Is there a statutory minimum wage in Switzerland?

Under Swiss law, there is no legal minimum wage. The salary largely depends on the individual’s employment contract. However, some “collective conventions” or “standard employment contracts”, mainly concluded between employers’ associations and labor unions of a specific occupational sector, provide a mandatory minimum wage for a category of employees. When such norms apply, parties are only allowed to derogate in favor of the employee.

For example, in Geneva, such collective norms exist and have set a minimum wage of CHF 19,51.- per hour for non-qualified domestic workers; an amount from which the portion of the salary is paid in kind (ex. accommodation/meals) is deducted.

Even if the mandate comes at the federal level, some Cantons, in order to fight against poverty, provide for a general minimum wage (ATF 143 I 403, July 21st 2017). In Neuchâtel, for example, the minimum wage is of CHF 20.-/hour (gross).

Some general rules

 

SALARY CHANGES

Any amendment regarding the salary has to be approved by both parties and will only apply for future performances, not retrospectively. The fact that an employer modifies his/her employee’s salary without his/her consent is considered as a partial breach of the employment contract. It’s important for the employee to explicitly oppose any modification of salary as soon as he/she notices it. Otherwise, it can easily be concluded that he/she has tacitly accepted the changes (TF 4A_608/2009, February 2nd, 2010).

SALARY AMOUNT

In case the amount of the salary is not specified within the contract itself, it will be objectively determined based on the standard remuneration applied in the professional field at stake.

FOREIGNERS PROTECTION

Foreigner’s remuneration is also specifically protected. In particular, employers’ shall apply the same salary conditions to foreigners as those applied to Swiss citizens. Here also, the equal work/equal pay principle applies.

 

GENDER EQUALITY RULES

The Gender Equality Act imposes the equal work/equal pay principle. If a simple likelihood of discrimination can be supported by evidences, different legal paths can be followed. Mainly, the payment of the owed wage (ie. the difference between the effectively received salary and the non-discriminatory salary that was supposed to be payed retrospectively for a time limit of 5 years) can be requested.

In case a working relationship lasted 3 months or more (or has been concluded for such a period) and if the employee is, through no fault of his own, unable to perform due to causes inherent to his/her person, such as an accident, illness, pregnancy, or the accomplishment of a public function/legal obligation (eg. military service or even the duty to provide for the needs of a sick dependent child), the basic regime applies (in case the contract doesn’t provide any other information).

This means that, the employer shall pay the employee’s salary for a certain period depending on how long the working relationship lasted. This legal protection is of :

• 30 days maximum during the first year of employment;
• 90 days from the second to the fifth year (included) of employment;
• up to 180 days from the sixth year of employment.

The amount covers all causes of impeachment occurring at the same time (ATF 124 V 291, August 5th 1998).

Alternatively, the employer may conclude, as it is very often the case, an insurance for maintaining salary payments, as long as such a solution is at least as beneficial to the employee as the statutory rules previously described.

To be considered as equivalent to the statutory provisions, such insurance should cover at least 80% of the employee’s salary during a period of 720 days, whereby no payment is owed for the first three days of an illness. Under these conditions, the payment of the insurance premiums may be split equally between the employer and the employee.

If your employer doesn’t pay you the due amount, you can provide him/her a formal notice by suspending your work performance in order to push him/her to react.

This path can be taken in situations where your employer refuses your performance, precludes you to accomplish it by not making available key working tools (and also in cases of non-respect of his duty of care regarding the employee s’ health and security). This can be done even if your employer is not at fault since he/she has to entirely undertake the economic and commercial risks of his/her activity.

The notice should be sent by registered mail, for evidences matters. You should also clearly indicate your ability to perform as soon as your salary will be paid; to avoid being accused of abandoning your position.

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