.

Plan to increase the minimum amount of paid holiday for jobs in Switzerland

The draft law calls on the government to modify the so-called “Code of Obligations”, forcing employers to offer all full-time workers at least five weeks of paid leave a year instead of four. Those under the age of 20 would see their minimum paid leave increase to six weeks. The proposal would apply to all jobs in Switzerland and be written into all full-time work contracts, unless a company chooses to offer more generous terms.

The idea was proposed by National Councillor Baptiste Hurni, who submitted the motion to parliament last Thursday. Speaking to La Matin Dimanche, he said that the change would better reflect the wishes of younger working people, noting, “If they have to choose between holidays and salaries, new generations often prefer to have more free time."

He added, “With an ever thinner boundary between private life and professional life, being able to disconnect is more and more sought after." He argued that more paid leave would help redress this balance.

Half the agricultural workforce in Switzerland only have four weeks off

His proposal was also supported by the Swiss Union of Arts and Crafts, with president Fabio Regazzi claiming, "Companies that only grant the legal minimum do not do so out of goodwill but because they are economically weak sectors."

According to the Federal Statistical Office, 20 percent of the workforce aged between 20 and 49 only have four weeks off a year. This is most pronounced in the agricultural sector, where half of all workers have four weeks' holiday a year or less.

Supporters fear the Swiss public may once again reject giving themselves more time off

This is not the first time the Swiss have debated increasing paid leave. In 2012, the alpine nation garnered worldwide attention when citizens rejected a referendum that would give most people more time off, with opponents citing the high financial cost to the economy as the reason to say no. “These Swiss are crazy,” was the sum of the international media's reaction, according to La Matin Dimanche.

Much like in 2012, the proposal has been met with heavy resistance from some politicians and international companies. The director of the Swiss Farmers’ Union, Martin Rufer, said that “with inflation, the moment [to increase paid leave] is really badly chosen.” The Swiss People's Party is also expected to oppose the idea, according to Swiss media.

The proposal is due to be debated in parliament this week. If support is not found in both houses, the matter could soon become a referendum once again.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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