If you are working in Switzerland, it is essential that you know your rights around job security. Losing your job in Switzerland may occur in different ways and can be managed to make sure that an easy transition is achieved. Workplace conflicts of any kind must be taken seriously, and it is important to know what the appropriate actions to take are should you be the victim of discrimination or bullying.
Many international companies in Switzerland will have internal human resources personnel who will attempt to resolve your dispute. Workplace disagreements are commonplace in working life, but if you are facing consistent conflict, discrimination or bullying, it is important to report your experience. If you want to go further than the internal human resources of your company, here are the following contacts that are recommended for more advice.
What to do if you have been a victim of workplace harassment in Switzerland?
Here is what you can do if you have been the victim of workplace harassment:
Individual labour dispute
If you have been the victim of an individual labour dispute, it is recommended to contact a lawyer or trade union if you are a member.
Discrimination based on sex or gender
If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination based on sex or gender, it is recommended to consult the Federal Office for Equality between Women and Men or the Federal Office for Gender Equality.
Discrimination based on race
If you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination based on race, it is essential you contact the Federal Commission against Racism (FCR).
Discrimination based on a disability or pre-existing condition
If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination based on a disability or a pre-existing condition, it is recommended to seek legal advice from the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) or Inclusion Handicap.
Bullying or sexual harassment
If you believe you have been the victim of bullying or sexual harassment, it is advised to consult legal advice from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
Losing your job in Switzerland
If you believe that you are going to lose your job, it is important to know your rights and what sort of compensation you might receive. The amount of protection from being fired that you will receive depends on the type of contract and the way you are made redundant.
Expiry of a fixed-term contract
Employers in Switzerland are under no obligation to extend a work contract that has been set for a fixed period of time. Your employer must inform you as to whether your fixed-term contract will be renewed within a month of expiry. Employees do not have any legal protection from being made redundant once the length of the contract has expired.
Getting fired in a trial or probation period
Many work contracts in Switzerland will allocate a period of one to six months where you will be on a trial or probationary period. This is a time when the employer or employee can terminate the contract more freely. If your contract is terminated during this time, there are limited options to appeal, so it is recommended to consult a lawyer.
In ordinary termination, the amount of notice you must receive is detailed in your employment contract. The amount of time depends on the company but can be as short as one month. In the initial stage, you will receive a letter notifying you of your contract termination. Your official notice period as listed in your contract begins at the end of the month in which you receive the letter. During this time, you are free to look for a job.
When are you protected from ordinary contract termination?
The Swiss government has decided upon “protection periods” where it is impossible to begin a contract termination. These are:
- Four weeks leading up to and after national service
- While the employee was on sickness, maternity or holiday leave
Immediate termination is when an employer terminates your contract with no prior notice and no notice period. This is only possible if you give the employer “just cause” to sack you on the spot. These terminations only happen in serious cases, such as causing danger to life or causing serious financial damage. If you do not know why you have suffered immediate termination, you are allowed to ask for a reason in writing from your employer.
Appealing a termination of contract
During the notice period of an ordinary contract termination and in the aftermath of immediate termination, you have the opportunity to appeal. This is if you believe that your dismissal was wrong or based on factors beyond your control. If your appeal is successful, you may receive up to six months of salary.
Some of the common claims for unfair termination are:
- The goal of the termination was to prevent the employee claiming a pre-agreed benefit or entitlement.
- The employee joined a labour union.
- The employee had filed a legal claim or workplace dispute.
- The employee was sacked due to exercising constitutional rights.
- The employee was sacked due to a personality trait unrelated to the job.
If you would like to pursue this route, it is recommended to collect as much evidence of the unfair dismissal as possible and contact a lawyer. Bear in mind that you will be unable to pursue a termination agreement should you appeal.
What will I get from my employer if I lose my job in Switzerland?
Even if you are fired from a position, your employer still must provide outstanding payments and reference items. You will receive these documents regardless of what type of termination was used. These documents will be sent after the date of termination from your contract:
- A full reference letter from the employer, detailing the roles, character of the employee and the quality and professionalism carried out.
- A certificate in order to claim unemployment benefits.
- Payment of any agreed overtime from your working hours.
- A salary certificate in order to fill in your tax return.
- Payment of any unclaimed holiday leave.
- A certificate detailing the contributions made to your pension.
Swiss termination agreement
In addition to the standard documents, it is likely that your employer will negotiate a termination agreement. These agreements typically include large compensation payments for termination such as the extension of your salary for a set period as a regular payment or lump sum. They also usually include legal agreements that prevent you from appealing your dismissal, prohibition of working for a competitor and confidentiality clauses.
Claiming unemployment benefits
Once your date of termination has passed, it is recommended that you claim unemployment insurance if you have not accepted another job offer. Unemployment insurance is designed to provide a sustainable income for the time when you are looking for work. Your local unemployment councillor will also provide career services and advice on retraining.