Switzerland debates relaxing working hours rules for remote employees

Switzerland debates relaxing working hours rules for remote employees

FDP. The Liberals president Thierry Burkart has submitted a proposal that would dramatically loosen the rules around working hours in Switzerland, specifically for those who work from home. Supporters, which include the Economic Commission of the National Council, argue that the plan helps hybrid and remote workers improve their work-life balance, while critics say it violates standard labour law and could lead to burnout.

FDP looks to loosen working hours for remote employees

Under the current rules, workers in Switzerland have a "daily working limit" of 14 hours a day. This means that if a person starts work at 7am, all professional activities have to be concluded by 9pm at the latest and can only start up again at 7am the next day. 

Speaking to Blick, Burkart argued that these rules are outdated, especially for those who work from home. “If work starts at 7am, work is no longer allowed after 9pm. An employee who picks up their child from daycare at 6pm is therefore not allowed to, for example, process urgent emails in the evening after the child has gone to bed," he explained.

Remote working hours extended to midnight under new plans

Therefore, the FDP has proposed a motion calling for the daily working limit to be expanded to 17 hours a day. Under the plans, if someone first clocks in at 7am, they would have the right to work until midnight, so long as they don’t exceed the maximum hours stated on their work contract, up to 45 hours a week.

The proposal, which was backed by the Economic Commission of the National Council last week, would also allow companies to have their staff work from home on Sundays, without requiring a special permit to do so. 

Swiss employment rules are too old to be relevant, FDP argues

Burkart argued that the current rules do not take full advantage of the flexibility of home working. Under the plans, employees would be able to start in the morning and take several hours during the day for personal errands such as admin tasks, sports and volunteering or caring for children, before returning to work sometime later. He predicted that it would not lead to overworking, as jobs in Switzerland would still be subject to maximum working hours.

Economic Commission president Thomas Aeschi (SVP) confirmed that the proposal will now be drafted as a law for parliament to vote on, adding that both union and employer voices will be heard. For his part, he told the Tages-Anzeiger that flexibility is key: “The labour law dates back to the 1960s. Especially in the last 20 years, digitalisation has led to new forms of work that are simply not reflected.”

Unions in Switzerland call the new proposal scandalously radical

Others are not so convinced, with a joint statement issued by several Swiss trade unions calling the proposal “scandalously radical.” They made the point that the rules would allow employers to spring tasks and other work on their employees at will and at any time, the consequences being “free work, stress and burnout.” 

Speaking to the Tages-Anzeiger, SP National Councillor David Roth said that while “nobody has a problem if an employee answers an email in the evening on their own initiative”, enshrining this keenness into law would increase the pressure on workers to be available at all times of the day. “It is devastating for your mental health when Slack, Teams or even WhatsApp messages constantly pop up on your mobile phone in the evening,” he added.

In his view, Switzerland needs “rules that go in exactly the opposite direction: We have to give employees back the right to simply switch off after work and on weekends." He added that it should be up to both unions and employers to develop new rules on the “right to be unavailable”, rather than doing away with the concept entirely.

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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