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Employment Contracts in Switzerland

1. Minimum Requirements

Material requirements. Under Swiss law, an employment contract is a contract whereby the employee is obliged to perform work in the employer’s service for either a fixed or an indefinite period of time, and the employer is obliged to pay salary either based on time periods or based on the work performed. As any other contract, the employment contract is concluded by a legally binding offer and a corresponding acceptance, i.e. by mutual agreement.

Formal requirements. Except for a few special agreements – such as the apprenticeship contract, the employment contract with a commercial traveller or the employment contract between a commercial staff supplier and an employee (which all require written form) – an employment contract is not subject to any specific form and may even be agreed verbally or by implication.

Where the employment contract has been concluded for an indefinite duration or for longer than one month, within one month of the beginning of the employment relationship, the employer must inform the employee in writing of:

  • the names of the contracting parties;
  • the date of the beginning of the employment relationship;
  • the employee’s function;
  • the salary and any additional benefits;
  • the length of the working week

2. Fixed-term / Open-ended Contracts

The parties are free to enter into an unlimited or a fixed-term contract. The sequence of several fixed-term contracts between the same parties may, however, be regarded as circumvention of the employee’s protection against dismissal (if there is no objective reason for such sequence). In this case, the employment contract is considered to be unlimited.

3. Trial Period

During the trial period, either party may terminate the contract at any time by giving seven days’ notice; the trial period is, by statutory law, considered to be the first month of an employment
relationship. Different terms, including the waiver of a trial period, may be envisaged by individual agreement, standard employment contract or collective employment contract; however, the probation period may not exceed three months.

4. Notice Period

Ordinary termination. Any employment contract concluded for an indefinite period of time may be unilaterally terminated by both employer and employee, subject to statutory notice periods ranging from one to three months, depending upon the length of service (during the trial period of a maximum of three months, the employment relationship may be terminated with a notice period of seven days). These notice periods may generally be altered by mutual consent, provided that they are the same for both employer and employee.

Extraordinary termination. Both employers and employees have a right to terminate the employment contract immediately and without notice for cause, regardless of whether or not the contract was concluded for an indefinite period of time and regardless of any statutory notice periods, which would apply to an ordinary termination.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Switzerland, please contact Humbert Heinzen Lerch
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