Working hours & overtime in Switzerland

Working hours & overtime in Switzerland

Switzerland has some of the longest permissible working hours in Europe, with the average worker having workweeks that are over 40 hours long. Switzerland is a stable environment to find a job, with a high standard of living and fair wage practices. The school system in Switzerland is designed to guarantee a career path from an early age, so openings for experienced and specialised expats are always open.

It is important to know what the official number of working hours are, as well as any benefits you might receive for working overtime, nights and Sundays.

Working full-time in Switzerland

According to the Service of Confederations, Cantons and Communes, the maximum a person can work on a contract that is full-time is 45 hours a week - although some job sectors are known to break this rule. This accounts for around seven and a half hours working from Monday to Saturday. The average amount worked by an industrial worker is around 40 hours a week, with service and creative sectors working for around 42 hours a week.

Companies that demand the longest periods of time usually compensate for this with generous benefits packages, higher wages or a rewarding on-and-off work cycle. Workers are entitled to a set number of holidays as listed in their work contracts and get public holidays off work unless otherwise stated. These include both national holidays and the holidays in your local county (canton).

Part-time working in Switzerland

If you are working for less than 90 percent of a working week, you are classed as working part-time. Part-time positions are available for new starters in Switzerland or for those who desire flexible working hours. It is also common among those who wish to job share or require flexibility in order to raise a child.

Working on Sundays or at night in Switzerland

Working on Sundays is extremely rare in Switzerland as most shops and businesses are closed on that day. Working on Sundays is only allowed under certain conditions and is generously compensated if it is not a regular part of your job.

Working nights is equally rare and is only allowed in certain conditions. In the same way as working on Sunday, working nights is especially rewarding if it is not a regular part of your work.

Working temporarily on Sundays or nights

If you work nights for less than 24 days, or work less than six Sundays per year, you will be counted as a temporary night / Sunday worker. Companies that use these workers must have the consent of the canton before starting temporary work and the time must be agreed upon with the employee.

Temporary Sunday workers who work fewer than six Sundays a year receive 50 percent more salary as a wage premium for the time worked and have an equal amount of time off on another day. Temporary night workers receive 25 percent more in wages but do not receive extra time off.

Permanent night and Sunday working in Switzerland

Regular work on Sundays or on nights requires the authorisation of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). In order to work permanently on Sundays or on nights, the employer must prove that the work is “indispensable for technical or economic reasons”. In practice, this definition relates to essential services, from the distribution of food to supply chain needs.

Employees who work in this way can receive medical consultations at no additional cost and in many cases the type of work will mandate an examination by a doctor. Permanent workers are not entitled to any extra pay but receive 10 percent of the working time as extra time off to be awarded within a year.

Overtime in Switzerland

Overtime is defined as when the amount of work that you do in a week exceeds the official maximum for working hours in Switzerland (45 hours a week) or the working hours defined in your contract. This work allows you to get extra money if overtime is accounted for by your employer.

Rules for Swiss overtime

In order for your work to be counted as overtime, it must:

  • Be a necessary, reasonable but not overwhelming amount of work.
  • Be done with “respect” for breaks and typical working hours.
  • Must not be more than two hours per day.
  • For no more than 170 hours a year if you are on a 45-hour per week contract.
  • It also must be compensated with either a premium or time off.
  • It must be agreed in your contract.

Benefits of overtime

Any extra work done for your employer must be adequately compensated for. In this case, typical benefits include an additional 25 percent premium on your wage or additional time off. Please bear in mind that all benefits for overtime must be agreed upon while signing your work contract, many companies include no compensation for overtime in the contracts themselves so do take care before agreeing to overtime.

How long is lunch while working in Switzerland?

The official minimum amount of time given for lunch breaks in Switzerland is 30 minutes. However, most Swiss companies expect a working lunch or official lunch to be around an hour and a half in length. Typically, the more senior the position, the longer your lunch break. The amount of time does depend on the employer so do check in your contract how much time you are officially allocated.

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