Unemployment benefits in Switzerland

Unemployment benefits in Switzerland

Switzerland relies on a system of unemployment insurance in order to support people who have lost their job. Everyone working in Switzerland pays into the system through a portion of their annual salary. The system contains many rules and regulations, many of which are specific to expats and to the expectation that someone who has lost their job should seek to become employed again at the earliest opportunity.

Receiving unemployment benefits in Switzerland

A constituent part of social security in Switzerland, unemployment benefits are treated in the same way as the old-age pension. They are part of a mandatory insurance scheme that you must pay into if you are employed. If you lose your job, you will have to make several concessions in order to receive unemployment benefits, and the amount of time you can claim them for is restricted.

Who pays for Swiss unemployment insurance?

Unemployment insurance contributions are made by all Swiss residents who are currently earning a salary via freelancing or a work contract. Everyone must pay 2 percent of their net earnings up to 148.200 Swiss francs, and 1 percent of their earnings above that. The money is deducted by your employer from your salary every month.

Who can receive Swiss unemployment benefits?

Unemployment insurance is tied to the length of time you were previously employed. All Swiss residents who have been employed for at least 12 months in the last two years are eligible to claim unemployment insurance. You must have been earning at least 500 Swiss francs per month when you were working to be able to claim.

Crucially, self-employed people are not covered by state unemployment insurance and must take out private insurance.

How long can I receive Swiss unemployment benefits?

The length of time for which you can remain on Swiss unemployment insurance is determined by how long you were employed at your last job. For example, if you worked for 12 months in the last two years, you would be entitled to 260 days’ worth of unemployment allowance. If you worked 18 months in the past two years then the number of days is increased to 400. These days are based on a five-day working week. The maximum amount of time that you can spend on unemployment insurance is 520 working days.

Claiming at a young age

If you are applying for unemployment insurance and are 25 years or younger with no children, your allowance of days is reduced. For example, if you worked 12 months in the last two years, you would only receive 200 days of allowance instead of 260.

Old age-unemployment insurance

For older workers or those who claim disability insurance, the number of days in an allowance is increased by 120, to a maximum of two years.

How much will I receive in unemployment benefits?

If you fit the criteria listed above to receive unemployment insurance, you will be paid 70 percent of your salary from when you were last employed, up to a maximum salary of 148.200 Swiss francs a year. This increases to 80 percent if you have dependents, a previous salary of less than 3.797 francs a month, or are disabled. The benefit is paid out in daily allowances that are controlled by your regional unemployment office.

How to apply for Swiss unemployment benefits

If you have lost your job or know you will soon be made unemployed, it’s important to act quickly to secure your benefits. In order to apply for unemployment insurance, you need to provide the right documents and go to the right place.

Where do I go to claim unemployment insurance?

Where you go to claim unemployment insurance is dependent on the place where you live. In some counties (cantons), registration is done at a Regional Employment Center (RAV) which is usually situated in the capital of the canton. On other occasions, registration can be done at your local council (Gemeinde) where you applied for your residence permit. You must apply for unemployment insurance in person. Do check with your canton on where to go to claim unemployment insurance.

Documents to claim Swiss unemployment insurance

In order to claim Swiss unemployment insurance, you need to provide the following documents:

  • Proof of first pillar pension or health insurance
  • Social security number (AHV)
  • Official ID such as a passport
  • If you are applying at a larger regional centre, proof of residence in the canton, as provided by your local Gemeinde
  • Swiss residence permit and passport or ID from your nation of origin

What happens after you register for Swiss unemployment insurance?

Once you have registered at your nearest Regional Unemployment Centre, they will take you through the next steps. This varies from location to location but usually begins with an information day and meeting. There is no guarantee that this meeting will be in English. In fact, it is likely you will have to conduct much of the process in the language of the canton you have registered in.

Your Swiss unemployment counsellor

As part of claiming Swiss unemployment insurance, you will be assigned an unemployment counsellor. It is their job to control the allowance payments that you receive, give advice to help you find your next job and help find relevant jobs for you. It is also their responsibility to issue fines in the form of docking your daily allowance, should you break any of the rules.

Rules for Swiss unemployment benefits

There are several rules and regulations that you must adhere to in order to continue receiving Swiss unemployment insurance. All of these rules are monitored by your Swiss unemployment counsellor. Rules differ by circumstance and where you have applied, but some more general rules are:

  • Do not miss appointments with your Swiss unemployment counsellor.
  • Do not turn down a job that an unemployment counsellor deems “suitable”.
  • Continue to send out job applications at the rate agreed by you and your unemployment counsellor.
  • You cannot refuse to participate in any labour market programme without sufficient reason.

Penalties for not following the rules

The Swiss unemployment counsellor is responsible for giving penalties to those who do not follow the rules set out by them. This could mean your daily allowance payments are reduced, or even the total number of days for which you can claim the benefit. This can range from small offences being penalised by a reduction of one to 15 days, right up to major infringements that can cost up to 60 days of insurance.

Frequently asked questions on Swiss unemployment benefits

Swiss unemployment insurance has many important rules and regulations, many of which relate directly to expats. It’s important to make sure you understand what is being asked of you as an unemployment insurance claimant, to make sure you follow the rules and are not penalised.

Can I renew my Swiss residence permit while on Swiss unemployment insurance?

Swiss residents who hold a settlement or C-permit are allowed to renew their residence permit while receiving Swiss unemployment insurance.

EU and EFTA citizens who have a B-permit can renew their residence permit while claiming the benefit, but the length of the permit is reduced to one year. Theoretically, EU and EFTA citizens can also renew L-permits while receiving unemployment insurance, but this will probably only lead to the permit being extended to the date when their unemployment insurance runs out.

Unfortunately, non-EU or EFTA citizens cannot renew B- or L-permits without employment and therefore cannot reapply without a job. You can apply for Swiss citizenship if you meet the eligibility criteria.

Can I do casual work while on Swiss unemployment insurance?

It is possible to do casual work or odd jobs while on Swiss unemployment insurance. However, any income that this generates must be reported to your unemployment office or counsellor. If you do not do this, you are likely to receive a deduction in allowances or in extreme cases a criminal charge.

Can I go on holiday while on Swiss unemployment benefits?

You can go on holiday while on Swiss unemployment insurance, but only after you have been claiming it for some time. After three months of claiming, you are allowed to spend a week without going to your unemployment office or applying for jobs. Any gap longer than a week must be approved in advance by your counsellor. Note that you will not receive any allowance for a holiday of more than a week. If you do not inform your unemployment office of your plans, then you may face a reduced allowance or, in extreme cases, a criminal charge.

What happens when my allowance is complete and I do not have a job?

This can happen. Do not worry if you use up the amount of time granted to you by your unemployment office. If this does happen then there are further avenues of support that the Swiss government provides. This includes welfare and emergency assistance.

Read also