Salary – how much are you worth?

We have been hearing more and more stories of people being offered ludicrously low salaries so we wanted to help and give you some useful information.

First the bad news: there is no minimum obligatory wage in Switzerland! But there are guidelines and in certain industries (such as the catering industry a minimum wage of roughly CHF 22.- per hour has been agreed on). So it is up to you to negotiate with the employer.

Here is a really useful tool to see what you should be earning based on qualifications, experience, permit and, of course, gender. Salary Calculator here.

There are 3 types of contracts:

  • The individual contract which does not even have to be written (unless it is for an apprenticeship) although it usually is in everyone’s interest to have things down in writing.
  • Collective employment agreements have been drawn up by the employers’ and employees’ unions. These normally call for a minimum wage
  • Standard employment contracts which are drawn up either federally or by the cantons. These regulate working hours, employment conditions etc.. and can be revised if the cantons see that they are being undercut by individual contracts.

You can download and wade your way through some of the conditions here.

Holidays can be confusing as they vary from canton to canton (depending on whether they are Catholic or Protestant), the only definite holiday is August 1st… unless you’re in the tourism/catering business. If you have to work on that day then you should be properly compensated.

Depending on the industry the number of hours per week you are expected to work can be from 42 to 50 hours. Any more and that falls in the overtime category which should be compensate by an added 25% of the hourly rate (unless these have been excluded in writing). Hence the importance of a written contract. Extra hours should not exceed 2 hours a day or 170 hours per calendar year.

Trade unions, unlike other countries trade unions are not so prevalent in Switzerland. The largest in Unia and the second largest is Travail Suisse.

Do remember that the cost of living in Switzerland is amongst the highest in the world, so do check that you can afford to live on whatever salary you are being offered or that you won’t be feeling resentful if you feel that you are being undervalued by your employer – i.e. paid too little.








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